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Ukraine flag painted in front of Russian Embassy by London activists


LONDON — Ben Stewart arrived outside the Russian Embassy early on Thursday morning with a throng of volunteers, four wheelbarrows and 70 gallons of blue and yellow paint, ready to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.

“I just thought, if I get enough paint down there, the cars can create the flag,” said Stewart, one the founders of the activist group Led by Donkeys, told The Washington Post.

Sure enough, the volunteers tipped the paint into the road, and the London traffic did the rest, spreading it out to make a giant Ukrainian flag directly in front of the embassy.

Countries around the world this week are marking a year of Russia’s war. Paris lit up the Eiffel Tower. In Wellington, New Zealand, people threw sunflowers into the water. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who recently hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, will lead a minute’s silence on Friday.

But it may be the flag stunt that is the most memorable anniversary marker in Britain.

“Tomorrow is the first anniversary of Putin’s imperialist invasion of Ukraine, an independent state and a people with every right to self-determination. The existence of a massive Ukrainian flag outside his embassy in London will serve to remind him of that,” Led by Donkeys posted on social media. The tweet quickly went viral.

“Like many people, we are deeply moved by the resistance and determination of Ukrainian people,” said Stewart, 48. “There’s obviously many manifestations of solidarity. It’s right that Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak go to Kyiv, but there’s so much support by people and you rarely see examples of civil solidarity, and we wanted to show that London and Britain stand with Ukraine.”

Britain likes to see itself as playing a leading role in support for Ukraine, and its military assistance is second only to contributions from the United States.

Britain, however, has done much less than many European countries when it comes to taking in Ukrainian refugees. The government, under then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, launched a DIY program that required Brits to identify individual refugees they wanted to sponsor. Some Brits have been willing hosts — one man interviewed by The Post even flew to the Ukraine border with Cadbury bars. But there have been reports of an increase in evictions and homelessness.

Britain’s pick-a-refugee program had one Brit flying to Poland with Cadbury bars

At the political level, support for backing Ukraine in the conflict has remained strong, with lawmakers from all parties showing a kind of unity that hasn’t been seen often in the topsy-turvy post-Brexit years.

Bronwen Maddox, director of Chatham House, a London think tank, said: “Politicians want to keep supporting Ukraine out of principle, out of recognition of national feeling, and in the muddle and aftermath of Brexit, this is something that Britain wants to do and can do well, as part of the European and Western contribution, at what is a slightly confused and fretful point in British politics.”

Surveys show the British public’s support for Ukraine has remained strong, even while many people believed the war contributed to a cost-of-living crisis here. That sentiment may not have been tested as much as it could have, with natural gas prices easing in recent weeks.

The stunt outside the embassy on Thursday wasn’t without its hiccups, Stewart said. Four volunteers on the “blue paint team” were arrested by the London Metropolitan Police for obstructing traffic.

“But luckily people from the yellow paint team ran over and helped out with the blue paint,” Stewart said. “And five minutes after they tipped the paint, we had a Ukrainian flag.”

Cars were, at first, hesitant to drive over the paint, Stewart said, even as protesters held aloft signs that read: “Ukrainian Solidarity Protest — Drive slowly — Washable paint.”

But after a few vehicles went through, others followed.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: To mark the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, the U.N. General Assembly is set to vote this week on a resolution calling on Russia to leave Ukraine. President Biden and G-7 leaders are also set to meet virtually on Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to coordinate efforts in support of Ukraine. Read all of our latest Russia-Ukraine coverage here.

The fight: Almost a year of war has “significantly” changed Russia’s inventory, with a recent analysis estimating that Moscow has lost nearly half its main battle tanks. But Ukrainians are bracing for the next phase of fighting — a much-anticipated Russian offensive, and they will soon train on real Leopard 2A6 tanks, though the West is still short on contributions. Here’s who’s sending what to Ukraine and key weapons explained.

A year of war: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has set off a historic exodus of his own people, with data showing that at least 500,000, and perhaps nearly 1 million, have left Russia since the start of the conflict in Ukraine. Despite that and extensive sanctions, the Russian economy has remained more resilient than many expected. There are signs, however, that Putin’s luck may be starting to run out.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the United States can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.