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Large crowds gather in downtown Toronto for ‘mega march’ in solidarity with Ukraine

Click to play video: 'Russia-Ukraine conflict: Toronto marches in solidarity with Ukrainians' Russia-Ukraine conflict: Toronto marches in solidarity with Ukrainians
WATCH: Toronto marches in solidarity with Ukrainians – Feb 27, 2022

Large crowds gathered in downtown Toronto on Sunday for a “Mega March” in support of Ukraine, and condemnation of Russia’s attack on the country.

Crowds carrying Ukraine flags and anti-Vladimir Putin signs gathered at Yonge and Dundas Square, and marched towards Nathan Phillips Square in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

Toronto police temporarily closed a portion of Yonge Street and Dundas Street West to allow the demonstrators to march.

However, in an update Sunday afternoon, Toronto police said Yonge Street and Dundas Street West had both reopened. Bay Street remained closed.

Kabilan Moulitharan / Global News

In a post on Facebook, the organization said Ukraine is under a “relentless attack from Russia.”

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“We cry out to everyone who cares about democracy and freedom to come out in support and in solidarity with Ukraine,” the post reads.

Peter Schturyn, President of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress, said the goal of the march is to “rally all Canadian Ukrainians, along with the Toronto community (to) stand together (and) stand for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.”

“We’re out here wanting Russia to stop its useless, senseless, horrific war with a nation that wants nothing but peace,” he said.

Schturyn said the demonstrations in Toronto are going to continue “until every inch of Ukrainian territory is back in Ukrainian hands.”

“They’re fighting until the very end, and so are we,” he said.

Schturyn said the “tide of the war is changing.”

“The pendulum is swinging back,” he said. “Ukrainians are fighting harder than ever before.”

He said the “whole country is up in arms, standing shoulder-to-shoulder.”

“And they’re going to win.”

Schturyn said what Ukraine needs immediately is a no-fly zone to be declared over its airspace.

“It’s not unprecedented, the West has done that for other countries,” he said. “They’ve done if for Libya, they’ve done it in former Yugoslavia. They’ve done it once for Israel.”

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Read more: Canada to send an additional $25M worth of protective gear to Ukraine

Ola Holyk is an elementary school ​teacher in Mississauga. She and several of her students attended the march on Sunday.

“We all believe in peace, we all feel that Ukraine is part of our heritage, it’s where our grandparents came from, it’s where our parents came from, and we feel it’s really important to be here to stand with Ukraine and to stop the aggression that Russia is bringing on to Ukraine.”

She said she felt she needed to stand up for what she believes in.

“And peace is what we believe ​in. And peace is at the forefront of all of this,” she said.

“We need to teach our children kindness and we need to teach our children that when it comes to things like this — this is wrong — and through the power of being together and uniting together we are a stronger force.”

Crowds gather at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on Sunday, February 27, 2022, in protest of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Phil Fabroni / Global News

Speaking at Nathan Phillips Square, Consulate General of Ukraine in Toronto Oleksander Shevchenko, said it is difficult to watch the invasion of Ukraine from afar.

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“But what warms my heart is what Canada is doing to support Ukraine, to support Ukrainian people and (the) Ukrainian military in this time of hardships,” he said.

Shevchenko thanked Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and the rest of Canada for the “great support” that has been shown.

“It’s very important to know that Canada is ready to provide assistance,” he said.

Shevchenko called on the Canadian government to support and accommodate any Ukrainian refugees who seek asylum in Canada.

Read more: Hundreds gather at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square to rally in support of Ukraine

Those protesting against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have gathered in Toronto since Thursday, holding Ukrainian flags and singing the national anthem.

Earlier on Sunday, the federal government announced it has closed Canada’s airspace to all Russian airlines.

The federal government also announced it will be sending an additional $25 million worth of protective gear to Ukraine.

The move comes after Ottawa imposed sanctions on a number of Russian individuals and entities, including on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Canada has also said it will match all donations to the Red Cross’s Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal up to $10 million.

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The Ontario government has announced it will be donating $300,000 in humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The money will be donated to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation and used to “support humanitarian purposes” including “providing medical aid, emergency shelter and food security” in Ukraine.

Click to play video: 'Ontario Premier Doug Ford condemns Russian attack on Ukraine' Ontario Premier Doug Ford condemns Russian attack on Ukraine
Ontario Premier Doug Ford condemns Russian attack on Ukraine – Feb 24, 2022

The province said it will also be “ready to assist” anyone fleeing the country who may require settlement services.

On Thursday, the Ukraine flag was raised at Toronto City Hall in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

In a video posted to Twitter Thursday afternoon, Toronto Mayor John Tory, said if there was “unprovoked military action taken against one of our provinces,” Canada would “expect the rest of the world to line up and support us.”

Read more: Russian invasion could be ‘licence’ for other attacks, Canada’s UN ambassador warns

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“That’s why I’m here as mayor of Toronto to express my solidarity with Ukraine,” he said.

“And also at the same time to raise this flag to show solidarity with our wonderful Ukrainian community — our Ukrainian Canadian community here in the city of Toronto.”

Tory attended the march on Sunday.

In a tweet, the mayor said Toronto “stands in firm solidarity with Ukraine and the local Ukrainian-Canadian community.

Also in attendance was Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

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