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By Tom Kitchin and Emma Hatton, RNZ News reporters

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been met with despair and anger in New Zealand.

Nearly 100 people gathered at the Russian embassy in the capital Wellington today, at a protest organised by the Ukrainian Gromada of Wellington.

Fake blood was plastered over the gate and driveway, and protesters were shouting the likes of “blood on your hands” and “hands off Ukraine”.

Tanya Harper has family in Ukraine and did not know if her nephew was still alive.

“I spoke [to him] this morning, he sent a message saying they’re not evacuating, they’re not allowed to leave the building.They can see fighting on the streets from the apartment where he is and it’s very scary.”

Protesters holding peace signs in the colours of the Ukrainian flag
Protesters holding peace signs in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Image: Samuel Rillstone/RNZ

Sanctions have come thick and fast from Western nations — but it was cold comfort for Harper.

“Sanctions aren’t going to save our lives, they know it’s too late for sanctions again – I want to see my Mum again, I want to see my brother.”

Lana, who did not give her last name, said she was afraid for her community.

“I can’t tell you how scared we are – my Mum almost ended up in the hospital this morning, she’s at home, she couldn’t even come here. I didn’t sleep last night, she didn’t sleep last night, I don’t think anyone in the Ukrainian community had one hour of sleep last night — we are constantly in contact because of our relatives and friends back there.”

Igor Titov had been speaking to his family back in Kyiv.

“Yesterday, I was on the phone with my Mum, I was preparing her to evacuate from her own apartment, I was waking up my friends from the shelling.”

Tetiana Zhurba and Nataliya Stepuroi wrapped the colours of the Ukraine flag around a brick post by the entrance of the embassy.

Tetiana Zhurba (left) and Nataliya Stepuroi put the colours of the Ukranian flag around a brick post by the embassy's driveway.
Tetiana Zhurba (left) and Nataliya Stepuroi put the colours of the Ukranian flag around a brick post by the embassy’s driveway. Image: Samuel Rillstone/RNZ

“Why we did it here near Russian embassy, [is] because Russia — everywhere in our territory — when they come … they [put] up their flags in every village,” Zhurba said.

“I want [the embassy staff] to see our colours when they wake up in the morning, and go to dinner in the evening — I want them to see those colours when they leave and they’re coming back,” Stepuroi said.

Elsewhere in New Zealand, Ukrainians told RNZ they were horrified.

Inga Tokarenko spent all morning on the phone to her family who were sheltering underground.

“Yesterday, they woke up to a bombing, because of the hit of the wave from the bomb – it shook their windows. So they woke up I called them this morning and they were already heading off to the underground facility. They can feel the shockwaves.”

Northland woman Olya Tolpyhina said what was happening in her home country felt surreal.

Her parents live in the west of the country and chose to stay and fight — offering up their home to those who have been displaced.

“So they’re waiting for people to arrive and they keep safe — but they have a lot of people stuck in traffic, because all major airports were bombed.”

She said people in New Zealand and around the world needed to protest against Russia’s attacks and she did not believe they would stop with Ukraine.

“My biggest desire is no World War III. I don’t know what sick thoughts Putin has in his mind, but he will not stop at Ukraine when he gets it.”

Protests condemning Russia’s actions will continue over the weekend across the country.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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