WASHINGTON — Hundreds of people gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday before marching over to the White House in support of Ukraine as concerns over a possible invasion by Russia continue to grow.
Some waved Ukrainian flags as others held up signs denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Throughout the gathering, chants of "USA, support Ukraine!" and "Stop Putin now!" could be heard.
Many who attended and spoke to WUSA9 described how they have loved ones over in the country and the ongoing tension over a possible armed conflict brought worry.
"I try to communicate every day with my family. I have my mother, father, and relatives," said Sofiia Fedzhora, who is originally from Kyiv and now teaches the Ukrainian language at the University of Washington in Seattle. "They are very worried about the situation but I try to support them and as soon as it is possible, I will be in Kyiv.”
John Kosogof stood to the side of the rally on Sunday as several speakers called for peace.
His wife and stepchildren live in Ukraine, with one of his stepsons expecting to get married in two weeks in the country.
With a trip overseas getting closer, Kosogof said the safety of his family remained at the top of his mind.
"My mother and father's side are in eastern Ukraine, probably within 30 to 40 miles of the Russian border," he said. "For me personally, the stress has been eating at me because I’m here.”
Others, like Natasha Dean, called for the US and other allies to take immediate economic action against Russia.
Dean, whose grandparents lived in Ukraine, brought her children and husband along to the rally on Sunday and said waiting to respond to the Russian threats could make the situation even worse.
"This aggression eight years later is unacceptable," she said, noting the Russian invasion of Crimea back in 2014. "We’re praying and asking the United States to impose sanctions.”
Multiple speakers at the gathering noted how conflict with Russia is nothing new for the two countries.
Many took particular aim at Putin and said more must be done to contain his suspicious ambitions.
"It’s not a deal with territory or language. It’s about a big desire to create Ukraine as a part of Russia," said Fedzhora. "[Putin] wants to create a great empire like Stalin and other powerful leaders but we are not the same nation and we are not the same as we were.”
Moving forward, Ukranian supporters hoped the rally on Sunday helped send a message about the importance of unity right now in Europe.
"Ukraine is not standing by itself. We are in this all together and together we shall overcome," said a woman who attended the gathering. "We need to stand up and we need to protect peace and democracy in the world. We cannot just sit and be afraid. We need to talk and we need to do something about this.”