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Anti-war protests have broken out in ex-Soviet countries and across Europe as Russia continues to bomb Ukrainian cities and draw closer to Kyiv

Thousands gathered in cities from the ex-Soviet Balkans to Tbilisi and further afield to Florence to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the biggest assault on a European country since World War Two, and price hikes being blamed on the conflict. 

People gathered in the square of the Italian city, which is twined with Kyiv, to show their support and listen to a videoed speech from its President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

People gathered in the square of the Italian city, which is twined with Kyiv, to show their support for Ukraine

People gathered in the square of the Italian city, which is twined with Kyiv, to show their support for Ukraine

People gathered in the square of the Italian city, which is twined with Kyiv, to show their support for Ukraine 

Florence has been twinned with Ukraine's capital since the 1960s, when it sent aid to the city to help it recover from a devastating flood.

Florence has been twinned with Ukraine's capital since the 1960s, when it sent aid to the city to help it recover from a devastating flood.

Florence has been twinned with Ukraine’s capital since the 1960s, when it sent aid to the city to help it recover from a devastating flood.

The crowds waved blue and yellow flags in Piazza Santa Croce as church bells tolled 17 times - one for each day since Russia invaded Ukraine

The crowds waved blue and yellow flags in Piazza Santa Croce as church bells tolled 17 times - one for each day since Russia invaded Ukraine

The crowds waved blue and yellow flags in Piazza Santa Croce as church bells tolled 17 times – one for each day since Russia invaded Ukraine

Florence has been twinned with Ukraine’s capital since the 1960s, when it sent aid to the Tuscan city to help it recover from a devastating flood.

In a speech broadcast to dozens of European cities taking part in a day of protests, President Zelenskiy said 79 children had been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the war and called for more sanctions against Moscow and a no-fly zone.   

The crowds waved blue and yellow flags in Piazza Santa Croce as church bells tolled 17 times – one for each day since Russia invaded Ukraine in what Moscow calls a ‘special operation’ to disarm and ‘denazify’ Ukraine. 

Ukraine and Western allies have dubbed the invasion a pretext for a war of choice which has raised fears of wider conflict in Europe.

A number of Ukrainian women joined the crowds in Florence wearing flower crowns as a symbol of peace.    

‘Russians are under a dictatorship and cannot understand why they came to destroy our cities and kill our children,’ said Lesia Mykhailenko, who was born in Donetsk and now works in Florence.

‘I cannot hate them because our bonds have lasted for centuries.’

A girl wrapped in a flag of Ukraine takes part in a peace rally for Ukraine on March 12, 2022 in Florence, Tuscany, which takes place simultaneously in the main European cities to demand a ceasefire in Ukraine

A girl wrapped in a flag of Ukraine takes part in a peace rally for Ukraine on March 12, 2022 in Florence, Tuscany, which takes place simultaneously in the main European cities to demand a ceasefire in Ukraine

A girl wrapped in a flag of Ukraine takes part in a peace rally for Ukraine on March 12, 2022 in Florence, Tuscany, which takes place simultaneously in the main European cities to demand a ceasefire in Ukraine

A participant waves the flag of Ukraine in front of the Basilica Santa Croce, during a peace rally for Ukraine on March 12, 2022 in Florence, Tuscany

A participant waves the flag of Ukraine in front of the Basilica Santa Croce, during a peace rally for Ukraine on March 12, 2022 in Florence, Tuscany

A participant waves the flag of Ukraine in front of the Basilica Santa Croce, during a peace rally for Ukraine on March 12, 2022 in Florence, Tuscany

A number of Ukrainian women joined the crowds in Florence wearing flower crowns as a symbol of peace

A number of Ukrainian women joined the crowds in Florence wearing flower crowns as a symbol of peace

A number of Ukrainian women joined the crowds in Florence wearing flower crowns as a symbol of peace

In a speech broadcast to dozens of European cities taking part in a day of protests, President Zelenskiy said 79 children had been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the war and called for more sanctions against Moscow and a no-fly zone.

In a speech broadcast to dozens of European cities taking part in a day of protests, President Zelenskiy said 79 children had been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the war and called for more sanctions against Moscow and a no-fly zone.

In a speech broadcast to dozens of European cities taking part in a day of protests, President Zelenskiy said 79 children had been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the war and called for more sanctions against Moscow and a no-fly zone.

