On February 19, protesters gathered at Odenplan in Stockholm to mark the upcoming anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. During the day, representatives from several human rights organizations spoke. Photo: Agnes Durbeej-Hjalt.


Russia's invasion of Ukraine: "Important that we who can continue to tell about the war"

On February 24, 2023, a year has passedr since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukrainea. Thousands of people have died and millions have fled their homes. In connection with the anniversary, several arrange human rights organizations demonstrations in Stockholm. The development magazine was on site and guarded one of them.  

On February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since then have thousands of people dead and millions displaced their homes. The UN has condemned the invasion of Ukraine as inconsistent with the UN Charter. Tensions between NATO and the Kremlin has increased the global security threat and Vladimir Putin's threat to resort to nuclear weapons has upset the global nuclear order.

One year after the invasion, on February 24, 2023, Russia's war of aggression has still not ended. A cold Sunday in February, a couple of days before the anniversary of the invasion, gather over 250 people at Odenplan in Stockholm to demonstrate. "Peace and Freedom for Ukraine - Stop Russia's War!" are the key words.

- Putin must be held accountable, says Kerstin Bergeås, chairman of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Association, which is one of the main organizers of the demonstration.

Together with, among others, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders, Kvinna till Kvinna and the International Women's Federation for Peace and Freedom (IKFF), they have invited speakers from the majority of human rights organizations. The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Association also distributes postcards addressed to the Russian Embassy in Stockholm. "Stop the war!", it says in Swedish, English and Russian. 

The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Association is one of the organizers of the demonstration "Peace and freedom for Ukraine - Stop Russia's war!" on February 19, 2023. It is exactly one year since in the same place, together with several other human rights organizations, they held a demonstration against Russia's war preparations. Photo: Agnes Durbeej-Hjalt.

One of the speakers at the demonstration is Philipp Galtsov, responsible for Ukraine issues at the organization Eastern Group for Democracy and Human Rights. He comes from Russia and applied for asylum in Sweden as a political refugee in 2013.

- Our solidarity with Ukraine is still strong, he shouts.

The protesters applaud.

He also says that the government's aid cuts have hit the Eastern Group's operations hard. Despite that, the organization continues to document Vladimir Putin's war crimes in Ukraine.

- It is important not to forget, he says.

This is also what Anna Johansson, Secretary General of Swedish Amnesty, says in her speech:

- It is important that those of us who can continue to tell about the war.

Philipp Galtsov poses for a short interview after stepping down from the podium.

What do you want to say to Swedish youth now a year after Russia invaded Ukraine?

- For Swedish young people, for young people in Scandinavia and for young people all over the world, it is extremely important to show solidarity with their peers in Ukraine, says Philipp Galtsov and continues:

- The volunteers in Ukraine consist of lots of young people who continue to help people by evacuating civilians. They are very involved in what is going on.

Protesters in Washington, DC, USA, a few days after Russia invaded Ukraine last year. Photo: Amaury Laporte. Source: Flickr.

Philipp Galtsov also wants to lift up the young people in the Russian and Belarusian human rights movements. Many of them are now in exile, he says. Reporters Without Borders, one of the organizers of the demonstration, is one of many organizations supporting Russian journalists in exilel.

Dissatisfaction among the Russian population

The international sanctions against Russia have hit the Russian people hard. Hundreds of Russian men escaped after Vladimir Putin's announcement of increased mobilization to Ukraine. Russian discontent with the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine has grown over the year of fighting. At the same time, they get used to the war as time goes on. It writes the Carniege Endowment for International Peace.

Philipp Galtsov believes that both Ukrainian and Swedish civil society can be strengthened by the exchange of knowledge and experience between young people.

- I think it is extremely important for Swedish youth to continue building dialogue, to ask them (the Ukrainian youth, ed. note) what help they need, what experience they can share with each other, he says.

The demonstrators at Odenplan breathe clouds of smoke and jump on the spot to keep the heat up. Some have brought their own demonstration signs. Doves of peace are raised towards Gustaf Vasa's church.

It is too late to reach a diplomatic solution for both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi and Vladimir Putin, reports NPR. Both sides have too much to lose by giving up territory in peace negotiations. At the same time, a military victory seems equally incredible. Thus, the researchers that NPR spoke to believe that the offensive war may continue for many years to come.

- It is sad how quickly people have gotten used to the war, says a protester, who does not want to give his name.  

The company nods in agreement. 


Russia's invasion of Ukraine - and more demonstrations
  • The tensions between Russia and Ukraine have existed for a long time, which The development magazine previously reported on, and even before the invasion reported experts that Vladimir Putin's rule had become increasingly authoritarian through constitutional amendments to expand presidential power.
  • On February 24 at 18.00 p.m., another demonstration will be organized at Sergel's Square in Stockholm. It is organized by the Nordic Ukraine Forum, the Monday Movement and the action group "Russia out of Ukraine!". Among others, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (M), Foreign Minister Tobias Billström (M) and Social Democrats party leader Magdalena Andersson will speak.  

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