Why these Russians living in Canada have joined protests supporting Ukraine
Protesters 'can't sit silent' worrying about those in Ukraine and in home country
Although much of the world may view them as enemies on a battlefield, Russians and Ukrainians in Ottawa have been coming together to protest the actions by the Kremlin.
The Russian Embassy has been the site of several protests since the invasion began.
"I just can't sit silent," said Tatiana Lebedeva, who organized some of the protests.
"A lot of people in Russia can't voice their protest. They're being silenced, they're being detained, beaten, and thrown into jail."
The two countries have been close for decades, some describing the relationship as a brotherhood, which made watching the invasion from afar even more difficult for local resident Aziza. CBC has agreed not to use her full name for fear of reprisal against her family still in Russia and Ukraine.
"Everyone thought it's just a threat to pressure Western countries, nobody really believed the full-scale invasion of Ukraine was possible," said Aziza.
"Now it's like kind of the same thing with nuclear weapons. We want to think it's an empty threat but at this point, it feels like nothing is an empty threat."
Perception of Russia
The protesters in Ottawa worry about how their actions will affect themselves and their families still in Russia, but they said it's important to communicate the right message.
"It's surreal to think that despite me living in another country for seven years ... it feels like you never really escape Russia," said Lebedeva, explaining new laws in Russia could land her a jail sentence of up to 20 years for speaking against the war, or helping Ukraine.
For others, a reality has set in.
"I'm definitely not going [back] to Russia after all of that happens and after all our activities, which is definitely sad, but it's worth it to at least try to do something," said Aleksandr Polev.
Polev said he feels safe in Canada, but worries about the perception of Russian people, a thought shared by many protesters.
"I think a lot of people from Russia now just feel ashamed for what the country is doing because it's like we didn't stop him, but the truth is we couldn't stop him," said Aziza.
"We don't have fair elections, they're just non-existent."
Aziza also says she's angry with misinformation spread by Russian state media and worries many people are blindly following Putin.
"We are basically being thrown back in the dark ages, being cut off from the whole civilized world," she said.
Polev says he wants to apologize to Ukrainians for not stopping "our dictator," while communicating he believes in their resolve.
"I would say, 'Hold on, we believe in you. You are really strong,'" said Polev.