Hundreds of people flocked to Radcliffe Square to show their solidarity with the Ukrainian people on the anniversary of the Russian invasion.

The peace rally was organised by the president of the Oxford University Ukrainian Society Ruslan Pavlyshyn, whose mother still lives in Lviv in western Ukraine.

The Lord Mayor of Oxford James Fry attended the event, alongside the president of Reuben College Lionel Tarassenko.

Oxford University offered 26 Ukrainian refugees the opportunity to study at the university back in October 2022.

READ MORE: Russian invasion of Ukraine anniversary marked in Oxfordshire 

Mr Pavlyshyn said: “The reason why we set this up is because of the anniversary of the war.

"We thought today is the best day to commemorate this and we wanted to do it during a working day so as many people as possible from the university could join and show their solidarity.

“We decided that it is very important to do this specifically on the 24 February when it started a year ago.

“When the war started, the whole world held its breath.

“The analysts predicted the capital will fall and our president will go into exile and a large portion of Ukraine will be annexed by Russia.

“And one year later, we see heroic resistance and we see that life continues, despite the destruction and collective trauma.

“People still do business and fall in love. Life goes on.

“The most important thing is that people plan ahead, both individually and as a nation."

Oxford Mail:

Oxford University’s Ukrainian Society has forty members, and the Ukrainian scholars were also present, with the society’s president hoping that “between 500 and 700 people” would turn up.

Mr Pavlyshyn said he was extremely grateful for all the support Oxford University had shown towards the Ukrainian refugees.

He explained: “Oxford University has provided incredible support thanks to several very active members of the university administration, especially Lionel Tarassenko.

“In an unprecedented time, the university has set up a scholarship for Ukrainian refugees which has welcomed 26 scholars in a very short period of time.”

Oxford Mail:

Mr Fry said he was very proud the city had been able to offer “sanctuary” and “welcome Ukrainians in large numbers”.

Despite Oxford City Council’s leader Susan Brown taking a week to sever ties with the Russian city Perm in March 2022, Mr Fry suggested the council had acted decisively in ending Oxford’s relationship with a city which Putin’s regime has used as an aviation manufacturing hub for the war.

READ MORE: Oxford City Council ends unpopular Perm twin link in U-turn

He said:“As a city council, one of our first actions after the invasion was to end and not suspend our previous twinning link which we had with the Russian city of Perm.”

Mr Fry’s comments come despite Ms Brown only deciding to end all links with the city after the Oxford Mail ran a campaign which exerted considerable pressure on the council leader.

Until there was growing pressure on Ms Brown to act, she refused to end ties with the city and threatened no action stronger than a letter expressing the council’s opposition to the invasion.

Speaking at the rally, Mr Tarassenko highlighted that 26 colleges had provided accommodation, meals and a grant of £7,500 to help the refugees settle into the city.

Oxford Mail: A car draped in the Ukrainian flag A car draped in the Ukrainian flag (Image: Ed Halford)

He said: “Amazingly all 26 refugee scholars arrived in Oxford in time to start their course.

“With last minute help from the Home Office, since then the scholars have integrated well into their colleges and their departments.

“I want to applaud the 50 Ukrainian scholars, academics and researchers at risk.

“They are wonderful ambassadors for their country, and they represent the whole of the Ukraine population in their courageous fight for freedom and democracy.”

The crowds kept chanting Slava Ukraini in between speakers and the mood remained upbeat, despite the rain pouring down.

Anastasia Kolokolova worked at Kharkiv University until 2019 and recently settled in Abingdon after he husband, Andrew Pastushenko, was offered a job at Oxford University.

Ms Kolokolova said: “My husband was invited to come here as a researcher at risk and he moved to Oxford in the summer, and then I got a residence permit also under the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

“We re-united after eight months apart and now my husband is making research at All Souls College about British history.

“I hope to go back to Ukraine very much one day and I’m sure Ukraine will win. We believe in our victory.

“I can only imagine how hard it would be if I was not sure in our victory, but I am very sure.”

Veronika Sarodub, one of the Ukrainian refugees who was given a scholarship, praised the university for their generous welcome and support.

Oxford Mail: Lord Mayor of Oxford James Fry speaking at the rally Lord Mayor of Oxford James Fry speaking at the rally (Image: Ed Halford)

She said: “I was very welcomed by my college.

"I came to the UK in May, so I felt the support from all people who are hosting Ukrainians under the Homes for Ukrainian scheme, and how much people have organised for supportive events.

“The participation of people from the UK is very impressive for me.

“We need to continue doing the same thing as more refugees come to the UK and more houses are being destroyed in the UK.

“We have a lot of bright people in Ukraine and they can’t continue their studies because their universities have been destroyed.

“As Ukrainians in Oxford we became very united and all the other students also showed their support.”