Demonstrators in Hollywood to protest Russia invading Ukraine

Dozens of demonstrators marched through the Hollywood area early Saturday to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one of several demonstrations and vigils scheduled this weekend in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and elsewhere around the state.

Waving signs that said “Stop Putin” and “Stop War,” about 100 Ukrainian and Russian Americans began marching in East Hollywood about 10 a.m. and slowly made their way west down Hollywood Boulevard. Residents in apartment buildings that lined the street waved and shouted messages of support from their balconies to the group, which included several families with young children.

“Putin doesn’t speak for us,” said Erina Volodartseva, 32, who is Russian and brought along her children, ages 6 and 4. “We are against the war. Ukraine is our brother.”

Samvel Torosyan, 25, said that he texts regularly with his friends in the Russian military, including one friend who is a fighter pilot. “They are afraid,” said Torosyan, who is also Russian, as he passed the shops and restaurants of Hollywood Boulevard.

Like some others at Saturday’s march, Torosyan said he doesn’t want to see the U.S. send its own military to Ukraine because he fears that could lead to a nuclear war.

“I just want it to stop,” Torosyan said of the Russian aggression.

“It’s a crazy situation,” said Diana Leli, 45, a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag draped around her shoulders.

Leli, who lives in Valley Village, said she moved to the U.S. from Ukraine two years ago. She showed a Times reporter the group text that she uses to talk to her mother and other relatives in Ukraine. Her mother is 78 and lives in Zaporizhia, a city in southeastern Ukraine, Leli said. Three border guards were recently killed in the area, according to news reports.

“We hope Putin will stop,” Leli said, adding that she doesn’t trust the news coming out of Russia. “We’re scared.”

As the group walked down the trash-strewn sidewalks that line Hollywood Boulevard, where there are a number of encampments, some homeless residents and business owners offered their support.

“This is genocide!” shouted one man. “God bless you.”

The flag of Ukraine was hoisted above one encampment, put up a year and a half ago, according to one man at the site. As the marchers passed by the heart of Hollywood Boulevard, the group also drew the attention of tourists and street performers.

The demonstrations, which followed other large protests in Los Angeles this week, come as Ukrainian forces on Saturday struggled to hold on to Kyiv as Russian troops advanced into the outskirts of the capital city.

President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to rally his compatriots, appearing in a video shot on a Kyiv street to demonstrate that he had not abandoned the city and to urge Ukrainians to resist.

“We aren’t going to lay down weapons. We will protect the country,” Zelensky said. “It’s our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of that.”

Three days since the Russians began their large-scale assault by air, land and sea, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have already fled west, some crossing into Poland and Romania. But thousands of Ukrainians have also responded to Zelensky’s call to take up arms to push back against the Russian blitz in what is Europe’s biggest ground war since World War II.

Although the Ukrainian diaspora in Southern California is small compared with communities on the East Coast and the Midwest, enclaves across the state keep close ties, community members say. The Golden State is home to roughly 112,000 people of Ukrainian descent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, many of them clustered in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

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