In city near border, Ukrainians protest Russian threat

AFP

2 min read
A protester holds a placard during a Unity March amid soaring tensions with Russia, in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, on February 5, 2022.
Sergey BOBOK / AFPA protester holds a placard during a Unity March amid soaring tensions with Russia, in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, on February 5, 2022.

'I was born in Crimea. That's enough, they've already taken a homeland from me'

A Ukrainian flag wrapped around her shoulders, pensioner Iryna Gayeva had a simple message as she demonstrated in second city Kharkiv on Saturday, just 25 miles from the Russian border. 

"We do not want Russia," she told AFP, as she joined several thousand people for a "Unity March" called by nationalist groups. 

"I was born in Crimea. That's enough, they've already taken a homeland from me. I grew up here, I live here, my parents are from Russia but I don't want to see any occupiers," she said.

"This is my home, these are my rules." 

Russia seized the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and began fueling a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin has now massed more than 100,000 troops across the frontier, sparking fears from the West that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning a major incursion. 

Moscow denies it will invade and blames NATO for threatening its security by expanding into eastern Europe. 

Kharkiv, an industrial and university center with a million and a half inhabitants, many Russian-speaking, is more than 250 miles east of the capital Kyiv and right next to the Russian border.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that, given the population's strong links to Russia, the city could be a prime target for "occupation" if the situation escalates. 

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