Zelensky calls for global protests in the streets to mark month of Russian war
One month since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged millions of people to stage a global protest against the war.
Speaking outside a parliament building while an armed soldier stood guard, Zelensky called on people everywhere to take to the streets and protest in support of Ukraine. In the multilingual address to the world, he asked people to make themselves “visible and heard.” He added: “Say that people matter, freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters.”
Since the onslaught began on Feb. 24, protests have erupted in major cities condemning Russia for the war. In London, protesters gathered outside Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s residence, 10 Downing Street, while others amassed outside the Russian Embassy in west London. Similar protests were seen in Spain, Italy, Japan and France. Even in Russia, antiwar protesters have taken to the streets, and according to the human rights organization OVD-info, at least 15,095 demonstrators have been arrested in 151 Russian cities so far.
Speaking in the early hours of Thursday morning, Zelensky asked politicians to “support freedom” ahead of a meeting of Western powers in Brussels on Thursday. He warned that he would see “who is a friend” to Ukraine at the NATO, EU and G7 gatherings. “We know that the Russians have already begun to lobby their interests,” he said. “These are the interests of war. At these three summits, we will see who is a friend, who is a partner and who betrayed us for money.”
In a fresh call to NATO, Zelensky asked again for a no-fly zone over Ukraine and said his Western allies had not provided him with much-needed munitions. “We have not received tanks and armored vehicles, anti-ship equipment,” he said. “Russian forces can keep killing thousands of our citizens, destroying our cities.”
More than 25 countries have agreed to buy and provide weapons for Ukraine in its battle with Russia. On Wednesday, the first deliveries of the United States’ $800 million in military aid reportedly started to arrive in Ukraine.
Just hours before the NATO summit in Belgium, Zelensky asked for the organization to be “effective and without limits.” He added: “Russia started the war against freedom as it is. This is only the beginning for Russia on the Ukrainian land. Russia is trying to defeat the freedom of all people in Europe. Of all the people in the world.”
NATO has rejected imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which would risk escalating the already brutal invasion. Speaking to Foreign Policy magazine, former U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said: “It's tantamount to war. If we’re going to declare a no-fly zone, we have to take down the enemy’s capability to fire into and affect our no-fly zone.”
Switching to the Russian language, Zelensky then appealed to citizens of the former Soviet empire. He called for Russians to leave their country “so as not to give your tax money to the war.”
“I am sure that there are many of you who are disgusted by the policy of your state,” he said. “Who are already just sick of what you see on TV. Of the lies, of your propaganda on the internet.” He went on to encourage Russians to save their sons from the war and to “tell the truth about the war.”
On Wednesday, President Biden arrived in Belgium to attend the three summits. There he is set to announce further sanctions against Russia's oil and gas.