Thousands March In Kyiv To Oppose East Ukraine Peace Plan

KYIV, Ukraine -- Thousands of people have joined a march through Kyiv led by nationalist parties and veterans associations to protest against changes to a peace plan for east Ukraine that they have called a “capitulation” to Russia.

Ukrainian servicemen from volunteer units take part in the march.

Police deployed around Ukraine’s capital closed off several major avenues for the demonstrations, as the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, urged participants to avoid violence.

He also warned that images from the protests could be used by Russian state media to discredit Ukraine.

Protesters banged snare drums, carried the flags of Ukraine and political parties, and chanted slogans such as “Glory to the nation, no to capitulation!”

Some protesters brought bouquets of flowers they planned to lay at military memorials.

The march was organised by veterans groups and included Ukrainians of diverse political views, including some far right elements, liberals and supporters of closer integration with Europe.

They also worried that the concession to Vladimir Putin could formalise Russian influence in the country, affecting Ukraine’s path for years to come.

The protests are part of a backlash against Zelenskiy’s policies on the war against Russian-backed separatists in east Ukraine.

This month, the president approved a plan that would allow elections in separatist-held Ukraine and then grant special status to the region on the condition the vote was seen as free and fair.

Zelenskiy maintains a 70% approval rating but recent polling showed a majority of Ukrainians opposed giving special status to the regions held by separatists.

During a 14-hour press conference last week, Zelenskiy said ending the war was the most important mission of his presidency and that he would have to meet with Vladimir Putin to achieve that goal.

But his statements have sparked anger among former fighters and have been criticised by members of the opposition.

One veteran on Monday called it a “betrayal”.

Yevhen Pylypenko, one of several men wearing fatigues on their way to a protest near a statue of the 19th-century Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko, said the plan was a step towards “forgiving the people who fought against us. I think that’s unforgivable.”

The former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has also opposed the plan, which would amend the stalled Minsk agreement negotiated under his presidency.

“We will never agree to that,” Poroshenko, now the leader of the European Solidarity party, said last week.

“We feel solidarity with the present actions and calls heard from among veterans and we will not allow the ruin of the Ukrainian state.”

Zelenskiy has sought a compromise with nationalist groups, and reportedly met last week with the leaders of veterans’ organisations, as well as prominent far-right leaders.

Many are controversial.

On Sunday night, the Ukrainian prime minister, Oleksiy Honcharuk, spoke at a rally in support of veterans reportedly organised by Andriy Medvedko, a prominent member of the radical nationalist organisation S14.

Sokyra Peruna, a white-nationalist metal band whose supporters have made Nazi salutes at their concerts, also played at the bar where the event was held.

Honcharuk on Monday confirmed he spoke at the event to support veterans but said he was not familiar with the band, saying he did not endorse any “hate-filled ideology – neither Nazism, nor fascism, nor communism”.

Source: The Guardian