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UKRAINE

Solidarity demos across Europe demand end to Ukraine war

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday in cities from Paris to Zurich in support of Ukraine, demanding an end to Russia's invasion.

Crowds demonstrate against war in Ukraine in Paris
Demonstrators hold Ukrainian flags as they take part in a protest against Russia's military invasion of Ukraine at Place de la Republique in Paris on March 5th, 2022. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

Citizens across Europe and the world have been horrified by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack, which began on February 24th and appeared to be entering a new phase with escalating bombardment.

Around 41,600 people demonstrated in 119 protests in towns and cities across France, according to interior ministry estimates. In Paris itself, some 16,000 turned out.

“Despite the suffering, we are going to win, we are sure of it,” said Nataliya, a Franco-Ukrainian with the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag draped over shoulders, at the Paris protest.

She declined to give her full name because of concerns about the safety of her son in Ukraine. “We are proud of their courage, their determination,” she added.

“We will be here every weekend, in Paris or elsewhere, until Putin leaves, withdraws his tanks,” said Aline Le Bail-Kremer, a member of Stand With Ukraine, one of the organisers of the protest.

One of the largest rallies to demand the withdrawal of Russia’s troops from Ukraine on the invasion’s 10th day was in Zurich, where organisers believed 40,000 people took part, Switzerland’s ATS news agency reported.

Demonstrators in the largest Swiss city called for “peace now”, while others carried signs saying: “Stop War” and “Peace”.

Demonstrators in Rome hold signs protesting Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Demonstrators hold signs during a protest against Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine in Rome on March 5th, 2022. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

‘No to Putin, no to NATO’
In the centre of Rome, unions and organisations rallied in a large “procession of peace”, demonstrating against Putin but also NATO.

“No base, no soldier, Italy out of NATO,” chanted pacifists preceded by a large flag in the colours of the rainbow.

“This is perhaps one of the first real demonstrations for peace,” Italian cartoonist, actor and writer Vauro Senesi told AFP.

“Here no one believes we make peace with arms, that we make it by sending arms to one of the parties (Ukraine).”

More than a thousand people also demonstrated in the Croatian capital Zagreb with banners saying: “Stop the War, Save Europe” and “Glory to Ukraine”.

In the Balkans, the invasion has revived dark memories of the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, which killed more than 100,000 people during a series of conflicts.

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands also turned out in yellow and blue across Europe including in Russia, Germany, Spain, Finland and the Czech Republic.

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Member comments

  1. EU needs a EU army not NATO an old school cold war era alliance, an army that will address the security concerns of the bloc inc neutral countries.

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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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