As Russia continues its attack on Ukraine, protests are popping up in major cities across the U.S., including across the street from the United Nations in New York City.
Protesters spent the frigid February day marching across the Big Apple with the crowd picking up more participants as it moved from locations like Times Square and the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation on Manhattan's Upper East Side, to the United Nations and the Russian Consulate. They came to condemn the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Many were born in Ukraine or were of Ukrainian descent. Many still have family living there.
"Ukraine is my ancestral homeland, and I see it being devoured. I see it being bombed," said Sofika Zielyk, a Ukranian-American who came to the protest with her sister, Xenia Iwasykiw.
Oksana Fraccavento said she heard the rumble of planes when she called her family in Ukraine.
"My older brother, he's in the army, in the frontline. I'm praying. I'm praying not only for him, I'm praying for all Ukrainians," she said.
President Joe Biden made it clear that U.S. troops sent to Europe will be helping NATO allies, not fighting in Ukraine.
"Our forces are not and will not be engaged in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine. Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO allies and reassure those allies in the East," he said on Thursday.
The Pentagon is sending 7,000 additional U.S. troops to Germany. That brings the total of U.S. forces sent to Europe to 12,000 in February, according to Politico.
"The US needs to give us supplies, support, you know, we have our people dying on the frontlines right now, so the rest of Europe can be safe. We saw this happen about 100 years ago for another nation. Maybe we should try to stop it early this time," protestor Mykola Gryshko said.
Even an international conflict couldn't bring political rivals onto the same page. Former President Donald Trump praised Putin during a conversation on conservative talk show, The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show, Feb. 22.
"Putin is now saying, 'It's independent,' a large section of Ukraine. I said, 'How smart is that?' And he's gonna go in and be a peacekeeper," Trump said. "There were more army tanks than I've ever seen. They're gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it, here's a guy who's very savvy."
Attendees of Thursday's demonstrations expressed disappointment and anger over the former president's comments.
"A former U.S. president is saying those types of things, it's despicable. It's really embarrassing as an American of Ukrainian descent," Iwasykiw said.
"I think it's a shame, just a shame for all Americans," said Oleh Dremliuha. "Praising the actions of Putin, I think it's another aggression against Ukraine."
Even under the shadow of war, the demonstrations inspired a sense of hope among attendees like Katia Karpenko, who claims both Russian and Ukrainian heritage.
"It gives me hope. I'm seeing people, representatives from all nations here. I see Ukrainians, of course, Belarusians, Russians," she said. "I just want more people to come out because it will show that a lot of people are against this."
Protests rocked cities from Washington, DC, and Seattle in the United States to Barcelona, Mexico City, and Prague abroad. There was even a protest in St. Petersburg, Russia, Putin's hometown.