Thousands gathered in the square in Florence, Italy, in defiance of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24

Thousands gathered in the square in Florence, Italy, in defiance of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24

Thousands gathered in the square in Florence, Italy, in defiance of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24

Elsewhere, thousands of Albanians took to the streets of the capital Tirana to protest against price increases on fuel and food which authorities blame on the conflict in Ukraine. 

People from across the country gathered on the main Skanderbeg Square before marching in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office with banners and shouting antigovernment slogans in the fourth protest there this week. 

Police were dispatched to protect government buildings, but the protest ended peacefully with a small group of demonstrators taken to the police station to seek the release of dozens of others arrested at previous demonstrations.  

Demonstrators have been demanding that the government steps in to counter the price increases.  

Earlier this week, the Albanian government imposed price controls on fuel and urged citizens to use their cars less following a 50 per cent increase in fuel prices. 

Under the measures, fuel suppliers margins will be curtailed while retail prices will be set daily, with pumps that charge higher prices set to be shut down.  

A body made up of government officials and business leaders made the decision to lower prices for the next three days, but protesters are determined to carry on with daily demonstrations, saying the government’s action plan to reduce prices fails to go far enough. 

People from across the country gathered on the main Skanderbeg Square before marching in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama's office with banners and shouting antigovernment slogans

People from across the country gathered on the main Skanderbeg Square before marching in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama's office with banners and shouting antigovernment slogans

People from across the country gathered on the main Skanderbeg Square before marching in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office with banners and shouting antigovernment slogans

Demonstrators have been demanding that the government steps in to counter the price increases

Demonstrators have been demanding that the government steps in to counter the price increases

Demonstrators have been demanding that the government steps in to counter the price increases

Earlier this week, the Albanian government imposed price controls on fuel and urged citizens to use their cars less following a 50 per cent increase in fuel prices.

Earlier this week, the Albanian government imposed price controls on fuel and urged citizens to use their cars less following a 50 per cent increase in fuel prices.

Earlier this week, the Albanian government imposed price controls on fuel and urged citizens to use their cars less following a 50 per cent increase in fuel prices.

Police were dispatched to protect government buildings, but the protest ended peacefully

Police were dispatched to protect government buildings, but the protest ended peacefully

Police were dispatched to protect government buildings, but the protest ended peacefully

Following today’s (Saturday) protest, pensioners and vulnerable groups have been offered a cash handout, and there a plans to cut income tax for more than half of all private and government sector employees. 

Prime Minister Rama has said the government will continue to pay up to 80 per cent of household and small business electricity bills. 

The price hike has has a knock-on effect on food costs in the small Balkan country, with protestors alleging the government is profiting from higher prices by not reducing taxes.   

The day of protests comes after jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny called for anti-war protests in Moscow and other cities to take place on Sunday (March 13). 

Navalny was jailed last year when he returned to Russia after receiving medical treatment in Germany following an attack involving a nerve agent during a visit to Siberia in 2020. Russian authorities have denied carrying out such an attack.    

‘Mad maniac Putin will most quickly be stopped by the people of Russia now if they oppose the war,’ a message on Navalny’s Instagram account said.

‘You need to go to anti-war rallies every weekend, even if it seems that everyone has either left or got scared…You are the backbone of the movement against war and death.’ 

An anti war protest was held in Tirana, Albania after Russia invaded Ukraine last month

An anti war protest was held in Tirana, Albania after Russia invaded Ukraine last month

 An anti war protest was held in Tirana, Albania after Russia invaded Ukraine last month 

Protestors hold a massive Ukrainian flag and placards during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in front of Russia's Embassy in Tirana on February 27

Protestors hold a massive Ukrainian flag and placards during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in front of Russia's Embassy in Tirana on February 27

 Protestors hold a massive Ukrainian flag and placards during a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in front of Russia’s Embassy in Tirana on February 27

The protest monitoring group OVD Info says 13,908 people have been detained at anti-war demonstrations in Russia since the start of the invasion

The protest monitoring group OVD Info says 13,908 people have been detained at anti-war demonstrations in Russia since the start of the invasion

The protest monitoring group OVD Info says 13,908 people have been detained at anti-war demonstrations in Russia since the start of the invasion 

The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline UKRAINE REFUGEE APPEAL

Readers of Mail Newspapers and MailOnline have always shown immense generosity at times of crisis.

Calling upon that human spirit, we are now launching an appeal to raise money for refugees from Ukraine.

