Thousands of Russians march in Moscow to condemn what they call a “coup” in Ukraine, a year after the downfall of its pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Thousands of people were expected to march on Saturday under the slogan “We won’t forget! We won’t forgive!” The “anti-Maidan” march (see video above) is a reference to Ukraine’s pro-EU protests that started on Kiev’s central Independence Square in 2014.
Organisers said 20,000 participated in the march in Moscow, which comes on the year anniversary of the deaths of more than 100 Ukrainian protesters on the streets of Kiev during the uprising.
Since the uprising more than 5,600 people have been killed in fighting, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, and relations between the west and Russia have fallen to Cold War-era lows.
On Friday, crowds also rallied in the Ukrainian capital Kiev to mark the anniversary (see video below).
The mood in the square however was sombre. Memorial candles were glowing in the growing dusk, laid out in the shape of a giant trident, Ukraine’s national emblem. National flags were waving above the crowd, while here and there people dressed in blue and yellow could be seen.
There were people shouting out ‘Glory to Ukraine!’, a slogan, that gained popularity in the previous year, with others responding with: ‘Glory to heroes!’
Speaking at the event, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused a top aide to Russia’s Vladimir Putin of being behind the sniper killings of 100 Ukrainian protesters on the streets of Kiev during the uprising a year ago. Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the accusation “madness.”
Earlier on Friday, Kiev accused Russia of sending more tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine and said they were heading towards the rebel-held town of Novoazovsk on the southern coast, expanding their presence on what it fears could be the next battlefront.
Russia did not immediately respond to the accusation which, if confirmed, would go further to kill off a European-brokered truce that was met by relentless rebel advances after it came into force on Sunday. Moscow has always denied accusations in the past that its forces are fighting in Ukraine.
Kiev’s biggest worry is that rebels will continue their advance to threaten Mariupol, a highly strategic port of 500,000 people that is the biggest city still under government control in the two rebellious eastern provinces. Novoazovsk, where Kiev said Russia was reinforcing, lies 25 miles to the east along the coast near the Russian border.
Western nations have held out hope they can revive a peace deal brokered by France and Germany in the Belarussian capital Minsk on 12 February, even though rebels have ignored it to seize Debaltseve, a town on a strategic railway hub, inflicting one of the worst defeats of the war on Kiev.