Up to 150 Ukrainians rallied in front of the Russian embassy in London on Sunday against Russian aggression and military support of separatism in the East and South of Ukraine.
Following the news about Ukrainian military transport plane shot down by pro-Russian separatists that left 49 Ukrainians killed, and the ensuing riots outside the Russian embassy in Kyiv, London’s Ukrainian activists gathered in front of the local Russian embassy with flags, posters, leaflets, and even one tyre (as a reference to the iconic symbol of Euromaidan protest).A group of Syrian activists with flags, who also have been using the space as a common protest spot for a long time, joined the rally later.
As usual, Ukrainians sang the national anthem and chanted various slogans. These included the widely used ‘Slava Ukraini! Heroyam Slava!’ (‘Glory to Ukraine! Glory to its heroes!’), ‘Slava natsii! Smert’ voroham!’ (Glory to the nation! Death to the enemies!’), ‘Ukraina ponad use!’ (‘Ukraine above all!’). Some shouted ‘Smert’ moskalyam’ (‘Death to moskali’) which is a derogatory Ukrainian term for Russians. Besides the Russian aggressive politics, one of the reasons for that could be the sometimes ostentatious lack of support from the local Russian community. At the same time, while outlining the agenda for the rally, one of the speakers noted that the protest should not be directed against the Russian people, but rather against the Russian supporters of Putin politics – who should be approached as moskali.
Most of the slogans focused on Russia and Putin: ‘Russia is a danger for the world!’, ‘Russian government, shame on you!’, ‘Putin, hands off Ukraine!’, ‘Putin is a criminal!’, ‘Putin is a fascist’, ‘Putin is a butcher’, ‘Putler stop lying!’
However, the most popular slogan by far was the chant ‘Putin – khuilo!’ (‘Putin is a dickhead’). In the beginning, the protesters chanted ‘Putin, hello!’, but they quickly resorted to the ‘classic’ version. It was started by Kharkiv football fans after the annexation of Crimea, and has become one of the top Ukrainian memes in the last months, following Russia’s intervention in the East. Ukrainian acting foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsia chanted it the day before, trying to defuse tension while talking to the angry crowd outside the Russian embassy in Kyiv on Saturday – which caused outrage in Moscow.
The rally also was an interactive process: the protesters tried to engage with passers-by and cars driving along Bayswater Road. Leaflets were being handed out. In terms of the interaction with automobiles, a few protesters stood facing the road and holding large posters encouraging the drivers to honk in support of Ukraine. And so they did: honks kept coming from cars, buses, black cabs and cyclists. Just a few sour-faced Russians passed by.
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