The Ukrainian community – together with Georgians, Belarusians and representatives of other countries – held a demonstration in front of the Russian mission to the EU in Brussels protesting Moscow’s actions on Ukraine. The event was organised by Promote Ukraine.
“Putin’s regime kills,” “Stop him before it’s too late,” “Russia is an occupier” – the protesters displayed these eloquent placards at the rally. People of different nationalities came to the demonstration, not only from Brussels but also from other Belgian cities. They are all expressing solidarity with Ukraine at this difficult time.
Rita from Mechelen says that they, Georgians, love Ukrainians. Her compatriot Katya, who lives in Brussels, explains in more detail:
“We have a common enemy. It means that we should always stick together. I came here to support Ukraine because they are good friends of Georgia… Putin should stay out of Georgia, and out of Ukraine, and out of the world.”
The Crimean Tatar diaspora in Belgium was also present at the demonstration. Her representative Alemia Asanova from Ghent reminded that it all started from their home – from Crimea:
“This was the first point at which actually the seizure of Ukraine began. It so happened that Crimea was left out of the spotlight at the time. No one knows what is happening there now because there is still an information vacuum. The same situation should not be repeated with Ukraine. We need to draw a lot of attention. We live in the 21st century. Wars are unacceptable now, there should be no lawlessness. We live in a time when democracy must win, and reason and reasonable measures must prevail. Putin must be stopped: everyone here in Europe and in the whole world must unite and protect Ukraine. Ukraine has been coping on its own for eight years, but it cannot go on indefinitely.” The support of the Belarusian diaspora has become a tradition during Ukrainian events in Belgium. The Belarusian patriot Miron says that he couldn’t stay aside:
“It is my duty: to support those who suffer from the aggressor, from the terror, from the blackmailer. Ukrainians must know that the Belarusian people will always be with the Ukrainians. We are few, but we firmly believe that solidarity always defeats terror, aggression and blackmail.”
The participation of Russian representatives in the protest action was quite unexpected. Three young women are outraged by Putin’s policies. Polina explains:
“It’s terrible that our country has been doing this whole mess for so many years. Russia has been tormenting Ukraine. I mean they are doing it not only to the people inside the country but on all the borders as well. That’s why I think it is our common misfortune.”
The organiser of the event, NGO Promote Ukraine director Marta Barandiy, says she will hold as many protests as necessary:
“There are solidarity actions all over Europe on 19 February. I think the initiative was from Vienna if I am not mistaken. Anna Pattermann from Unlimited Democracy asked me if we would hold a demonstration, and we gladly joined in. Although we already had an action a week and a half ago, we said, of course, we will do as much as we have to – if there is an international action, we will go out every day. Today, we went out to the Russian mission to the EU. Next time we will go to the Russian embassy. We want them to know about the protests.“
She emphasised that the location near the Russian mission to the EU, where the 19 February action took place, was an excellent place for protests. Several diplomatic representations are located in the same area: Germany, France, the US and other countries. It is within walking distance of the European Parliament, and there are a lot of cars passing through the crossroads next to the Russian mission. So, quite a few motorists and pedestrians saw the action. In addition, the demonstration was announced on Belgian radio, and many media representatives came to the event, including a film crew from the Belgian TV channel RTL.