Hundreds of people demonstrated at the gates of the Russian Embassy in Dublin on Saturday, calling for the expulsion of ambassador Yury Filatov following a night during which Russian troops and bombers mounted a further assault on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
There were emotional speeches from Ukrainian nationals, as well as Russians, in their native languages, while all present observed a minute’s silence on their knees to remember the dead and to will on those who are fighting or trapped in Ukraine.
Evgeni Berg from Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine and his wife Nataliia Berg from Kyiv said they moved to Ireland in 2002. Evgeni runs a construction company here, but said he is now “ready to return home and help rebuild my country”.
“There was a strong bombing last night,” he said. “My mother is 74 years old. She was trying to get to the border on the west of Ukraine to Poland. They were trying to flee, and they could not get through the border because there were thousands of people gathered.
“It was difficult for the Polish guards to let everyone through but the Poles are helping Ukrainians to get out. They sheltered them right there on the spot. Last night there was bombing in all of Kyiv. We are supporting our president and our government to stay strong.
“We would like to be there with them, but we cannot get there now. There are Russian tanks all around Kyiv now. Our relatives are in basements there, afraid of being bombed in their own homes.”
Nataliia said her brother was “making Molotov cocktails at home at this very moment”, as other members of her family take shelter. “They are sitting in a shelter and trying to defend against any invasion,” she said. “My family are in a subway station.
“They cannot leave because our military has destroyed the bridges to stop the Russians coming in. All around Kyiv is occupied by the Russian military. I have videos on my phone from this morning of planes bombing civilian buildings in Kyiv.”
Pavel Shirshov (33) from Novosibirsk in southern Russia said he has been living in Ireland for six years and works here as a software engineer. He has colleagues in Kyiv and said he was there to be their voice.
“They asked us to come here and support Ukraine on everyone’s behalf,” he said. “So I am here because I have to be here.
“Also, I have to deliver the message for every Ukrainian that the majority of Russian people – a silent majority who are afraid of repressions and do not want to raise their voice – but who do not support this insane, illogical, and completely unreasonable bloodshed.
“I’m a consultant for a company and I have an office in Kyiv with a big team. Right now, these guys are unable to leave Kyiv because of the bombings and the roadblocks. Most of them are currently in bomb shelters.
“We are communicating online but I haven’t heard back from them since yesterday morning. I am worried about them. We are not just colleagues. They are also my friends. Almost every Russian has a friend or a relative in Ukraine.”
Another man, who only wished to be identified as Kai from central eastern Ukraine, said he has lived in Ireland for five years.
“Right now I have friends and family in Ukraine who are under direct threat of death from shells and the military occupants that may arrive in the city if defences fail,” he said. “I need to help in any way I can. I cannot be anywhere else.
“There are bombs, but there are hopes that my city will be one of the last ones to be taken. If defences fail, they will be there eventually. There have been a few bombs but I don’t think there have been any civilian deaths yet.
“My family are following the news and they are hoping the Ukrainian military will prevail and push back the invaders. The ones who are fleeing right now are hoping they can get to Poland alive, but not everyone can flee.”
Sergey Parshin from Russia said he and his wife were “ashamed of what Russia is doing”.
“I have friends and connections in Ukraine,” he said. “It is a terrible crime against humanity. I was not shocked by what happened but I was not expecting Putin to go as mad as he did. A lot of people in Russia are affected by Russian propaganda.”
Tríona Brophy from Ballinteer in Dublin said she felt it was her “duty” to attend the demonstration.
“I’m just an ordinary Irish citizen and I am listening to the radio all day long hearing the appeals from people to support democracy,” she said.
“The threat of Russia is so concerning. People are being butchered. I saw the appeals online and I just feel it is our duty morally to be here.
“I couldn’t sit by and allow this to happen. I would feel guilty. The small thing you can do, you should be doing. That’s my view.”