The word “murder” was spray-painted outside the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., on Thursday after tearful protesters gathered to decry Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A steady stream of protesters gathered at the embassy all day, while others in the region prayed for their homeland. Some Ukrainian Americans said they felt hopeless as they watched the conflict from afar.
At least 137 Ukrainians have died, and more than 300 have been injured, Ukraine's Minister of Health said Thursday. Go here for live international coverage.
A sign with a simple plea hung outside St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Silver Spring, Maryland: Pray for Ukraine. Rev. Dr. Volodymyr Steliac spoke of deep sadness.
“Today is a very dark day. As Ukrainians, it is profoundly hurtful to see the events that unfolded in Ukraine,” he said.
Some members of the congregation prayed for peace all night.
Father Andriy Chornopyski at Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family moved to the United States nine months ago, leaving parents, in-laws and friends in Ukraine. Now he worries for their safety.
“Everyone is, like, shocked with the situation and terrified,” he said.
He fears the attacks could spread over the entire country.
Ken Paquin joined parishioners at the church to pray Thursday evening.
“As a person of faith and as somebody concerned about war and violence, I thought it was something I can do,” he said.
Chornopyski appreciates the support and prayers from the community and encourages the congregation to keep the faith.
“The Lord is who saves, the Lord is peace, the Lord is truth and He is life,” he said.
At St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Silver Spring, the reverend said the church would stay open to comfort people in mourning for their homeland.
“This should not happen in the 21st century,” he said. “No country should experience this.”
As chilling images of the invasion emerged overnight, a crowd gathered outside the Russian embassy to demand an end to the attack. Some were draped in blue and yellow Ukrainian flags. Some were Ukrainian or had ties to Eastern Europe. Others just wanted to lend support.
"Ukraine will be free" and "Hands off Ukraine," they chanted.
Up to 100 people were gathered outside the gates at one point. Many were glued to cellphones, watching live streams of weapons and heavy artillery moving into the country.
“It’s absolutely appalling what’s been happening, what Putin is doing,” said a man from Belarus, which borders Ukraine and Russia. "It's really scary for [Ukrainians]. You never know where a missile could hit."
“This is going to be another refugee crisis for Europe, and it’s going to be difficult,” another demonstrator predicted.
Hours later, the word "murder" was found written in red spray paint across the driveway outside the embassy. D.C. police confirmed they helped the U.S. Secret Service arrest a suspect. A Secret Service spokesperson said that person was arrested for defacing property.
A small group of protesters returned in pouring rain, surrounded by a squad of D.C. officers.
U.S. Senators Condemn Russian Attack on Ukraine
Virginia’s U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said the invasion “tragically brought decades of general peace to an end” in a statement on social media.
Warner, who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised the intelligence community for helping President Joe Biden’s administration anticipate Russian president Vladimir Putin’s moves.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, of Maryland, pointed blame at Putin.
“One person alone, Vladimir Putin, is responsible for the destruction and likely deaths that will occur from this unprovoked military incursion. He will be held accountable for these actions,” Cardin wrote on Twitter.
Maryland’s U.S. Sen Chris Van Hollen urged the U.S. to rally allies to issue “punishing” sanctions and “arm the resistance.”
“Putin must be made to rue the day he began this bloodletting,” Van Hollen said on social media.