For, surely, no one can fail to be moved by the heartbreaking images and stories of families – mostly women, children, the infirm and elderly – fleeing from Russia’s invading armed forces.

As this tally of misery increases over the coming days and months, these innocent victims of a tyrant will require accommodation, schools and medical support.

All donations to the Mail Ukraine Appeal will be distributed to charities and aid organisations providing such essential services.

In the name of charity and compassion, we urge all our readers to give swiftly and generously.

TO MAKE A DONATION ONLINE 

Donate at www.mailforcecharity.co.uk/donate 

To add Gift Aid to a donation – even one already made – complete an online form found here: mymail.co.uk/ukraine

Via bank transfer, please use these details:

Account name: Mail Force Charity

Account number: 48867365

Sort code: 60-00-01

TO MAKE A DONATION VIA CHEQUE

Make your cheque payable to ‘Mail Force’ and post it to: Mail Newspapers Ukraine Appeal, GFM, 42 Phoenix Court, Hawkins Road, Colchester, Essex CO2 8JY

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The protest monitoring group OVD Info says 13,908 people have been detained at anti-war demonstrations in Russia since the start of the invasion. 

In London, hundreds of protestors gathered outside Downing Street, calling for NATO to ‘close the skies’. 

Organised by Ukrainian campaign group London Euromaidan, protesters gathered in the UK capital, carrying Ukrainian flags and chanting ‘close the skies’ and ‘hands of Ukraine, Putin’.    

Protestors also carried signs saying ‘only military force will stop a madman’ and ‘sanctions do not stop bombs.’ 

Markiyan, a 23-year-old British-Ukrainian called on the UK Government and NATO to ‘close the skies’. 

‘We are demanding that they close the skies, we need more sanctions,’ he said. 

He also called for the visa process for Ukrainian refugees to be sped up in the UK.  

‘My aunt is trying to get into the UK now and the whole visa process is very long and it’s quite inconsiderate compared to other European countries,’ he said. 

He also compared the UK’s refugee response of the UK to Poland, adding: ‘We have accepted several hundred people. Whereas Poland are dealing with 1.3 million Ukrainians and they can’t handle it.’

He added that he is also worried about his family back at home, but that he is trying to stay strong for them.    

‘I was worried at the start, crying quite a lot, but you’ve got to stay strong and keep the faith,’ he said.  ‘In the long term Ukraine will be free, we will win.’ 

Elsewhere in Europe, Emmanuel Macron has threatened Russia with even tougher sanctions, including further major economic punishment.

Marcon also sent a warning to the rest of the world, saying the on-going war will ‘deeply destabilise’ food supplies in Europe and Africa, as some of the world’s most fertile agricultural land in both Russia and Ukraine goes unplanted. 

‘If things continue in the military way… we will take further sanctions, including massive sanctions,’ Macron said after a summit of EU leaders in the Palace of Versailles in Paris on Friday.

The West has already imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia after Putin ordered his forces into Ukraine, crippling the country’s economy.

But in a warning to his counterpart in Moscow who he has spoken to on numerous occasions in recent weeks, Macron said the EU was prepared to go even further.

His comments also came as US President Joe Biden announced the U.S. will dramatically downgrade its trade status with Russia as punishment for its invasion, and also ban imports of Russian seafood, alcohol and diamonds.

The broad trade shift, which revokes the ‘most favoured nation’ status for Russia, is being taken in coordination with the European Union and G7 countries.

Countries in the European Union – along with the likes of Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia – have frozen the assets of Russia’s central bank, placed limits on its exports, and imposed sanctions against Russian oligarchs and their families.

Some have also moved to ban imports of Russian oil and gas products, and reduce their dependence on Russian resources.

Many Western companies have also pulled out of the country. 

Today, Russia banned Instagram in the country and opened a criminal case against Facebook’s owner Meta, accusing it of being an ‘extremist’ organisation. 

Russian prosecutors asked a court to designate Meta as an ‘extremist organisation’ after the the US tech giant temporarily allowed posts such as ‘death to the Russian invaders. 

