Ukrainian town protests saying: ‘Kharkiv is Ukraine, stop Russian aggression’

People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate the patriotic spirit of local residents amid rising tensions with Russia, in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 5, 2022. REUTERS/Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy

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People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate the patriotic spirit of local residents amid rising tensions with Russia, in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 5, 2022. REUTERS/Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy

Thousands of people took to the streets of Ukraine’s second-largest city on Saturday with banners saying “Kharkiv is Ukraine” and “Stop Russian aggression”, as the country braced for a possible military offensive of Russia.

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

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Moscow denies intending to attack Ukraine but has demanded security guarantees, including blocking Ukraine’s membership of NATO.

Kharkiv, an eastern industrial city 42 km (26 miles) from the Russian border, has been identified by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as a possible Russian target, although his spokesman later said he spoke hypothetically.

Protesters in Kharkiv sang the national anthem and waved Ukrainian flags, or waved flags of allies who have supported Kiev, including the United States, Britain and the European Union.

“People took to the streets to demonstrate that Kharkiv is a Ukrainian city and we will not return it,” said Kharkiv resident Nina Kvitko.

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