The monument of Taras Shevchenko overlooking the demonstrators of the rally (photo Brandon Balayan)

YEREVAN — The Ukrainian Embassy in Armenia initiated a rally in solidarity with Ukraine on February 27 at the Yerevan monument of Taras Shevchenko, a Ukrainian writer and ethnographer of the nineteenth century.

Ukrainian children holding up posters of the Ukrainian flag (photo Brandon Balayan)

There were a little over 100 protestors gathered around the monument, and some took turns using a megaphone to deliver speeches. After their speeches, the speaker would say “slava Ukraini,” or glory to Ukraine, and the crowd would respond with “heroiam slava,” or glory to the heroes. One of the speakers was Georgii Shatilova, a Ukrainian national who has been in Armenia for two weeks with his wife Yelyzaveta. The airspace in Ukraine is currently closed for civilian flights, so the Shatilovas cannot return to their families.

“Fascist forces of the Russian Federation led by their fascist leader Vladimir Putin have invaded Ukraine,” Georgii said. “Peaceful citizens of Kiev, Kharkiv, [and] Odessa are currently under Russian bombardment and this has to stop.”

Their family and friends have been stuck in Ukraine, spending three nights in a row in shelters, he continued. Georgii said that although their families are relatively safe in the shelters, they do not know what next steps to take. Yelyzaveta’s parents must take care of her 80-year-old grandparents, and cannot abandon them.

Yelyzaveta and Georgii Shatilova, Ukrainian nationals at the rally in Yerevan (photo Brandon Balayan)

“They plan to stay in Ukraine because it’s their land. They do not need to go anywhere from home,” Yelyzaveta said.

Demonstrators holding up posters as others speak. The Cyrillic translates to “When Putin is an ally – War. When Putin is an enemy – War. Putin is always lying. No to war.” (photo Brandon Balayan)

Armenians and other nationals such as Lithuanians and Georgians came to support Ukraine. Many of the Armenians at the rally were from the National Democratic Axis political bloc. Board member Garegin Chugaszyan was among the speakers of the rally.

National Democratic Axis Board Member Garegin Chugaszyan speaking at the rally (photo Brandon Balayan)

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Chugaszyan believes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “the last convulsion of a dying empire.” He thinks Putin wants to restore the Russian Empire in its previous form without any autonomy granted.

“For Armenians, this is a program for the final deprivation of the homeland and national extinction,” Chugaszyan said. “Russia has chosen Ukraine as the target of destruction and absorption. After this, it will be the turn of other countries, including Armenia.”

The former Soviet republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan have had different responses to the conflict. Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated that Tbilisi will not join the sanctions against Russia.

Ukrainian boy dressed in a traditional shirt speaking to the crowd (photo Brandon Balayan)

Azerbaijan recently sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but also signed an agreement of alliance with Russia, which would deepen political, economic, and military relations.

The Shatilovas said they were not informed about the alliance agreement and did not want to comment because they did not know what the intentions of Azerbaijan were.

A demonstrator holds up a poster saying “Stop Führer,” comparing Putin to Hitler (photo Brandon Balayan)

Armenia has not decided to recognize or condemn Russia’s recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk, but was the only country in the Council of Europe to vote against the decision to suspend Russia from the organization. President of the Artsakh Republic Arayik Harutyunyan welcomed Russia’s decision of recognition and congratulated the people of Donbass in a statement.

“The right of nations to self-determination and building one’s own state is inalienable for every people and is a fundamental principle of international law,” Harutyunyan said.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a phone conversation yesterday with Putin. According to the Prime Minister’s website, the two discussed issues related to the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or the CSTO. The two also discussed the implementation of the trilateral agreements signed with Azerbaijan.

Some Armenians online have been hesitant to show support for Ukraine because they have funded the Azerbaijani military in the past. There was also a conspiracy spreading about Ukraine selling white phosphorus to Azerbaijan, but this has not been proven to be true.

Both Georgii and Yelyzaveta hope Armenia does not send troops to fight in Russia.

Under the CSTO, in January Armenia sent a peacekeeping force to Kazakhstan due to protests caused by a rise in fuel prices.

“We just ask Armenia to not interfere and not support Russia in their war crimes,” Georgii said.

Georgii Shatilova speaking to the crowd (photo Brandon Balayan)

The Shatilovas both expressed their wishes for peace and belief in their military. In the end they emphasized their desire for Armenia not to support Russia.

“Please do not let Armenian people die on Ukrainian land,” Yelyzaveta pleaded.

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