Manitobans march in Brandon to stand in solidarity with Ukrainians locally and abroad
March organizers call for an end to Russian invasion, promote charities supporting Ukrainians
Hundreds of people gathered in Brandon, Man. on Saturday evening to stand in solidarity with Ukrainians living in Manitoba and those who are fleeing and fighting.
People clad in blue and yellow marched from Brandon University to City Hall, some carrying candles and shedding tears for family who are still in the country.
When they arrived, the Ukrainian flag was raised at City Hall, and the crowd swelled to sing the Ukrainian national anthem.
Oleksandr Boiko said he calls home to Ukraine every day and knows how much the support means to people affected by the Russian invasion.
"My family, my friends from there, they're asking Canadian people and the whole world to send that energy of support. It's really helping them," he said.
The purpose of the march, which was organized by the university and the local chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, was to show support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, to share fundraising and aid information and to keep up political pressure for an end to the invasion.
Kelly Saunders, an associate professor of political science at the university called participating in the march a "no brainer."
"We stand in solidarity with everybody that's in this community and especially when we're seeing injustice unfold around the world, it's all the more important for universities to stand on the side of truth and justice and democracy," she said.
In addition to sharing ways Manitobans can support charities assisting Ukrainians, Saunders says the university will open up its residence buildings to people forced to flee the violence in Ukraine. It will also not charge international student fees to those from Ukraine who want to study in Brandon.
"We're opening up our doors to help out both physically, emotionally and financially," Saunders said.
The southern Manitoba city's mayor Rick Chrest also spoke at the march, offering support for local Ukrainian-Canadians who have made the city their home in the last number of years.
"Right now, it's a very emotional time for many in our community and therefore extending to all of us that are standing in solidarity and thinking so much of Ukrainian people, both here and abroad," he said.
The rally in Brandon comes as Russian forces intensified shelling in the port city of Mariupol, including the use of airplanes, the mayor said Saturday night.
The Russian Defence Ministry said it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces for those attempting to escape Mariupol — a strategic port in the southeast — and the eastern city of Volnovakha. The vaguely worded statement did not make clear how long the routes would remain open.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko said that thousands of children, women and the elderly came under fire as they arrived at possible evacuation corridors this morning. Evacuations were then halted.
As of Saturday, the United Nations says more than 350 civilians have been killed since Russia began its assault 11 days ago and more than 1.45 million have fled Ukraine.
Back in Manitoba, Brandon resident Boiko wants to see all levels of government put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the invasion.
Brandon University is directing people who want to donate to support Ukrainians to the UCC website for a list of registered charities.
With files from Justin Fraser and the Associated Press