People laid funeral wreaths near the Russian consulate in Lviv on June 21. Ukrainians througout the world protested against Russian aggression against Ukraine by bringing funeral wreaths to the buildings of Russian diplomatic missions abroad. © Courtesy
Ukrainians in many nations have organized a global flash mob to draw attention to Russia’s war against Ukraine, which has included the military invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula and now the Kremlin-fuelled separatist war in eastern regions.
People brought funeral wreaths to commemorate the war’s victims, which includes more than 150 Ukrainian servicemen and more than 200 civilians, including 14 children.
The protests took place in New York, Toronto, Vancouver, The Hague, Vilnius, Warsaw, Brussels, Sidney, Valencia as well as in Kyiv, Lviv and Kharkiv.
People called on the international community to acknowledge the Kremlin’s responsibility for the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine.
“How many more deaths will be needed to acknowledge that Russia has started a war in Ukraine and Putin must be stopped now?” flash mob participants asked.
Activists demanded NATO to buy the two Mistral warships that France is planning to sell to Russia. People also urged Western governments to impose third-level sanctions against Russia — the so-called sectoral sanctions aimed at crippling Russia’s economic engines of energy, military and finance. The protesters want nations to stop all cooperation that assists Russia’s military and police modernization and armament.
They also called for better military equipment for the Ukrainian army, the cancellation of visa regimes for Ukrainians and the revocation of visas for leading propagandists of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
People also expect the West to apply strict money-laundering control for all money coming from Russia and Belarus and investigate the operations of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, which, they say, violate European Union anti-monopoly legislation.
The flash mob participants were not numerous. Natasha Zwart, one of the flash mob organizers in The Hague, Netherlands, told the Kyiv Post that around 20 people attended the protest while Russian diplomats “were hiding in the building.”
The protests occurred without incidents in most of the countries except for New York and Vilnius, Lithuania, where Russians tried to take away the funeral wreaths away from the mission’s buildings. Protesters shouted “Shame on you! Shame on Russia!” near the permanent mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in New York.
In Vilnius, Russian embassy guards demanded the protesters get out and called the police. Natalja Bitautiene, one of the participants of the flash mob in Vilnius, says that all the funeral wreaths near the Russian embassy quickly disappeared. “All the wreaths were quickly removed. I hope they are at least ashamed!” she wrote on the Vilnius flash mob Facebook page.
Ukrainians living in London also joined the protest, yet they did not get a permit from local authorities to lay wreaths near the Russian embassy. Instead the people silently marched near its building.
Zwart from Hague said it was just the beginning. Now the organizers think about creating a coordinating group for Ukrainian activists all over the world in order to continue the protests for their messages to be heard.
Kyiv Post staff writer Nataliya Trach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org