Tank wreck, protests mark Ukraine war anniversary in Europe

Publicado: 24/02/2023

Berlin (AFP) -

Activists on Friday parked a bombed-out Russian tank in front of Russia's embassy in Berlin, while thousands of protesters across Europe marched against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

On the first anniversary of the war, leaders across Europe joined in ceremonies underlining unwavering support for Ukraine and commemorating victims of the conflict.

Crowds fell silent for a minute at Tallinn's Freedom Square, where EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg joined a ceremony for the fallen.

In London, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak observed a minute's pause in front of Downing Street, before the Ukrainian anthem was sung by two singers dressed in traditional Ukrainian vyshyvanka shirts.

'We should shout about what happened in our country,' said Ana, a psychologist from Kyiv who took part in a march in London. 'We should never stop. Our hearts are broken but... we are strong.'

Leaders including France's President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Britain's King Charles III published messages condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin's war.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the National Theatre in Warsaw and the European Commission's building in Brussels were lit up in the blue-and-yellow colours of Ukraine's flag late Thursday, while the Colosseum in Rome followed suit on Friday.

Protesters against Russia's invasion gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, some holding up blue and yellow umbrellas under the rain.

- 'Reality much closer' -

Enno Lenza and Wieland Giebel, who operate a private German museum, said they had stationed the tank wreck by Russia's imposing embassy off the Brandenburg Gate 'as a symbol of Russia's downfall'.

'We want to put their scrap metal in front of the gates of the terrorists,' said Giebel, who for months was caught in a bureaucratic tangle with Berlin authorities over the tank installation.

The tank is a T72 damaged on March 31 last year near Bucha, the town just outside Kyiv that has become a byword for alleged Russian war crimes.

Sabine Ertl, a tourist on holiday in Berlin, said the tank was both 'impressive and scary'.

'It brings this reality much closer,' she told AFP.

- 'Fast action' -

At an event led by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky beamed in a message thanking Western allies for their support for his country. Steinmeier underlined that Kyiv could count on Berlin.

Around 18,000 people held hands, forming a chain for peace between the western German cities of Osnabrueck and Muenster.

Some 30,000 demonstrators rallied in Georgia, both in solidarity with Ukraine and in support of Tbilisi's European Union membership.

Crowds chanted 'Glory to Ukraine!' after the Georgian and Ukrainian anthems were performed.

A thousand protesters turned out in Sofia, marching to the presidency building.

'The Ukrainians shed their blood for the triumph of democracy in their country, but they also defend our freedom and our values with selflessness and courage,' Galia Petkova, 47, told AFP in the Bulgarian capital .

- Words but 'not enough action' -

Ksenia Miletska, a charity volunteer attending a demonstration in London's Trafalgar Square, voiced surprise at the level of support for Ukraine in Britain.

'It's unbelievable when you have a Ukrainian flag with you, and all the people say, 'Oh Slava Ukraini, Slava Ukraini.' They know what it means. They put millions of comments in our TikToks etc, and it's very cool.'

Financial accountant Oksana Podlesnayka urged more decisive support for Ukraine.

'There's a lot of words, but not enough action. We need fast action, we need fast delivery, because people are dying every day.'

In Rome, hundreds of people gathered for a prayer for peace in Ukraine at the Basilica of St John Lateran, attended by ambassadors, religious authorities and Ukrainian refugees, some of whom wore scarves or hats in Ukraine's colours.

'With this prayer, I'd like to give help so that this war will be the world's last,' said Petro Olar, a Ukrainian writer whose house in his hometown of Irpin was destroyed in the fighting.

Thousands of people, many wrapped in the Ukrainian flag, turned out in Barcelona and smaller protests were held in other Spanish cities.

Protesters also took to the streets in Warsaw, Bucharest, Bern, Tbilisi and elsewhere.

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