In London, hundreds of protestors gathered outside Downing Street, calling for NATO to 'close the skies'

In London, hundreds of protestors gathered outside Downing Street, calling for NATO to 'close the skies'

In London, hundreds of protestors gathered outside Downing Street, calling for NATO to ‘close the skies’

Organised by Ukrainian campaign group London Euromaidan, protesters gathered in the UK capital, carrying Ukrainian flags and chanting 'close the skies' and 'hands of Ukraine, Putin'

Organised by Ukrainian campaign group London Euromaidan, protesters gathered in the UK capital, carrying Ukrainian flags and chanting 'close the skies' and 'hands of Ukraine, Putin'

Organised by Ukrainian campaign group London Euromaidan, protesters gathered in the UK capital, carrying Ukrainian flags and chanting ‘close the skies’ and ‘hands of Ukraine, Putin’

Protestors also carried signs saying 'only military force will stop a madman' and 'sanctions do not stop bombs.'

Protestors also carried signs saying 'only military force will stop a madman' and 'sanctions do not stop bombs.'

Protestors also carried signs saying ‘only military force will stop a madman’ and ‘sanctions do not stop bombs.’

The latest clampdown also saw access restricted to Instagram and comes after Roskomnadzor, which oversees Russian mass media, blocked Facebook and Twitter amid Moscow’s war propaganda campaign. 

A total of 7,144 people escaped four Ukrainian cities on Friday using humanitarian corridors, President Zelensky said in his televised address, a sharply lower number than managed to leave in each of the two previous days.

The Ukrainian premier has also accused Russia of refusing to allow evacuees to escape the city of Mariupol, which has been cut off from food, water and electricity, and defiantly insisted vital supplies would be delivered there tomorrow despite it being surrounded by Russian troops.

The Kremlin-owned Tass news agency painted a damning picture for those stuck in the city after quoting Russian Colonel Mikhail Mizintsev as saying all bridge into the city were destroyed and roads had been laid with mines.

‘Russian troops have not let our aid into the city and continue to torture our people…’ Zelenskiy said.

Ukrainian officials revealed on Friday that Russian soldiers had kidnapped Melitopol’s mayor Ivan Fedorov from the city’s crisis centre after he ‘refused to co-operate with the enemy’.

‘This is obviously a sign of weakness of the invaders… They have moved to a new stage of terror in which they are trying to physically eliminate representatives of legitimate local Ukrainian authorities,’ President Zelensky said. 

It comes as Putin struck areas in central and western Ukraine, some hundreds of miles from the capital Kyiv and huge explosions illuminated the night sky in Dnipro and Lutsk as residents experienced Russian artillery attacks for the first time.

Children hold placards during a demonstration in support of Ukraine, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, outside Downing Street

Children hold placards during a demonstration in support of Ukraine, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, outside Downing Street

Children hold placards during a demonstration in support of Ukraine, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, outside Downing Street

People carry flags and banners during a demonstration in support of Ukraine

People carry flags and banners during a demonstration in support of Ukraine

People carry flags and banners during a demonstration in support of Ukraine

People attend a demonstration organised by London EuroMaidan and British-Ukrainian volunteers outside Downing Street, London, to show solidarity with Ukraine following the invasion by Russia

People attend a demonstration organised by London EuroMaidan and British-Ukrainian volunteers outside Downing Street, London, to show solidarity with Ukraine following the invasion by Russia

People attend a demonstration organised by London EuroMaidan and British-Ukrainian volunteers outside Downing Street, London, to show solidarity with Ukraine following the invasion by Russia

In Ivano-Frankivsk, a triple strike hit at first light, said to be targeting an airfield on the edge of the city. Indiscriminate shelling at 4am UK time yesterday left tower blocks and a factory ablaze in Dnipro, killing a security guard.

Meanwhile, the 40-mile convoy of tanks, troops and artillery that had been bearing down on Kyiv in recent days is understood to have moved into strategic firing positions ahead of an all-out assault on the capital.

Fears have been mounting that Moscow could attempt a repeat at the barbaric bombing used on besieged cities such as Mariupol.

Satellite images showed howitzer weaponry and suspected rocket launchers being readied, prompting remaining Kyiv residents to take up arms and erect barricades. Mayor Vitali Klitschko warned Russia the city was a fortress.  

Ukrainian airstrips were targeted yesterday at Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, which are 260 miles and 380 miles respectively from Kyiv.

Last night it was considered unlikely that attacks on airstrips so far from the capital city would provide Russian forces with a much-needed impetus.

It comes as Kyiv volunteers were seen digging trenches in the city outskirts to try to stop Russian troops.

Bracing themselves for a bloody fight, others joined soldiers in erecting makeshift barricades with old tyres and sandbags, with around half of the city’s 3.5million residents are thought to have fled.

Some Russian units are now just nine miles from the city.

Source: Daily Mail

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