by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Brian Hioe

UKRAINIANS IN TAIWAN, joined by others supportive of their cause, rallied today to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since then, tens of thousands have perished as a result of Russia’s military aggression, and the war seems far from over.

Likely around two hundred attended. The rally began in the northwest corner of Daan Park, with the gathering starting at around 1 PM. Around 1:30 PM, the rally marched westward to Liberty Plaza, also known as the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial.

The start of the rally. Photo credit: Brian Hioe

A speaker truck led demonstrators through Taipei. The speaker truck played Ukrainian songs as it proceeded. Partway through the march, participants were invited to take part in a performance to show what it is like to live under conditions in which Russian air strikes take place regularly. A QR code was held up for participants to play the sounds of air raid sirens, while the same noises were played from the speaker truck.

Photo credit: Brian Hioe

At Liberty Plaza, there were a number of talks from Ukrainian and Taiwanese speakers. Ukrainian speakers thanked Taiwan for its support of Ukraine to date, including donations of ambulances and financial aid, and support from politicians. Such comments also called attention to the struggle of democratic countries against authoritarianism. In particular, it was highlighted that the war has devastated a previously peaceful country and only took place because of Russia’s ambitions for territorial annexation. Taiwanese speakers largely echoed these comments.

To this extent, the poetry of Victoria Amelina was read in Mandarin and English. Amelina was a Ukrainian poet and novelist who was killed at age 37 as a result of a missile strike at the restaurant she was eating at. Likewise, a moment of silence was held for Singcyang Diway, also known as Tseng Sheng-guang or Jonathan Tseng, the Taiwanese volunteer soldier who died in November 2022 in Ukraine. Comments before the moment of silence highlighted the contribution of Taiwanese volunteers who had traveled to Ukraine.

Photo credit: Brian Hioe

Volunteers went around with donation boxes to collect donations in Liberty Plaza. In closing, the Ukrainian national anthem was sung, and Ukrainian participants in the demonstration marked a large Ukrainian flag banner with 730 tallies to mark the 730 days of the war to date.

There was relatively less participation by Taiwanese civic organizations or political groups in this year’s rally. The major visible presences were the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, the DPP, as represented by Department of International Affairs director Lii Wen, and the International Socialist Forward.

Singing of the Ukrainian national anthem. Photo credit: Brian Hioe

The KMT, in fact, had been present at previous rallies in support of Ukraine, but neither it nor the TPP, or pan-Green third parties such as the NPP or TSP were present. It was noted during comments that political attention has receded from the issue in Taiwan, as well as in terms of international political discourse, yet events in Ukraine continue to be ongoing. To this extent, election campaigning by the pan-Blue camp in recent elections sometimes leaned into claims that Ukraine had provoked Russia’s attack by becoming too close to NATO, as Taiwan might provoke China through getting too close to the US–as such, the lack of pan-Blue representation may not surprise, in that the pan-Blue political line has hardened since the start of the war.

Marking the Ukrainian flag with tallies representing the 730 days of the war. Photo credit: Brian Hioe

Indeed, Taiwan’s fate continues to be linked to that of Ukraine’s in much international discourse. This has particularly been regarding that Ukraine has benefited from US support in providing arms and other military aid, even as the US did not directly involve itself in the conflict. At present, some US lawmakers–particularly MAGA Republicans–have called for decreasing aid to Ukraine and increasing aid for Taiwan, claiming that Taiwan is more important for American strategic priorities. Senior Tsai administration officials in Taiwan have warned US policymakers against reducing aid for Ukraine, however, knowing that this will give ammunition to claims by the KMT that Ukraine shows the US is not a reliable ally in wartime and would likely abandon Taiwan, lowering the willingness of Taiwanese to resist China if they view Taiwan as internationally isolated and not likely to receive aid in wartime.

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