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Hundreds protest outside Downing Street to demand tougher sanctions on Russia after invasion of Ukraine

The protesters are calling for harsher sanctions after president Putin launched a full invasion of Ukraine

Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside Downing Street after Russia launched a full invasion of Ukraine this morning.

Chants of “Hands off Ukraine” and “Stop Putin, stop the war” rang across Whitehall as protesters young and old waved placards and Ukrainian flags. The protest, organised by a group called London Euromaidan, a community group of Ukrainians and Europeans living in London, is calling for stricter sanctions on Russia, including freezing the UK assets of 50 oligarchs and for Putin’s funds to be blocked.

Alongside calls for firmer action from the west, Ukrainians and Russians at the protest spoke of their concern for their families and dismay at the invasion.

“My friends and my family are still in Ukraine and facing a lot of bombings which is a terrifying thing,” said one of the protesters, Vladyslav Chyrkin. “Some of my friends have been facing bombing since 2014 in the east of Ukraine already.”

Maria Lysenko, a Russian living in London, said she started crying when she heard the news of the invasion: “I can’t believe this is my country, that my country’s the aggressor in the war.

“Please sanction everyone, Abramovich, all the Russian oligarchs…all Putin’s wallets,” she told The Big Issue.

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Russian troops and tanks moved into Ukraine this morning after president Vladimir Putin ordered an attack on the country, with air raid sirens sounding in Kiev and pictures of cars queueing trying to leave the Ukrainian capital. The Euromaidan movement in Ukraine led to the country’s 2014 revolution and eventual downfall of then-President Yanukovych, who fled to Russia.

Despite separatists in the region claiming “there wasn’t a time when Ukraine was a part of Russia,” Chyrkin continued, “Ukraine was never Russia. I don’t want civilians of Ukraine to die.”

President Putin “feels like God” and just wants to “fill his power and fill his wallet”, he added.

So far, the UK government has sanctioned a handful of Russian banks and oligarchs, but promised more to come.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said there would be a “massive package of sanctions” in a televised address this afternoon.

Ahead of the invasion, a crowd of protesters gathered outside the Russian embassy in Ukraine last night to call for tougher sanctions.

As he ordered the invasion in a televised speech, Putin said: “To anyone who would consider interfering from outside: If you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All the relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me.”

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