Thousands march in Kyiv to show unity against Russian threat

Tension has mounted as Russia has built up more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine and carried out large-scale exercises.

 People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate their patriotic spirit amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 12, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)
People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate their patriotic spirit amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 12, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)

Several thousand Ukrainians rallied in Kyiv on Saturday to show unity amid fears of a Russian invasion, as Ukraine's leader told people not to panic and pushed back against what he said was a glut of bleak war predictions being reported in the media.

Tension has mounted as Russia has built up more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine and carried out large-scale exercises. The United States said on Friday an invasion could start at any moment. Russia denies planning to invade.

Ukrainians filed through the center of Kyiv in a column, chanting "Glory to Ukraine" and carrying Ukrainian flags and banners that said "Ukrainians will resist" and "Invaders must die."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who attended police drills in southern Kherson region, said a Russian attack could happen at any time, but pushed back against what he called excessive amounts of information about a major looming war.

"The best friend of our enemies is panic in our country. And all this information is just provoking panic and can't help us," he said. "I can't agree or disagree with what hasn't happened yet. So far, there is no full-scale war in Ukraine."

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during a joint news conference after a Normandy-format summit in Paris, France December 10, 2019. (credit: REUTERS)Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during a joint news conference after a Normandy-format summit in Paris, France December 10, 2019. (credit: REUTERS)

The United States and numerous Western governments have urged their citizens to leave Ukraine, and Washington on Saturday said it was ordering most of its Kyiv embassy staff to leave.

"We have to be ready each day. It did not begin yesterday. It began in 2014, so, we are ready and this is why we are here," Zelenskiy said in a reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea and backing for an anti-Kyiv separatist insurgency in the east.

Zelenskiy voiced frustrations just last month with dire assessments of a war. Such warnings have taken their toll on the economic, piling pressure on the national currency.

US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will speak later on Saturday.