'Heart-breaking': Dunedin protesters show support for Ukraine

Dozens of protesters turned out in Dunedin's Octagon today to show support for peace in Ukraine and to condemn Russia's invasion of the country.

After weeks of warnings from Western leaders, Russia's President Vladimir Putin unleashed a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine from the north, east and south on Thursday in an attack that threatened to upend Europe's post-Cold War order.

Putin has cited the need to "denazify" Ukraine's leadership as one of his main reasons for invasion, accusing it of genocide against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.

Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss the accusations as baseless propaganda.

Sergey Sushinskiy left Russia two years ago and joined protesters in Dunedin today.

He believed Putin was the enemy of Russia and the country would be better off using kindness to achieve its goals rather than aggression.

He called the bombing of Ukraine over past two days ‘‘hideous’’.

He had friends in Ukraine but his relationship with his parents, who were strong supporters of Vladimir Putin, was strained due to their differences in views.

His partner, Alina Tetereva, is a PhD student at the University of  Otago.

She said the invasion of Ukraine made her ashamed to say she was Russian, and she joined today's protest because she felt it was important to show she was against the war.

Both said they were concerned about the violence that characterised internal Russian politics spreading to other nations.

Russians and Ukrainians had a lot of close connections and it was wrong for Putin to attack, they said.

Protest organiser Olha Viazenko said no one expected that an invasion of Ukraine could happen.

It was heart-breaking for the local Ukrainian community, as there was little they could do to help their loved-ones overseas.

She said her mother was sitting in a shelter listening to bombs and artillery exploding, afraid that if she went out tomorrow she would not recognise her city.

Ms Viazenko believed sanctions imposed by the New Zealand Government were not enough now than an invasion had occurred.

She wanted more support from the Government to bring relatives of New Zealand citizens to safety and encouraged people to support Ukraine by boycotting Russian products.

The situation could result in World War 3 if Putin was not stopped now, she believed.

Other protesters reiterated her call for peace, saying it was on Russia to stop its aggression.

Joss Van Beek said he was against the war, but would not want to see the conflict being used an excuse to ramp up the military, and it was up to Russia to end the violence.

Taieri MP Ingrid Leary was at the protest to support local communities. She said the New Zealand Government put out warnings before the conflict started, warning citizens to get out.

She wanted to see leeway being made around official paperwork for New Zealand citizens, given that Ukraine was now a war zone.

Regarding loved-ones of New Zealand citizens who were not citizens themselves, she understood that visa applications would be processed through the United Nations’ refugee system.


- additional reporting by Reuters 



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