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Hundreds gather in Belfast to denounce invasion of Ukraine

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Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian nationals were among the crowd that gathered outside City Hall for the demonstration and vigil on Friday evening.

Placards denouncing the war were held aloft and “we want peace” was chanted.

Several Ukrainians who live in Northern Ireland addressed the event.

One of the organisers, Kateryna Zaichyk, told the crowd: “This meeting was created just to join everybody and show that people don’t want war, Ukrainians don’t want war.

“They would like to save kids, save families, save Ukraine and save the world because at the moment it is a very, very dangerous situation.”

The protest also heard calls from Amnesty International for the Stormont authorities to “step up” plans to welcome refugees feeling the conflict.

The protest was held in front of Belfast City Hall (Patrick Corrigan/PA)

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director, said: “The horror of war which Russia is now inflicting on the civilian population of Ukraine is a reminder of the reason so many people are forced to become refugees.

“Any one of us in this situation would pick up our children and run – and we wouldn’t stop until we felt safe.

“Ukrainians are already fleeing in numbers, mostly initially to Poland. Many will likely move on. That is their right under international law, and the UN Refugee Convention.

“Some may make their way to Northern Ireland – perhaps because of family or friends here.

“It is our duty as a country to welcome them with open arms. That is our legal obligation and our moral imperative.

“As citizens, I know that we will be part of welcoming them and we will insist that our government, at Stormont and in Westminster, steps up to their responsibilities.”

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