At a pro-Ukraine rally, priests pray for the dead and diplomats hope for peace.
WASHINGTON — Just above the Reflecting Pool, on the steps leading to the Lincoln Memorial, hundreds of people gathered on Sunday to remember the approximately 14,000 Ukrainian lives lost since 2014 in the fighting with Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east.
Among those in attendance was Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, and two former American diplomats — Marie Yovanovitch, the American ambassador who was recalled from Kyiv and fired by then-President Donald J. Trump in 2019, and William B. Taylor Jr., who served as acting ambassador to Ukraine after Ms. Yovanovitch’s departure until January 2020.
A long string of speakers addressed the crowd at the “Stand With Ukraine” rally on a chilly afternoon, including a group of priests from Ukrainian Catholic, Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox churches who sang Panychida — a memorial prayer for those who have died in the conflict.
“A lot of us felt like we needed to do more and show Ukraine and show the world that people of the United States support Ukraine,” said Maryna Baydyuk, president of United Help Ukraine, one of the groups that organized the rally.
Ms. Baydyuk, an assistant research professor of biology at Georgetown University who was born in Kyiv and came to the United States in 1997, said her group has been sending medical supplies to Ukraine for soldiers as well as for territorial defense units being formed from the civilian population and military veterans.
“We still hope that diplomacy will prevail and we can avert massive bloodshed in Ukraine. To be honest, at this point, most of us are quite scared that the invasion will happen,” said Ms. Baydyuk, noting that her parents and sister in Kyiv have identified a bomb shelter that they can go to and have made plans to evacuate if necessary.
Ms. Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador, noted that the United States has increased its aid to her country and said she hopes a diplomatic solution can be found to restore Ukrainian territorial integrity.
“If you are talking about a country on the brink of being attacked, of course we need more,” Ms. Markarova said in an interview. “But we are very grateful for the support we are getting now.”
“We are now asking the U.S. and all of our partners for whatever defensive equipment and weapons they can provide us with,” Ms. Markarova said. “We pray that we will never use it, but all of that will strengthen our offensive and defensive capabilities and will also deter Russia by essentially showing the cost of invasion will be too high for them.”
Ms. Markarova said that Russia’s territorial aims would threaten Poland and the Baltic States as well.
“It’s a threat to anyone who has chosen to be democratic and free,” she said of Russia. “So that’s why it’s so important for all the free world to stand together with us. Because it will not end with us, if they attack us.”
Ms. Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador, echoed those concerns that the crisis posed a broader threat to European security.
“I think it’s really important that the free world stands with Ukraine because this Russian aggression against Ukraine, the massing of troops and tanks at unprecedented levels, is not only violating Ukraine’s security, it is a threat to European security and it’s a threat to the international world order,” Ms. Yavonovitch said in an interview.
Mr. Taylor, who served as acting ambassador following Ms. Yavonovitch’s dismissal, said he was pleased that the Biden administration and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine have stayed united.
“I want to see them continue to stand strong,” Mr. Taylor said of the American and Ukrainian governments. “Continue to send weapons, increase the flow of weapons and the sophistication of weapons to make Ukraine militarily stronger and then to convince President Putin not to invade and to go to the negotiating table.”