“Putin was hoping the first rockets across the country, after that the country [Ukraine] would give up. He hoped before the world woke up to it, it would all be finished. That hasn’t worked and now every single day works in favour of Ukraine.”
About 3000 people marched from Treasury Gardens on Sunday afternoon and rallied at Federation Square, where speakers voiced their support for Ukraine.
Among them was state Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, whose Ukrainian grandparents fled Stalin’s Soviet Union in 1949. Mr Guy said Australians were gathering on Sunday “to stand up for Ukraine when it needs it the most”.
He spoke with family in Ukraine over the weekend and said there were signs the Russians would not succeed in taking the country by force.
“Because Ukrainians are not crazy, but they’re not cowards either, and when I spoke to two of my family [members] yesterday … one said to me, ‘We’re holding on … We’re on our own land and we will win,’ ” Mr Guy said.
He said the Russian ambassador to Australia “should be given a one-way ticket back to Moscow”.
Earlier on Sunday, worshippers gathered at SS Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in North Melbourne to pray in support of Ukraine and against the Russian occupation.
“Our hearts go out to the 44 million innocent men, women and children of Ukraine who must now face war, suffering and deprivation,” said Stefan Romaniw, co-chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations. “We are also praying for peace.”
Former prime minister Tony Abbott and former AFL coach Kevin Sheedy lit candles of peace for Ukraine.
At the rally, former federal opposition leader Bill Shorten said Australians had “worked out that Putin is a dishonourable, disreputable dictator” and they knew “Ukraine’s fight today is our struggle tomorrow”.
Ukraine was not just a “country far, far away”, Mr Shorten said.
“What happens in Ukraine will affect Australia from our petrol prices to inflation in the world economy. But even more importantly than that, this fight in Ukraine is everyone’s business, is everyone’s struggle, because we believe in this country in freedom.”
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