Thousands rally proclaiming 'Kharkiv is Ukraine' in city near Russian border

Thousands of demonstrators take to the streets of Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv, as Ukraine prepares for a possible military offensive from Russia.

 People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate the patriotic spirit of local residents amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 5, 2022. A placard reads: "Kharkiv is Ukraine". (photo credit: REUTERS/VYACHESLAV MADIYEVSKYY)
People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate the patriotic spirit of local residents amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 5, 2022. A placard reads: "Kharkiv is Ukraine".
(photo credit: REUTERS/VYACHESLAV MADIYEVSKYY)

Thousands took to the streets of Ukraine's second-largest city on Saturday carrying banners saying "Kharkiv is Ukraine" and "stop Russian aggression", as the country braced for a possible military offensive from Russia.

Weeks of diplomacy between the West and Moscow have produced no breakthrough after Russia massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's borders.

Moscow denies it plans to attack Ukraine but has demanded security guarantees, including a block on Ukraine joining the NATO alliance.

Kharkiv, an eastern industrial city that lies 42 km (26 miles) from the Russian border, was identified by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as a possible Russian target, though his spokesman later said he was speaking hypothetically.

 People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate the patriotic spirit of local residents amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 5, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/VYACHESLAV MADIYEVSKYY) People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate the patriotic spirit of local residents amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 5, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/VYACHESLAV MADIYEVSKYY)

Demonstrators in Kharkiv sang the national anthem and waved Ukrainian flags, or held up flags of allies that have supported Kyiv, including the United States, Britain and the European Union.

"The people came into the streets to demonstrate that Kharkiv is a Ukrainian city and we will not surrender it," said Kharkiv resident Nina Kvitko.