Thousands of Russians have rallied in Moscow in protest against the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, in the first major anti-war rally since the standoff between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels started last year.
Russian and Ukrainian flags were seen flying in the crowd, as banners read “We are together”, “Putin, I’m sick of your lies” and “I don’t want a war with Ukraine.” Protesters were heard chanting “No to war.”
“Putin means war, he is the leader of the party of war,” one of the organisers and prominent Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov said by phone. “If there are a lot of us today, he will back down, because he is afraid of his own citizens, and only the Russian people can stop Putin.”
The armed conflict, which Kiev and the West blame on Russia’s support of the separatist armed groups in eastern Ukraine, has killed more than 3,000 people since April.
A ceasefire agreement signed on September 5 has been repeatedly violated, and a memorandum signed on Saturday to create a buffer-zone between the warring sides, is hoped to consolidate the peace efforts.