Europe unites for Ukraine as thousands gather in central squares

EU-nited against Putin: Hundreds of thousands band together across European capitals in a sea of yellow and blue to hear Ukrainian President Zelensky speak and thank them for their support

  • People gathered to watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in central squares across Europe
  • The Ukrainian President spoke live to hundreds of thousands gathered in a live video message on Friday night
  • Squares in Frankfurt, Germany; Tbilisi, Georgia; Vilnius, Lithuania; Prague, Czech Republic; Vienna, Austria, Lyon and Paris, France were packed
  • Flags and signs decorated in the Ukrainian colors of yellow and blue could be seen as people gathered to listen to the president and show their support for the country as Russia’s invasion continues

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on European nations to support his country’s fight against the invading Russian military.

Zelensky appeared on video as he addressed thousands of people protesting against the war in several European cities including Paris, Prague, Lyon, Frankfurt and others, asking the big crowds not to be silent about what is going on in his country.

‘Don’t turn a blind eye on this,’ he said. ‘Come out and support Ukraine as much as you can,’ he said through a translator. ‘If we fall, you will fall.’

‘And if we win, and I’m sure we’ll win, this will be the victory of the whole democratic world, this will be the victory of our freedom, this will be the victory of light over darkness, of freedom over slavery. And if we win we will become as blossoming as Europe. And Europe will be flourishing more than ever.

‘All of you are Ukrainians today, thank you for this.’

Thousands gathered at many other central squares across Europe carrying signs similar in sentiment reading: ‘Stop the War,’ ‘Putin’s last war,’ ‘We stand with Ukraine’ and ‘Putin is Hitler’ along with Ukrainian and European Union flags.

Around 80,000 protesters thronged Prague’s central square. Wenceslas Square was home to demonstrations during the 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended decades of Soviet-backed communist rule, as well as protests in 1968 when Soviet-led troops invaded communist Czechoslovakia to end reforms that upset Moscow. 

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC 

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic on Friday night

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic on Friday night

Demonstrators hold giant European Union flag as they attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic, on Friday night

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic, on Friday night

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic, on Friday night

Protestors take part in a demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on March 4, 2022 at the Wenceslas Square in Prague, Czech Republic

Protestors take part in a demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at WVenceslas square in Prague, Czech Republic

Protestors take part in a demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on Friday night at the Venceslas square in Prague

Protestors take part in a demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at the Venceslas square in Prague

Protestors take part in a demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on March 4, 2022 at the Wenceslas Square

Protestors take part in a demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on March 4, 2022 at the Wenceslas square

Protestors take part in a demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Wenceslas square in Prague, Czech Republic

Protestors take part in a demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine  in Prague, Czech Republic

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic on Friday night

Demonstrators watch on screen live speech of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during an anti-war rally in Prague

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic on Friday night

Demonstrators stand in front of screens broadcasting live speech of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during an anti-war rally in Prague, Czech Republic

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic on Friday night

Demonstrators attend an anti-war rally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Prague, Czech Republic on Friday night

Earlier on Friday, it was revealed that no radiation was released from a Russian attack at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant in Ukraine. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said on Friday the building hit by a Russian ‘projectile’ at the Zaporizhzhia plant was ‘not part of the reactor’ but instead a training center at the plant.

Nuclear officials from Sweden to China said no radiation spikes had been reported, as did Grossi.

Ukrainian officials have said Russian troops took control of the overall site, but the plant’s staff were continuing to ensure its operations.

Grossi said the Ukrainians were in control of the reactor.

In the frenzied initial aftermath when the risk of a radiation release was not clear, the attack caused worldwide concern – and evoked memories of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, at Ukraine’s Chernobyl.

Facing worldwide indignation over the attack, Russia sought to deflect blame.

FRANKFURT, GERMANY

Several thousand people take part in a solidarity rally for Ukraine on the Romerberg in Frankfurt on Friday night

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a video message to the people joining a rally in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a video message to the people joining a rally on the Romerberg Square in Frankfurt, Germany, on Friday night

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a video message to the people gathered for a rally in Romerberg Square in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, March 4, 2022

People watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a screen addressing anti-war demonstrations in several European cities including Frankfurt, Vienna, Lyon, Tbilisi, Vilnius and Prague, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues on Friday night

A woman holds a placard as people watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a screen addressing anti-war demonstrations in Frankfurt, Germany

People hold placards as they watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a screen addressing anti-war demonstrations in several European cities including Frankfurt, Germany

A woman holds a placard as people watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a screen addressing anti-war demonstrations in several. Frankfurt, Germany, pictured

Ukrainian flags are seen as people watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a screen addressing anti-war demonstrations in Frankfurt, Germany on Friday night

A woman holds a placard as people watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a screen addressing protesters in Frankfurt, Germany

People hold Ukrainian flags as they watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a screen addressing anti-war demonstrations in several European cities including Frankfurt, Germany

A banner is seen as people watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a screen addressing anti-war demonstrations 

Without producing evidence, defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov blamed arson rather than artillery fire.

