US rallies in support of Ukraine: ‘The whole world right now needs to unite’

Crowds gathered on Saturday in cities including Atlanta, Washington, DC, and New York — where Olga Ladygima told CNN at a rally in Times Square that she hasn’t slept for the last three nights. Her friends in Ukraine have stayed up, too, Ladygima, who is from Kyiv, told CNN. But they’re making homemade bombs to try to stop Russian tanks.

Ladygima has been up crying, watching the news and trying to call her loved ones who remain in Ukraine. It’s a stark contrast to what she sees in New York, she said. On Saturday, she saw people sitting and eating in restaurants who “don’t think that the war can come to their houses,” she told CNN.

But peace, she said, is fragile.

“I think that the whole world right now needs to unite,” Ladygima said, adding: “Now is the time to say no and stop one person who keeps in fear the whole world.”

Saturday’s demonstrations came on the third day of the Russian assault, which began early Thursday. The capital city of Kyiv remained under Ukranian control Saturday after a night of fierce fighting. Ukraine has remained defiant, and President Volodymyr Zelensky echoed the resolve of his people, some of whom have taken up arms, in a video message Saturday.

“Each Ukrainian should keep one thing in mind: if you can stop and destroy the occupiers — do it,” Zelensky said. “Everyone who can come back to Ukraine — come back to defend Ukraine.”

Anti-war protesters gathered in Times Square in New York, on February 26, 2022, to protest Russian attacks on Ukraine.
A similar resolve was seen among Ukrainian-Americans and their allies in the US as they demanded more action to support Ukraine and its outgunned military. Western nations have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in response to the invasion, and the US, UK and EU on Friday sanctioned President Vladimir Putin himself.

But some Ukrainian supporters, like Merrick Brown, whose great grandparents came to the United States from Ukraine, think more needs to be done.

“I believe the US and NATO should provide military assistance to Ukraine,” Brown, who also attended the Times Square rally, told CNN. He described the demonstration as peaceful and “more pro-Ukraine than anti-Russia.”

‘Pray for Ukraine’

In downtown Atlanta, dozens of people gathered for a “Stand with Ukraine” rally. Some attendees wore blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, while others carried signs that read, “Pray for Ukraine” and “Ukranians Unite!” as they sang the Ukrainian national anthem.

For one Ukrainian American family, a mix of anger, fear and regret
Ukrainian Anton Kilpa was among them. His parents live in Kyiv, Kilpa told told CNN affiliate WGCL. He learned the invasion had begun when a Canadian-Ukrainian friend called him earlier this week, just before bed, and told him to phone his parents immediately.

“It was hard to believe,” Kilpa told WGCL. “It was (a) new reality.”

Joshua Hill, another attendee in Atlanta, doesn’t have a personal connection to Ukraine, but he told CNN via Twitter he joined because “Ukraine needs the support of the world.”

“Our leaders aren’t doing enough,” Hill said. “I’m here to show support for more action from the US government, NATO and all of Ukraine’s allies.”

Demonstrators rally in support of Ukraine in Atlanta on Saturday, February 26, 2022.

‘I just wanted to show my support and solidarity’

In Washington, DC, another crowd demonstrated in front of the White House.

Many attendees hoisted Ukrainian flags or had them draped around their shoulders as they chanted, “Stop Putin now.”

People participate in a pro-Ukrainian demonstration in front of the White House to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 26 in Washington, DC.
Other signs called for more robust consequences, like expelling Russia from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a high security network that connect thousands of financial institutions around the world.

One demonstrator, JP Wheeler, told CNN he was “just a concerned citizen” with no personal ties to Ukraine. “No family or friends, just a human connection and a desire to support the Ukrainians and (their) struggle,” Wheeler said.

Flowers are seen left on the steps of the Ukraine Embassy in Washington on February 26.

A couple miles away from the rally outside the White House, Eleanor Shiori Hughes, a graduate student at Georgetown University, left flowers on the steps of the Ukrainian embassy, where a sign read “Long Live Free Ukraine.”

She, too, had no connection to Ukraine.

“I just wanted to show my support and solidarity for the Ukrainian people,” Hughes said.

CNN’s Sarah Jorgensen contributed to this report.

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