Edmontonians come out in droves to support Ukraine as invasion continues

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At least 1,000 Edmontonians showed their support for Ukraine in two separate rallies on Sunday as Russian forces continued to advance across the country.

Russian troops entered Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, and fighting broke out on the outskirts of the national capital, Kiev.

Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly is due to hold an emergency session on Monday.

Vitliy Romanachk attended a rally along 109th Street with his family, where supporters lined up for blocks to show solidarity. He moved to Canada in 2003 and has now spent half his life there. Seeing his home country endure the invasion is incredibly sad, he said.

Romanachk’s mother, father and sister are still in Ukraine, he told CBC on Sunday.

“I’m scared. … It’s bad. [We] can’t explain how we feel right now. Our hearts are breaking,” he said.

On Thursday, the first day of the invasion, Romanachk said he couldn’t even sleep.

“We have to stop the war, because it will affect everyone,” he said.

Olha Samotoi also attended the 109th Street rally. She said her family was stranded in the northeastern city of Sumy and felt “helpless” watching it happen on the other side of the world.

“It’s hard to talk about it,” she said. “We want this war to end. We want our family to be safe.”

Olha Samotoi, left, says she wishes she could get her family out of Ukraine. (Pippa Reed/CBC)

Samotoi called on other citizens and allies for help, saying Ukraine and everyone affected by the invasion does not want to be alone.

“If I could, I would go to Ukraine and take my family away from this horrible situation,” she said.

Other supporters gather at the Legislative Building

Svetlana Koshkareva helped organize a rally in support of the Alberta Legislative Assembly on Sunday morning. She holds Russian citizenship, but has lived in Canada for some time, she said. She burned her passport on Sunday as a sign of solidarity.

She said it was important for her to get involved because she has her freedom, while the freedoms of people in Ukraine and Russia are being imposed.

Koshkareva wants people to know that Putin is not Russia, she said.

“It’s just horror,” she said. “And I don’t know how to stop it. I’m helpless and I can’t change that.”

She said she was surprised that so many people came to her event.

“I think it’s very important to be united.”

Svetlana Koshkareva holds her burning Russian passport in Edmonton on Sunday. (Radio Canada)

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