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Ukraine demonstration attracts thousands of people, other protest actions planned

20:44 27/02/2023

A demonstration in support of Ukraine drew thousands of participants in Brussels over the weekend.

Decrying the Russian invasion of the country, protestors called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory and an unconditional halt to the bombing taking place there.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has already cost the lives of tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens,” said Marta Barandiy, president of Promote Ukraine.

“Every day the Ukrainian people are confronted with brutality and violence. Millions of people have been forced to flee abroad and millions more have been displaced. Entire towns and villages have been reduced to rubble by Russian bombing and air strikes.”

The march started from the Boulevard Roi Albert II and proceeded in the direction of Cinquantenaire park.

The rally, initiated by Promote Ukraine, the Ukrainian Women's Union in Belgium and the Belgian committee of the European Solidarity Network with Ukraine (RESU), is part of a week of international actions planned in protest against the war on the first anniversary of the conflict.

At least 200 organisations are involved in the actions, along with citizens. The outpouring of support comes from organisations involved in the cultural sector, feminists, trade unionists, people active in the defence of LGBTQI+ rights, and other movements.

Marching with a large banner that said ‘Ukraine wins - democracy wins’, among the participants were people carrying an enormous Ukrainian flag and others dressed in traditional Ukrainian clothing.

Also among them were Iranians, who have also been protesting the regime in their home country. They marched with a banner saying: ‘Freedom for Iran, freedom for Ukraine, together we will win.’

In another action of protest that also marks the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the City of Brussels city inaugurated a mural that honours Ukraine in Rue Haute, near St Peter's Hospital.

The work was created by two Ukrainian artists, Mishel and Nicol Feldman, and Belgian artist Teresa Sdralevich.

It depicts two people seated on a giant eye and each holding a cup, surrounded by typical Ukrainian motifs and the inscriptions 'Grow' and 'Freedom'.

The work is part of the Ukrainian Institute's initiative ‘The Wall: Murals across Europe.’ Four other frescoes have been installed in Vienna, Berlin, Marseille, as well as outside Europe in Nairobi (Kenya).

A sculpture was also added to Brussels’ Leopold Park, depicting Vladimir Putin on a toy tank, all in red.

Artist James Colomina said its purpose is to underline “the absurdity of war and the courage of all children during this tragic situation”.

Colomina placed the resin statue (without permission) in the sandpit of Leopold Park, deliberately placed close to the European parliament.

The Putin statue will keep moving to other locations as long as the war continues. Before the statue ended up in Brussels, it was in Paris, and next it will go to Barcelona and New York.

The toy tank in particular is symbolically very important, the artist explained: “Children are held hostage in armed conflicts. My message is that war is absurd, there are no winners.”

Photos: Nicolas Maeterlinck, Gabriel Mitran/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons