Letter from Paris: Watch Russia invade Ukraine from here

After weeks of tension, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided yesterday, February 24, to declare war and invade Ukraine. World leaders reacted immediately, strongly condemning the military attack as a disaster for Ukrainian democracy, which declared a state of emergency shortly after Putin authorized the military action. As France prepares for a presidential election in the coming weeks, the campaign is largely disrupted by this worrying international context, and the French political climate has changed radically.

President Macron responded to Russia’s attacks by saying that “France stands in solidarity with Ukraine. It stands with the Ukrainians and works with its partners and allies to end the war. Today, February 25, President Macron addressed a solemn France. European Union leaders have announced sanctions against Russia and these will affect “the most senior leaders” of Russia, Emmanuel Macron has said.

Beyond political declarations and sanctions, the emotion of the French remains extremely strong. According to the police headquarters, nearly 3,000 demonstrators gathered last night in Paris to protest against the invasion of Ukraine and denounce the Russian president, shouting “Putin is a terrorist, Putin is an assassin!” On the Place de la République, the emblematic place of the demonstration in Paris, Ukrainian flags floated and some demonstrators waved bouquets of mimosas while solidarity songs echoed in the cold Parisian air: “Solidarity with Ukraine”, ” Sanctions for Russia”, ” Arms to Ukraine.

“I felt helpless when I heard the news, and I couldn’t bear to stay at home, to browse social media while the lives of millions of people are at stake. I had to be surrounded by people, I must have felt a sense of unity at that time,” said one protester standing outside the Russian Embassy in Paris at midday. Another added: “I can’t believe what is happening. I I am not an expert in geopolitics and I do not fully understand the situation, but I cannot understand the fact that we have a country, so close to us, bombarded, with civilians attacked, fearing for their lives, for their freedom, for their homes. It sounds surreal. And another echoed: “To me, Putin is an autocrat with a huge ego, who wants the world to be his and can’t help but take what doesn’t come to him. doesn’t belong. It worries me a lot. I’m afraid that the war will spread. It’s absolutely insane p For me this is happening in 2022. We live in a crazy world, and it causes me a lot of anxiety and grief.

However, yet another told me he couldn’t leave his house. “Being in the middle of a crowd terrifies me. I have felt overwhelmed with emotion since yesterday, heartbroken by what is happening and scared by what the future might hold. But I also feel guilty for carrying on. my life. I know posting on social media doesn’t help that much, but maybe it raises awareness and helps people understand the situation. That’s been my way of coping.”

Demonstrations also took place in major French cities, such as Rennes, Strasbourg or Marseille, a city twinned with Odessa in Ukraine. New demonstrations against the war in Ukraine will take place all over the world and in different cities in France tomorrow, Saturday February 26.

For my part, I am in shock at what is unfolding before our eyes. I am terrified of the situation and helplessness is the word that best describes my state of mind. I am shaken by the collapse of freedoms, worried about the future and what it means for peace and security on our continent and in the world. My heart is heavy and goes out to the Ukrainian people, because civilians often pay the highest price in war.

It is sometimes difficult to protest, for a variety of personal and political reasons, but there are other practical ways in which we can help the people of Ukraine by supporting organizations that bring relief to the region. See box below.

Cover image by LAURENCE GEAI for LE MONDE

Camille Bourron lives in Paris and is a graduate in political science and social policy, after studying at La Sorbonne and the LSE. She is passionate about politics, culture, art and travel.