Russians at Meath Victory Day rally say they do not back Ukraine war

Commemorative gathering claims to be focused on relatives lost in WWII

Those who gathered for a Co Meath Victory Day rally organised by the Russian community were not supportive of the war in Ukraine but were there to remember relatives who fought in the second World war, organisers said.

Some 150 people gathered at the Applegreen service station in Enfield and later travelled in convoy to Athlone. The rally, organised by the Council of the Russian Compatriots in Ireland (Corc), is an annual event that usually takes place in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

Victory Day, commemorating 77 years since the defeat of the Nazis in the second World war, is a major occasion in Russia.

A spokesman for the Corc said it was not just Russians present at the rally but also people from Moldova, Latvia, Belarus and Georgia among others.

He said the event usually attracted up to 3,000 people, including many children, but that threats on social media had led to a smaller turnout.

Some of those gathered carried photographs of relatives who had fought in the second World war, wore military-style hats and jackets and Russian ribbons. Russian flags as well as flags from other European countries were flown from participants’ cars.

A Latvian woman who has been living in Ireland for 20 years said one of her grandfathers had fought in the second World War and it was “a really important day”.

‘Against the war’

“My father is Ukranian, I don’t support the war [in Ukraine]. No one is supporting the war and no one here is. We are for peace . . . that is very important for us. There are Ukrainian flags here too. It is important to stand against the war.”

"May 9th [Victory Day] is a very important day for all of Europe, many countries are celebrating this day . . . Usually there is a big celebration, with picnics, but this year this isn't. It's just the rally and convoy because of respect for Ukraine." She said she hoped the war in Ukraine would "be over very soon".

A woman from Georgia, but who described herself as Russian, said both of her grandfathers had fought and died in the war and that the rally and the war in Ukraine were “two absolutely separate events”.

"I was born in the Soviet Union, it's a very important day for us. It's a red day on the calendar," she said.

Vitly Horishnyy, originally from Ukraine, came to protest against the rally and said he was disappointed the event had proceeded.

“I’m in solidarity with Ukraine. The Russians started a war and some of my family have died already. They shouldn’t be doing this rally.”

Meanwhile, in Dublin city centre, hundreds gathered outside the GPO on Sunday to call for an end to the war in Ukraine.

‘Tougher sanctions’

Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland Gerasko Larysa, who attended the protest , said she was “proud” to see such a large crowd “calling for peace”.

“We never expected to have a war in our country. We are calling on leaders for more support. We need more weapons, offensive and defensive, to defeat our enemy,” she said.

“Tougher sanctions” needed to be imposed on Russia, particularly on oil and gas, Ms Larysa said.

Polina Maliuzhonok, a volunteer with the group Uaction which organised the protest, said Ukrainians were gathering to call for peace in their home country.

“When the second World War ended, the whole world declared ‘never again’. But in Ukraine, the geographic centre of Europe, we have a war which was started by Russia against a peaceful Ukrainian nation and history repeats itself,” she said.

The gathering of Ukrainians was one of the largest in Ireland since the beginning of the war and it brought a sense of “unity”, Ms Maliuzhonok said.

Irish people also attended the protest in solidarity with Ukrainians, as well as Russian nationals.

Pavel Rappo, from a small town outside Moscow, held a placard reading: “Russians against war”.

The war in Ukraine made him “very uncomfortable” as a Russian, he said.