Russians in the U.S., and elsewhere, press for peace

Around the world and in the United States people who identify as Russian continue to show support for the people of Ukraine and freedom.

To mark one year since the Kremlin launched its full-scale war against Ukraine, many Russians in the United States took to the streets February 24 to voice their opposition, just like many did shortly after the onslaught began.

Some held quiet candlelight vigils while others sang songs for peace and chanted slogans against Vladimir Putin’s war.

Young woman dressed in traditional Ukrainian flower headdress holding candle during vigil (© Jose Luis Magana/AP)
Demonstrator Sofia Koukhanova holds a candle during a rally in support of Ukraine outside the Russian Federation Embassy in Washington February 24. (© Jose Luis Magana/AP)

In Washington, a demonstrator held a sign that read, “I’m Russian and I stand with Ukraine,” while others held candles during a rally outside the Russian Federation Embassy. Earlier that day, thousands rallied on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, making their way to the front of the White House.

The Washington-based Free Russia Foundation said in a February 24 statement, “We denounce the aggressive policy of Putin’s regime as the main cause of this war.” The nonprofit foundation also launched a #NOTOWAR/#HETBOЙHE campaign “to unite Russian voices all around the world and call for an end to the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine.”

People standing next to building at night holding sign, candles and flowers (© David ‘Dee’ Delgado/Reuters)
People hold a silent candlelight vigil February 23 to show their support for Ukraine on the eve of the day marking one year of Russia’s full-scale invasion. (© David ‘Dee’ Delgado/Reuters)

Similar scenes occurred in New York, where on February 23 an overwhelming majority of countries at the United Nations condemned the war and voted in favor of a resolution calling for “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.” Above, a child carries a sign that says, “I’m Russian. I stand with Ukraine.”

Worldwide connections

Dmitri Daniel Glinski, managing director of the American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights in New York, said that in addition to New York City, diaspora rallies were held in Atlanta, as well as Copenhagen, Denmark; Podgorica, Montenegro; and Hamburg, Germany, among other cities.

The nonprofit network was created by Russian political exiles and other Russian-speaking immigrant Americans. Last year the organization created the Ukrainian and Russian Diasporas Antiwar Roundtable. Glinski said the roundtable virtually connects people from around the world on a regular basis to discuss the war, prospects for freedom in the Russian Federation and ways to help people in both countries.

The organization recently published a directory of about 120 individuals currently jailed or under house arrest in Russia and Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory in connection with their anti-war activities. The organization joins other groups, such as OVD-Info, in tracking the war’s impact on human rights within Russia.
Tweet showing photo of Russian-Americans in Sacramento, Calif. rallying in support of Ukraine.

Miami, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Seattle were among at least 18 U.S. cities where pro-peace rallies were held in February, according to The Anti-Corruption Foundation, a nonprofit originally established by Aleksey Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and opposition politician who was poisoned and subsequently imprisoned for his dissent.

In Sacramento (above), rallygoers held a sign that read in Russian “Nemtsov’s Bridge,” a reference to Boris Nemtsov, a pro-democracy activist and prominent Putin critic who was shot dead in 2015 while walking across a Moscow bridge.

The foundation said cities in 38 countries likewise held rallies, including in Argentina, Finland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Thailand.

The New York Times reported that across the globe, the Russian diaspora had rallies to protest Putin’s war in about 45 countries and 120 cities, including Buenos Aires, Argentina; Chicago; Melbourne, Australia; and Milan.

Importance of speaking up

“Any Russian protest is important,” Abbas Gallyamov, a political analyst and former Kremlin speechwriter, told the New York Times. “Putin is doing his best trying to convince Russians that they all support him, so any proof that it is not true will hamper his game.”

Tweet showing a photo of Russian-Americans rallying in Chicago in support of Ukraine.

In California, Anna Berbeneva, originally from Russia, has spent the last year working alongside Ukrainian people in the Sacramento area as part of efforts of her organization, The Voices of Russian Opposition in Sacramento.

“It’s extremely important for all Russians now to speak up,” Berbeneva told KCRA 3TV. Berbeneva and her family left Russia after her husband was arrested for protesting the Kremlin’s 2014 initial invasion of Ukraine.

Berbeneva said she has many Russian friends “who think the same way I do, who also do whatever they can to help Ukraine win, and we will keep doing that.”

People carrying signs and Ukranian flags while protesting the war (© Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
In San Francisco, among the signs that rallygoers carried February 25 was one that said “Russians Against the War.” (© Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)