He claimed a Ukrainian ‘sabotage group’ had occupied the training building at the plant, fired on a Russian patrol and set fire to the building as they left.

There had been conflicting reports earlier over which part of the Zaporizhzhia facility had been affected in the attack, with an official saying at one point that shells fell directly on the facility and set fire to a reactor not in operation as well as a training building.

Grossi later said that the fire was in the training center.

The confusion itself underscored the dangers of active fighting near a nuclear power plant.

It was the second time since the invasion began just over a week ago that concerns about a nuclear accident or a release of radiation materialized, following a battle at Chernobyl.

Grossi said only one reactor of six at Zaporizhzhia is currently operating, at about 60% capacity, and that two people at the site were injured in the fire.

Ukraine’s state nuclear plant operator Enerhoatom said three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two wounded.

The plant fire came as the Russian military advanced on a strategic city on the Dnieper River near where the facility is located, and gained ground in their bid to cut the country off from the sea.

That move would deal a severe blow to Ukraine’s economy and could worsen an already dire humanitarian situation.

TBILISI, GEORGIA 

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, on March 04, 2022 in Tbilisi, Georgia

People watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a screen addressing anti-war demonstrations in several European cities including Frankfurt, Vienna, Lyon, Tbilisi, Vilnius and Prague, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, on March 04, 2022 in Tbilisi, Georgia

Demonstrators gather near a screen to watch the broadcast of the live speech of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during an anti-war rally in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Friday night

Demonstrators gather in front of a screen broadcasting the live speech of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during an anti-war rally in Tbilisi, Georgia on Friday night

Demonstrators gather in front of a screen to watch the broadcast of the live speech of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during an anti-war rally in Tbilisi, Georgia on Friday night

Demonstrators gather in front of a screen broadcasting the live speech of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during an anti-war rally in Tbilisi, Georgia on Friday night

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, on Friday night

Georgians cheer the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke live from Ukraine

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. Zelensky addressed to the rallies in support of Ukraine, held in Tbilisi, Paris, Lyon, Bratislava, Frankfurt, Vilnius and Prague, via video conference, from Kyiv

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, on March 04, 2022 in Tbilisi, Georgia

Thousands of demonstrators gathered around the parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia for the protest on Friday night

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, on March 04, 2022 in Tbilisi, Georgia

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, on March 04, 2022 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed to the rallies in support of Ukraine

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, on March 04, 2022 in Tbilisi, Georgia on Friday night

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, on March 04, 2022 in Tbilisi, Georgia on Friday night

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, in Tbilisi, Georgia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed to the rallies in support of Ukraine, held in Tbilisi

Thousands of demonstrators gather around parliament building during a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine in Tbilisi, Georgia on Friday night

With the invasion in its second week, another round of talks between Russia and Ukraine yielded a tentative agreement to set up safe corridors to evacuate citizens and deliver humanitarian aid to the country, overturned by a war that has sent more than one million fleeing over the border and countless others sheltering underground.

A handful of cities are without heat and at least one is struggling to get food and water.

In the center of the capital, Kyiv, frequent shelling could still be heard Friday, although more distant than in recent days, with loud thudding every 10 minutes resonating over the rooftops.

The West has heaped sanctions on Russia, and most of the world lined up to demand Russia withdraw its troops in a vote in the UN General Assembly this week.

In the latest show of international opposition to the invasion, the UN’s top human rights body voted 32-2 on a resolution that would among other things set up a panel of experts to monitor human rights in Ukraine.

Only Russia and Eritrea opposed; there were 13 abstentions.

The attack on the nuclear facility led to phone calls between the Ukrainian president and US President Joe Biden and other world leaders.

The US Department of Energy activated its nuclear incident response team as a precaution.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to raise the issue of Russia’s attack on the plant.

In an emotional speech in the middle of the night, Zelensky said he feared an explosion that would be ‘the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe’.

