A CITY centre rally is planned for Friday afternoon to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On the morning of Thursday, February 24, 2022, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced what he called a “special military operation” to – as he claimed - “demilitarise and denazify” Ukraine, marking a major escalation in his country’s war against its neighbour, a war Russia had begun in 2014.
Within minutes of Putin’s announcement, missiles and airstrikes rained down on Ukraine, hitting Kyiv and other civilian population centres, before a large ground invasion began from several fronts.
Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelenskyy declared martial law and soon the former comedian - once famous for playing a president on his hit TV series ‘Servant of the People’ - became a global symbol of leadership and resistance.
Since Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, and the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) estimates that some 5.9 million people have been displaced within Ukraine, with a further 8 million refugees scattered across Europe.
Almost 70,000 Ukrainian refugees have come to Ireland in the past year, with CSO (Central Statistics Office) figures released in December showing that by that time 6,135 Ukrainians were living in Cork. Fresh CSO figures are due this coming Friday.
Friday marks the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, and members of Cork’s Ukrainian community will mark that milestone with a rally on the Grand Parade at 4.30pm.
Olesia Zhytkova, a native of Kyiv who came to Cork with her little daughter last May, told The Echo that Irish friends and people from other nationalities would be joining Friday’s gathering.
“Everybody who supports Ukraine and Ukrainians and democracy are welcome to come along and join in,” Ms Zhytkova said.
“Ukrainians want to highlight that this war is still ongoing, and we are fighting for our freedom and this is a just war for us, and an unjust war being waged by Russia against us, and are inspired by our state and by our people and by our army who are fighting for our freedom and for our lives.” Ms Zhytkova said Ukrainian spirits were strong, and their resolve was holding, but the war was taking a heavy toll. Every day we are upset that people are dying in Ukraine, because Russia makes it its purpose to kill civilians, but we are not going to give up,” she said.
Support for Ukraine remained as strong as ever in Ireland, Ms Zhytkova said.
“Irish people are still supporting Ukraine as they have since the very beginning, and people in Cork have been so supportive and kind to us in such hard circumstances, and it has been really appreciated,” she said.
Friday’s rally to support Ukraine begins at 4.30pm on the Grand Parade.