Pro-War, Anti-War Rallies in Moscow, Ukraine Before Crimea Referendum

Pro-War, Anti-War Rallies in Moscow, Ukraine Before Crimea Referendum

Pro-war and anti-war rallies were held in Moscow and a pro-Russia rally was held in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk on Saturday, a day before Crimea votes to either stay an autonomous republic of Ukraine or join the Russian Federation.

AFP reports there were 50,000 people at the anti-war rally. People waved Ukrainian and Russian flags and held signs to encourage President Vladimir Putin to leave Ukraine and Crimea.

University professor Yelena Orlova, 47, whose sign read “Ukraine is a sovereign state”, said she did not expect the rally would change her government’s position, but believed it was her duty to speak out.

“I don’t agree with the policy of Putin,” she told AFP. “I am against the annexation of Crimea. I think Russia should respect the borders of Ukraine.”

Police estimated only 3,000 were in attendance, but they often underestimate demonstrators that are against the Kremlin. The rally was livestreamed and viewed 240,000 times in Moscow. People psoted tweets with pictures from the rally, including anti-Putin band Pussy Riot.

15,000 people joined a pro-war rally that was organized by the Essence of the Times. Protesters wore all red and waved Soviet, Russian, and Syrian flags.

“We’re against the Ukrainian fascists who are sneaking into Russia, which means they’re posing a threat to us, too,” Yury, a political analyst who didn’t want to give his surname, told Bloomberg at the event.

Mike Giglio from BuzzFeed is on the ground in Donetsk, where many pro-Russian demonstrators are marching and storming security headquarters. Donetsk has been the sight of violent clashes between pro-Ukrainians and pro-Russians since parliament ousted Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22. The latest occurred on March 13 when two people were killed and eleven sent to the hospital.