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Thousands mass in Kyiv’s twin city Florence to back Ukraine

Randy Mancini 4 Mar 12
Ukrainian President Zelenskiy addresses demonstrators during protest in Florence
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses demonstrators via video as they gather in Santa Croce square to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Florence, Italy, March 12, 2022. REUTERS/Chiara Negrello

March 12, 2022

By Silvia Ognibene

FLORENCE (Reuters) – Thousands of people packed into one of Florence’s biggest squares on Saturday to show their support for Ukraine and listen to a videoed speech from its President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Florence has been twinned with Kyiv since the 1960s, when Ukraine’s capital sent aid to the Tuscan city to help it recover from a devastating flood.

The crowds waved blue and yellow flags in Piazza Santa Croce as church bells tolled 17 times – one for each day since Russia invaded Ukraine in what Moscow calls a “special operation”.

A number of Ukrainian women in the crowd wore flower crowns as a symbol of peace.

“Russians are under a dictatorship and cannot understand why they came to destroy our cities and kill our children,” said Lesia Mykhailenko, who was born in Donetsk and now works for a law firm in Florence.

“I cannot hate them because our bonds have lasted for centuries,” she added.

In a speech broadcast to dozens of European cities taking part in a day of protests, Zelenskiy said that 79 children had been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the war and called for more sanctions against Moscow and a no-fly zone.

(Reporting by Silvia Ognibene; Writing by Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Andrew Heavens)