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‘Stop war’: Demonstrators rally in Balboa Park in support of

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About 200 protesters, many of them in blue and yellow clothes that resembled the Ukrainian flag, rallied in Balboa Park on Sunday, expressing their opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The demonstrators — who included Ukrainians and Russians — held signs that read, “Hands off Ukraine,” “Stop war” and other messages in support of Ukraine.

They also chanted “Stand with Ukraine,” “Stop Putin” and sung Ukraine’s national anthem.

Some waved the Ukrainian flag; others waved the U.S. flag to show solidarity.

The demonstration was one of several across the U.S., with similar rallies held in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other cities.

In San Diego, some attendees celebrated after calling at a Saturday rally for Russian banks to be cut off from SWIFT, a high-security network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world. On Saturday evening, the U.S. and other Western allies announced that they planned to block certain Russian banks from the network.

On Sunday, demonstrators made another demand. They called on world leaders to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine to shield the country against airstrikes.

Victoria Soloviova, a native of Kyiv who moved to San Diego five years ago, said she attended the rally to show her support for family and friends who live in Ukraine’s capital. For days, Russian troops have been closing in on Kyiv and scattered fighting was reported there on Sunday.

“It’s a roller coaster of feelings,” Soloviova said. “I’m worried — my family is still in Ukraine. They stayed in Kyiv, actually, so it’s really stressful.”

Although she was concerned, she said she was also proud of her homeland for facing off against Russia.

“We’re going to win,” she said. “We’re going to be stronger.”

Fellow Kyiv native Irina Karim, who has lived in San Diego for 20 years, also felt a mix of concern and pride. She likened the fighting to the biblical story of David and Goliath — in which the giant, Goliath, lost to David.

“We’re so much smaller,” Karim said. “Ukrainians, they don’t have as much (firepower), or even people to fight … but to be able to hold on, people are very strong and fierce,” she said. “They’re not going to give up.”

She said one of her cousins had made Molotov cocktails to fight Russian forces.

“I’m so proud of him, but I’m also so, so worried because he could be hurt,” she said.

The husband of another of her cousins was a military veteran and planned to volunteer to fight Russian forces, Karim said.

While she praised civilians who were showing resilience and courage, she also applauded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who she said has shown “a lot of strength.”

“He is the face of the nation right now, and his message is always so encouraging and so strong. He’s right where he needs to be,” she said. “He’s showing strength to Ukrainian people and the world.”

Several Russian attendees said they felt it was important to take a stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I think both sides have so much to lose from this,” said one woman, who shared only her first name, Ally. She said she moved from Russia to the U.S. when she was 7 years old. “Both sides have family in either country. Both sides have friends. I think it’s really important to stick together in this and stand against Putin’s decision with this invasion.”