Bay Area rallies against Russian invasion of Ukraine: 'I'm scared of nuclear war'

Bay Area support for Ukraine appears to be growing.

Hundreds of people turned out for a rally in San Francisco to stand with Ukraine Saturday, the largest rally of its kind to date.

Now that the war has begun, Bay Area Ukrainians are seeing a lot of support coming from outside their community.

"Send Putin home, no-fly zone." That was one of many chants at the rally where passions ran high as various random speakers took the mic to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Several hundred people filled the plaza across the street from San Francisco’s Ferry Building, showing their support for the sovereignty of Ukraine and its people.

Many who attended are not Ukrainian.

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Irina Petrova said she left Russia 22 years ago as former KGB officer turned president Putin was rising to power.

"How else could he behave, this is KGB," said Petrova. "This is communist mind. This is about total control, about oppressing everybody who thinks in a different way, who does in different way, who lives in different way." 

Whether from Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus or beyond, the message was the same: denounce the war, and do whatever is in your power to help it end, while supporting those who are suffering.

Putin launched part of his assault from Belarus, and one woman hopes her homeland stays out of the fighting.

"Probably soldiers from Belarus are involved or going to be involved very soon and that’s why I’m here I need to protest," said Nadzeya Norton, President of Association of Belarusians in America.

The rally organizer says she’s proud to see growing support from a diversity of people. And she hopes this war can actually bring more people together, rather than driving them apart.

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"I’m half Ukrainian, half Russian,"  said Anastasia Popova. "I was born in St. Petersburg so I hope that it’s really important for people not to fight against the nations, but against criminals and Putin is in the Kremlin and he’s a criminal and it’s very important for us to stay together."

Many accused Putin of imperialism and expressed concern about the war spreading.

Some fear if unchallenged by forces outside Ukraine, Putin could push for a larger territorial grab leading to a potentially bigger crisis and the unthinkable.

"I’m scared of nuclear war. Yes, yes. We have to be prepared," said Yelena Kurasheva.

The common message from the rally was to get involved, whether it be writing to elected officials, or donating to help Ukrainians who will need all kinds of aid.

Some say this is a fight Ukraine, and those who support democracy, can’t afford to lose.