FLORENCE, Italy – Thousands of people gathered in the Italian city of Florence on Saturday to show their support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appearing via videolink.

A giant screen displays an image of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking through a video link, addressing people taking part in a peace rally for Ukraine on March 12, 2022 in Florence, Tuscany, which takes place simultaneously in the main European cities to demand a ceasefire in Ukraine and an end to the war. Carlo BRESSAN / AFP

The square outside the Santa Croce basilica became a sea of rainbow peace flags peppered with blue and yellow, the colours of Ukraine’s national flag.

In an address shown on a big screen, Zelensky told the crowd his country was under bombardment “24 hours a day”, targeting schools, hospitals and residential areas, “even churches, even squares like yours”.

According to an Italian translation, he said 79 children had been killed in the conflict so far, saying Europe must “not forget”.

People watch a giant screen (not in picture) displaying an image of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking through a video link, addressing people taking part in a peace rally for Ukraine on March 12, 2022 in Florence, Tuscany, which takes place simultaneously in the main European cities to demand a ceasefire in Ukraine and an end to the war. Carlo BRESSAN / AFP

The demonstration was organised by Florence mayor Dario Nardella, also president of the Eurocities network of more than 200 cities across 38 countries.

In France meanwhile, nearly 10,000 people demonstrated in cities across France to show their support for the people of Ukraine.

Around a thousand gathered in Paris to denounce the Russian invasion, many carrying blue and yellow badges, the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Some carried placards calling for a boycott of Russian oil and gas.

Last weekend, more than 40,000 people turned out across France, including 16,000 in Paris.