Hundreds gather for 'Stand with Ukraine' protest at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday

Hundreds of protestors gathered at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday for a 'Stand with Ukraine' protest.

By Daniel Sheridan
Saturday, 29th January 2022, 2:06 pm
Updated Saturday, 29th January 2022, 2:08 pm

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The city's Ukrainian community expressed their fear for their families back home ahead of the protest.

It comes amid concerns that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine.

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Olga Callaghan addressing the crowds

Russia has repeatedly denied it has any such designs, but the United States and its Nato allies are worried because Russia has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border and launched a series of war games in the region.

At the heart of the standoff are questions about Ukraine's future because Russia has demanded guarantees that Nato will never admit the country and other ex-Soviet nations.

More than 100 people from across Leeds gathered on the town hall steps.

The rally started with a song which echoed in the swirling winds of Storm Malik.

Crowds held 'We Stand with Ukraine' banners

Speeches were then given addressing the crowd.

At one point, a passer-by stood in solaridarity with the protesters and gave his support.

Olga Callaghan, 71, lives in Bramley and was born in the UK.

Her parents came to the UK via Germany where they had been taken in the 1940s to carry out forced labour.

Petro Rewko

She is from the Leeds Ukrainian Community Centre, based in Chapeltown, which organised the rally on Saturday.

Olga was astounded by the huge turnout to the rally and told the YEP support had "been growing in recent weeks".

Speaking to a reporter at the rally, Olga said: "The support we can give them is by standing together and showing the world that we do stand with Ukraine.

"It is the least we can do.

Olga Callaghan addressing the crowds

"If we don't support our own country, how can we expect any other countries to help us.

"We have to show support."

Olga said the whole community had rallied together in recent weeks to support the rally.

The group has held similar rallies in the past but Olga told the YEP this one had an added significance.

She continued: "People feel very, very strongly.

"Even though I was born here I still have relatives in Ukraine.

"People here have grandparents, uncles, parents over there and some of them are doubly worried.

"It is quite possible some people who have fought in previous wars, older people, may now be drafted.

"I have heard of one person who is 65 who fears he may be asked to go and fight.

"People feel so strongly about this.

"It means so much, to so many people."

Petro Rewko is the chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain.

Addressing the crowd in a passionate speech, he said: "Our message to Ukraine is this.

"Ukraine, we stood with you after independence in 1991.

"We as British born Ukranians.

"We will never turn our backs.

"We will never desert our traditions, our root, our history, our DNA."

In 2014, following the removal of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv, Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in the country's eastern industrial heartland.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed over 14,000 people, and efforts to reach a settlement have stalled.

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