But most experts saw nothing to indicate an impending disaster.

ROME, ITALY 

ePeople hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy, on Friday night

People take part in a vigil to support Ukraine, at Capitoline Hill in Rome on Friday night

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy on Friday night

People take part in a vigil to support Ukraine, at Capitoline Hill in Rome on Friday night

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy, on Friday night

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy, on Friday night

People hold Ukrainian flags and candles during a vigil to support Ukraine, at Capitoline Hill in Rome on Friday night

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy, on Friday night

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, in Rome, Italy, on Friday night

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy on Friday night

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy on Friday night

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy on Friday night

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy on Friday night

People gather in front of Rome’s Piazza del Campidoglio city council square to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Friday night

People hold banners and flags during a torchlight for peace in Ukraine, in Campidoglio square, Rome, Italy on Friday night

‘The real threat to Ukrainian lives continues to be the violent invasion and bombing of their country,’ the American Nuclear Society said in a statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have brought their superior firepower to bear over the past few days, launching hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites around the country and making significant gains in the south.

The Russians announced the capture of the southern city of Kherson, a vital Black Sea port of 280,000, and local Ukrainian officials confirmed the takeover of the government headquarters there, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began just over a week ago.

A Russian airstrike destroyed a power plant in Okhtyrka, leaving the northeastern city without heat or electricity, the head of the region said on Telegram.

‘We are trying to figure out how to get people out of the city urgently because in a day the apartment buildings will turn into a cold stone trap without water, light or electricity,’ Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said.

Another strategic port, Mariupol on the Azov Sea, was ‘partially under siege,’ and Ukrainian forces are pushing back efforts to surround the city, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.

‘The humanitarian situation is tense,’ he told reporters, adding that Ukrainian authorities are in talks with Russian representatives and international organizations to set up humanitarian corridor to evacuate residents and supply food.

Battles in the area have knocked out the city’s electricity, heat and water systems, as well as most phone service, officials said.

Food deliveries to the city were also cut.

LIVILNIUS, LITHUANIA 

People take part in a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Russian embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Friday night

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, right, takes part in a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Russian embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Friday night

People take part in a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Russian embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Friday night

People take part in a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Russian embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Friday night

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, right, takes part in a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Russian embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Friday night

Video from the port city showed the assault lighting up the darkening sky above deserted streets and medical teams treating civilians, including a 16-year-old boy who could not be saved.

The child was playing football when he was wounded in the shelling, according to his father, who cradled the boy’s head on the trolley and cried.

Ukraine’s defense minister said Friday that the flagship of its navy has been scuttled at the shipyard where it was undergoing repairs in order to keep it from being seized by Russian forces.

Oleksii Reznikov said on Facebook that the commander of the frigate Hetman Sahaidachny decided to flood the ship.

‘It is hard to imagine a more difficult decision for a courageous soldier and crew,’ Reznikov said.

Ukraine’s state emergency agency issued mass text messages on Friday with advice on what to do in case of an explosion: Lie on the ground and cover your head with your hands; use available shelter; do not rush to leave the shelter; help the wounded; do not enter damaged buildings.

Overall, the outnumbered, outgunned Ukrainians have put up stiff resistance, staving off the swift victory that Russia appeared to have expected.

But Russia’s seizure of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 gives it a logistical advantage now in the country’s south, with shorter supply lines that smoothed the offensive there, said a senior US defense official.

Ukrainian leaders called on the people to defend their homeland by cutting down trees, erecting barricades in the cities and attacking enemy columns from the rear.

LISBON, PORTUGAL 

People take part in an anti-war protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Lisbon, Portugal on Friday night

A person takes part in an anti-war protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Lisbon, Portugal on Friday night

People take part in an anti-war protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Lisbon, Portugal, on Friday night

In recent days, authorities have issued weapons to civilians and taught them how to make Molotov cocktails.

As the Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met in Belarus on Thursday, Putin warned in a call with French President Emmanuel Macron that Ukraine must quickly accept the Kremlin’s demand for its ‘demilitarization’ and declare itself neutral, renouncing its bid to join NATO.

The two sides said they tentatively agreed to allow cease-fires in areas designated safe corridors, and that they would seek to work out the necessary details quickly.

A Zelensky adviser also said a third round of talks will be held early next week.

The Pentagon set up a direct communication link to Russia’s ministry of defense earlier this week to avoid the possibility of a miscalculation sparking conflict between Moscow and Washington.

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