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Solidarity march held in Toronto to mark one-year anniversary of Ukraine war


Yellow and blue flags and shouts of "Slava Ukraini" filled the streets of downtown Toronto on Friday evening as thousands gathered to show support for Ukraine on the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion.

A solidarity march got underway at 6:30 p.m., beginning at Yonge-Dundas Square and making its way to Nathan Phillips Square, where the Toronto Sign was lit blue and yellow in a further show of support for Ukraine.

Marchers carried signs that read "Pray for Ukraine," "Ukraine Wants Peace," "#StandwithUkraine," "Stop Genocide in Ukraine," and "Canada Supports Ukraine."

The Toronto march is part of a global show of support that saw similar rallies held in 300 other cities.

"The one-year anniversary of Russia's war on Ukraine is a sombre reminder of the need for urgent action to resolve this ongoing crisis," march's organizer Marc Shwec said in a press release. "We cannot afford to allow this conflict to continue with the ongoing humanitarian and security risks it poses."

Several dignitaries attended and spoke at the march, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Defence Minister Anita Anand, Consul General of Ukraine Oleksandr Shevchenko and Toronto Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie.

"We are all inspired by the courage and tenacity of those who stayed behind to defend Ukraine. Canada continues to support those on the frontlines," Trudeau said, touting the supports Canada has provided to the war-torn country.

Trudeau also commended Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensskyy, calling him the "champion of democracy."

"I am consistently taken by his courage and his resilience. He had stared down (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's threats since before the invasion. He has rallied support from around the world. He is giving hope to his people," Trudeau said.

The prime minister also sent a message to Putin, who he said underestimated the courage of Ukrainians: "We will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes as much as it takes."

To end his speech, he acknowledged those who attended the event and other rallies nationwide for showing solidarity with Ukranians.

"Because here in Canada, we believe in free and sovereign democracy. We stand up to bullies, and we will stand with Ukraine with everything it takes for as long as it takes until we see peace return to Ukraine," Trudeau said, before shouting, "Slava Ukraini."

In his remarks, Ford praised the determination of the Ukrainian people over the last year, calling it "truly inspirational."

"We will never ever waiver in standing up against tyranny. We will never ever waver in the support for Ukraine," Ford said. "And I can tell you, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is nothing more than a tyrant, a thug, and his war of aggression has only revealed the strength and the resilience of the Ukrainian people."

A solidarity march is held in Toronto in support of Ukraine as the country marks the first anniversary of Russia's invasion.

The march is the culminating event for Friday's sombre commemoration of the war. Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, 2022, and quickly hit home for many Ukrainians living in Toronto.

Olha Khometa, a volunteer at the event, said Friday's rally was a way to mourn those who lost their lives in the war as well as recognize the strength Ukrainians displayed over the past year.

"It's been a year of most remarkable resistance that the world history knows. It's been a resistance of a country that was not prepared for the full-scale war with one of the biggest aggressors -- military aggressors -- and military-equipped countries in the world. But this country resisted and stayed strong," Khometa said.

Her father volunteered to join the Ukrainian army on the second day of the war, she said. Even though she is in Canada, Khometa found a way to support her father by volunteering to help send supplies to Ukraine.

"It is indeed very difficult to be here while everyone else in your family is back home bombed daily, with power outages for eight hours and more. You can't even imagine how they survive unless you're there. So it's often scarier to be here than actually to be there under those shellings," Khometa said.

On Friday morning, a special ceremony was held at Toronto City Hall to re-raise the Ukrainian flag, which was first flown in the early days of the war.

The ceremony was attended by Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie as well as the Consul General of Ukraine in Toronto Oleksandr Shevchenko and Ukrainian Canadian Congress President Petro Schturyn.

"This flag has been flying nonstop here in Nathan Phillips Square since the invasion began and I am committed and I know my council colleagues are committed to keeping it flying here to show our solidarity with Ukraine and our Ukrainian community," Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie said during the flag raising earlier in the day.

"This illegal invasion on a sovereign and independent country is an affront to democracy everywhere and we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes and until this war ends."

McKelvie said that one year later, many of those residents are still "hurting" and "terrified" for both their loved ones and "the future of Ukraine."

"As deputy mayor and on behalf of city council my message to the Ukrainian people in Canada and around the world is we stand with you and support you," she said. Top Stories

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