Europe: Tens of thousands protest war in Ukraine one year on

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Destroyed Russian tank in Berlin
A destroyed Russian tank was placed outside the Russian embassy in Berlin. It was covered in flowers by peace protesters. Photo: @ohyeahfranzi/Twitter

The biggest European anti-war protest marking one year since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine was held in Berlin on February 25, where, according to writer Victor Grossman, about 50,000 people turned out in freezing conditions.

It was initiated by Sarah Wagenknecht and Alice Schwarzer’s Peace Manifesto, which called for an immediate end to the escalating armament of Ukraine by Germany, a ceasefire and peace negotiations.

Grossman, who attended the Berlin protest, wrote: “When I arrived at the station near the Brandenburg Gate, the site of the rally, thousands and thousands climbed out of the jammed [train] cars, ascended and merged into the crowded streets, all headed in one direction!

“I had just barely enough room to squeeze in to a free spot. And only later did I learn from my sons that the crowd had been huge on all sides, jammed, chilly, but friendly, polite, in wonderfully high spirits at the giant turn-out, and determined in their applause, cheers, occasional boos (when war-hungry politicians were named), with occasional shouts, like ‘No Weapons! Negotiations!’, ‘Make Peace not War’.

“Many, perhaps most of those present, on or below the speakers’ stage, deplored and condemned the Russian invasion.”

Another demonstration, organised the previous day by the Ukrainian community, attracted 7000–10,000 people.

The Berlin Story Bunker museum won the right to place a blown-up Russian T-72 tank in front of the Russian Embassy in Berlin. Museum curator Wieland Giebel told Countercurrents: “It was intended to symbolize Russia’s failure in Ukraine.” It has been turned into a memorial to victims of the fighting in Ukraine by covering the crippled vehicle with flowers, Countercurrents said.

About 4000 people joined a London protest organised by the Stop the War Coalition and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament on February 25. Its demands were: “Russia out of Ukraine”, “No to NATO” and “No nuclear war”. A protest was also held in Glasgow on March 1.

Jeremy Corbyn addressed the protesters in London, demanding the big powers end their escalation and work for serious negotiations to stop the fighting and the killing.

Other speakers included German MP Andrej Hunko, and representatives from the Public and Commercial Services Union and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union, who condemned the government for increased spending on foreign war while cutting essential services.

Irish MEP Clare Daly reported that thousands took to the streets of Brussels on February 25, demanding “Ceasefire now! Support peace talks! No nuclear escalation! Stop NATO expansion! Negotiate peace!” Politico estimated the number of protesters at 2500.

According to PressTV, thousands protested in Rome, Florence and Genoa in Italy on February 26, demanding an end to the war.

Countercurrents reported the Genoa rally drew nearly 4000 people, including some from Switzerland and France. The protest was organised by the Collective Autonomous Port Workers (CALP) group, with the support of the Italian Communist Party, under the banner of “Lower weapons, raise wages”.

Anti-war protests were also held in Milan, Italy’s second-largest city, Pisa, Florence and Lecce among several other cities. Chris Nineham, from the Stop the War Coalition UK, reported that protests were organised in more than 120 Italian towns and cities.

In Spain, the Barcelona With Ukraine march, supported by the Barcelona local council, mobilised 8500 people on February 24, while a demonstration organised by the peace movement in central St James Square drew 2000 people on February 25.

In Paris, Al Jazeera reported that several hundred people sang Ukraine’s national anthem at Place de la Republique on February 25, before Ukrainian children dressed in traditional costume led a march against Russia’s invasion.

The Irish Examiner reported that up to 5000 people protested outside the GPO Museum in Dublin to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion on Ukraine. The rally was organised by Ukrainian Action.

Speakers included Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan and Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald.

“Vladimir Putin must understand that the international community will remain united with Ukraine for however long it takes to face down his brutal invasion," McDonald said. "There can be no victory for Russian military aggression over Ukrainian sovereignty."

“Putin must immediately withdraw his army and end his criminal invasion. And standing against the Putin invasion, the international community, international diplomacy must use all of its muscle to end this war and begin the journey to peace. And this, of course, must be a lasting peace, based on the values of democracy, integrity and rule of international law.”

[This article was updated on March 13 to correct an error.]