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UKRAINE

IN IMAGES: Thousands take to Spain’s streets to denounce Ukraine invasion

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of cities across Spain over the weekend to denounce Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, with Spain’s Ukrainian population saying they will march every day until Russian troops leave their homeland.

IN IMAGES: Thousands take to Spain's streets to denounce Ukraine invasion
Demonstrators hold a giant Ukrainian flag during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Madrid on February 27, 2022. Photo: Gabrie BOUYS/AFP

Since Russian forces officially invaded Ukraine on February 24th, dozens of protests have been held in cities across Spain including Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Zaragoza, León, Murcia, Logroño and Bilbao.

Around 40,000 Spaniards, Ukranians and other foreign residents marched through the streets of Madrid on Sunday, brandishing Ukrainian flags, signs reading ‘No a la guerra’ (No to war) and caricature drawings comparing Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. 

“We are living in fear, thinking that they’ll go to sleep and they won’t wake up,” Nadia Pavlyuk, a Ukrainian living in Madrid, told AFP about her relatives and friends in Ukraine.

Protesters in Madrid hold signs depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin as Adolf Hitler. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“They are in basements, bunkers, or they’ve gone to their villages, where they can be a bit calmer. They are terrified.

“I think that all the measures that have been taken until now are very soft, and Putin does not care about them, he ignores them. The only thing that could affect him is if someone helps us militarily. Even if we don’t want war, it’s now the only option we have to defend ourselves.”

Demonstrators in Madrid hold signs reading “Stop Putin” and “Peace!” during a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Madrid on February 27th. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Protest organisers in Madrid have set up an information point to explain how people can help Ukraine financially or how to donate food, clothing and medicine at collection points to send aid to the war-torn population.

“It is not right that you’ve been forced to leave your homes, the solution is Europe, NATO and being all together against the invaders,” shouted through a megaphone Madrid deputy mayor Begoña Villacís during Sunday’s march from Colón square to Cibeles fountain.

A demonstrator wearing a traditional Ukrainian “Vinok” flower wreath helps hold a giant Ukrainian flag. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

For Mykola Bryyovskyy, another Ukrainian living in the Spanish capital and who’s married to a Russian woman, “now we have to protest all over the world because it’s not just a war against Ukraine, it’s a war against democracy and freedom.”

“In the end, Putin will make the world dislike Russians and they will be ashamed to say that they are Russians, when in fact there are very good people there,” laments Madrid resident Liudmyla Tsekhmeister.

A demonstrator holds a sign reading “Putin, let’s speed up to the part where you kill yourself in a bunker”, alluding to how Hitler took his own life during WWII. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

There are 52,400 Russians residing in Spain and 112,000 Ukrainian residents. 

“I mean, I don’t think there is a person in this world who can sleep peacefully today… There is a lot of instability and unfortunately I’m really scared that the West is not going to do anything about it,” Philip Kavr, a student from Poland, told AFP during a protest in Barcelona.

A demonstrator holds a sign depicting the Russian flag and reading “Putin is not Russia” during a protest in Barcelona. (Photo by Josep LAGO/AFP)

Hundreds of people have been protesting for several days in successive demonstrations in the Catalan capital, and Ukrainian nationals say they will continue doing so until their countrymen are safe. 

Demonstrators in Barcelona hold placards reading “Ukraine fights for Europe” and “Ukraine now, which country will be next?”. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

“I am worried because I have all my family there,” said Julia Rudenko, a bank employee from Ukraine living in Barcelona.

 “I have come to give moral support and to shout so Nato and the European Parliament listen to us. We are people, we are civilians who have done nothing and we don’t deserve to die.”

Dimitri, a Russian designer living in Barcelona, thinks that “now with the sanctions we are all going to suffer, they are going to ban [Russia from] SWIFT, halt the support and supply of technologies, and Russia will go back to the 80s or 60s in terms of technologies and everything, and I’m not talking about medicine… Everything is going to be bad.”

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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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