Thousands have gathered in central London to express solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said had endured “unimaginable pain and suffering” over the past month.
Following the rallying call by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for people everywhere to protest against the bloodshed by taking to the streets, large crowds assembled in the capital to show support for the embattled country.
On their route through London, demonstrators marched beneath Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace message on a huge electronic billboard in Piccadilly, many waving the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag as they passed.
Most of those gathered firmly believed that Ukraine would prevail in the ongoing brutal conflict against the forces of Vladimir Putin.
Khan, who had organised the march to mark a month of Putin’s invasion and following Zelensky’s call for global support, told the Guardian that London stood “shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine in its darkest hour”.
Later, the crowds congregated in Trafalgar Square, bedecked in the yellow and blue of Ukraine. Among those gathered was Izyma Savkina, who fled Ukraine’s capital Kiev last week.
The 36-year-old said: “Eventually the Russians will kill Putin themselves. But in the meantime we need more air support and more weaponry from Nato.”
Elsewhere friends, Yuliya Gavnylyuk, from Ivano-Frankivsk and Sofia Silina, from Zaporizhzhia also believed their country would ultimately win the war.
“Absolutely, we will win. We are fighting for our freedom and for our homes,” said Gavnylyuk.
Silina added that three of her family’s homes had been destroyed in the fighting and all they had left was their grandfather’s house, which he now guarded alone with a gun close to the frontline.
When the conflict is over, they said, they will travel back to Ukraine for a huge party.
As another day of fighting 1,600 miles to the east continued, a vigil was due to be held in Trafalgar Square with the crowd addressed by British, Ukrainian and European politicians.
Hanya Dezyk, from the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, said: “It has been incredibly difficult for Ukrainians living in the UK and across the world to see what is happening to our homeland, and the sight of people uniting in the streets in our name gives us hope and strengthens our resolve to fight for Ukraine’s freedom.”
Celebrities were spotted offering their support. Among them was the actor Helen Mirren, who offered her thoughts to Ukraine during “this terrible time”. The actor added: “It’s important that we send a message of support so that Ukrainians know that they are not alone, and I’m proud that the people of London are standing together in their name this Saturday.”
Julie Walters was another who said: “It’s important that the world unites to show them that they have our support in their time of need, and I’m so glad that London is joining as one to send a message of solidarity loud and clear.”
Khan, who also announced more than £1.1m in funding to support refugees and people seeking asylum in London, added: “We have a proud history of providing sanctuary to those fleeing conflict, and this funding will ensure that support is there to help in their time of need.”
The mayor said the money would help people affected by the invasion of Ukraine, as well as European Londoners, the Windrush generation and those hit by the lack of capacity within the asylum system.
Anna Bird, the chief executive of the European Movement, added: “It’s time to unite across parties, organisations, faiths, beliefs and backgrounds to condemn this act of Putin’s aggression. Our duty is rooted in a belief that a closer, more united and peaceful Europe is in all of our interests.”
Since Zelenskiy’s call for the world to show their support for his embattled country sizeable protests have occurred in the Netherlands and Ecuador and cities including Bulgaria’s Sofia, Krakow in Poland and Mexico City.