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Protests, donations and solidarity grow across Europe

Andreas Illmer
February 27, 2022

Countless thousands are protesting against Russia's war on Ukraine and there is a growing wave of solidarity projects from across Europe. People are donating money, sending aid for refugees and showing support.

Protester with a banner 'Stand with Ukraine' in Cologne
Image: Federico Gambarini(dpa/picture alliance

As Russian troops continue pushing into Ukraine, there are more and more rallies of support and shows of solidarity across all of Europe. The Kremlin's brutal assault on its neighbor is being outright condemned and across the continent are trying to help with anything from donating money to organizing help, free transport and accommodation for refugees.

Demonstrations across Europe

Across Europe, people have taken to the streets to show their support for Ukraine against Moscow's military invasion.

In Germany, around 7,000 people gathered in Frankfurt on Saturday under the slogan "Solidarity with Ukraine – peace in eastern Europe”, about 5,000 demonstrators were on the streets of Munich while an estimated 4,000 people marched in the city of Dusseldorf. In Germany's capital Berlin, at least 100,000 people demonstrated, with some estimates putting the crowd numbers considerably higher. 

In Russia's Baltic neighbor Estonia, thousands of people gathered in the capital Tallinn on Saturday for a demonstration against the war. According to police, as many as 30,000 people attended the protest and the concert afterward.

President Alar Karis told the crowd the onslaught was "inconceivable, absurd and horrific" and he urged people to "open the souls and doors of Estonia to Ukrainian refugees."

Demonstrations also took place in Switzerland where several thousand came out to condemn the Kremlin over its aggression. Protesters also pointed at the federal government in Bern for not fully joining the European Union's sanctions against Russia. Switzerland is not part of the EU and a popular destination for wealthy foreigners including Russians to keep their money.

London, Paris, and Rome, as well as Brussels, Vienna, Madrid and Sofia were among the many other European cities where people joined rallies calling on Russia to end the war. More than 10,000 people also protested in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Saturday, just one day after Russia had warned Finland not to consider joining NATO, threatening "serious military and political consequence."

Anti-war protests around the world

Protests within Russia

There also have been protests within Russia, although none of those have been permitted by the authorities. Over 3,000 people have been arrested for taking part in protests since the beginning of the war on Thursday.

In an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, more than 300 doctors, nurses and paramedics condemned the attack. "War is a humanitarian catastrophe that leads to pain and suffering,” the letter reads. "We consider violent solutions to political conflicts inhumane and call upon you to cease fire and begin negotiations.”

Aid for refugees

International aid organizations have called for donations for the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Ukraine. Most cities in Germany have launched campaigns detailing how citizens can donate to aid organizations, with similar initiatives springing up in other European countries.

Policemen holding down a protester in Saint Petersburg
Russian authories are clamping down on protests against the Kremlin's war on UkraineImage: Dmitri Lovetsky/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Aid group Caritas International reported an influx of donations but warned that the border regions between Ukraine and Poland are tense as hundreds of thousands of refugees exit the country under siege. The aid organization SOS Children's Villages also said that hundreds of thousands of children were in danger and are being moved to the west of Ukraine. The group announced that it was getting ready to take in refugees in Germany and several German cities have already seen the first refugee groups arriving this weekend. 

There are also many private initiatives to help like people using social media to organize accommodation for people fleeing, or collecting aid that can be brought to wherever it is needed in Ukraine.

Germany's public rail service Deutsche Bahn has said that refugees with Ukrainian passports can travel for free in all trains going from Poland to Germany. Neighboring Austria also announced Sunday that its state railway company ÖBB would offer free travel to those escaping the conflict.

According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, at least 200,000 people have already fled Ukraine into neighboring countries and the number could rise to as many as 4 million.

DW's Max Zander describes refugee situation in Poland

Public pressure

There has also been a wave of condemnations of Moscow's attack by Russians across Europe and the globe. Writers, directors and artists of Russian origin have spoken up against the war, urging their fellow citizens to protest against the aggression.

Those who have failed to speak out are coming under increasing pressure. The conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Valery Gergiev, is known as a friend of Putin's and has in the past supported Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. The city has now given him an ultimatum to speak out against the war or else he'd be dropped from his role.

Orchestras in Hamburg, the Netherlands, and the US have also either canceled scheduled concerts with Gergiev or called on him to publicly distance himself from Putin and Russia's war on Ukraine.

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled the name of Alar Karis, Estonia's president. This was updated on February 28, 2022, to reflect the correct spelling.