INTERVIEW: St. George Ribbon Symbol of Affinity With Eastern Ukraine

MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) – As the political split deepens between Ukraine’s regime in Kiev and its rebellious southeastern territories, a plain black-and-orange strip of fabric known as St. George’s Ribbon has become for Russians a powerful symbol of affinity with the anti-Kiev resistance, says Dmitry Kiselev, Director General of the Rossiya Segodnya International News Agency.

“Do we feel solidarity with the people in Eastern Ukraine who today have to defend the ribbon and the values it stands for? Yes, we do. In this sense, the ribbon is a mark of our solidarity with them,” Dmitry Kiselev said at a press conference.

St. George’s Ribbon, formerly a military decoration in the Russian Empire, was first sported in Kiev’s Independence Square as a handful of protesters sought to rival the nascent nationalist movement. Since the coup in February, the ranks of those proud to wear the ornament, associated with valor on the battlefield, have swelled as resistance to the regime has spread east and south across Ukraine.

The familiar black-and-orange colors appeared on flags flying above Crimean rallies, were pinned to the lapels of Russian lawmakers as they passed the law to incorporate the peninsula after two decades of separation, and spread over eastern Ukraine, where the ribbon is now a common accessory of pro-referendum activists in the besieged Donetsk Region.

“Tragic as it is, but people [war veterans] wearing St. George’s Ribbons are dying today, and it’s not just words. For them, the ribbon holds a promise of support and symbolizes their future, the values that are worth fighting for, unfortunately even with a weapon in hand,” Kiselev said.

The Rossiya Segodnya chief said he hoped that the ribbon would become a “token of a big family.”

“The ribbon has been taken into space, to the Far East, and every corner of the world, including Crimea. This symbol is devoid of aggression. It stands for protection and loyalty to the ideals of those who made Russia a better […] place,” Kiselev underscored.

Today marks the beginning of an international St. George’s Ribbon campaign that was first launched by RIA Novosti in 2005. This year, the event will be run by the Rossiya Segodnya International News Agency together with over 100 media outlets globally.

To mark Russia’s victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, and to symbolize future victories, St George’s Ribbon will venture into space, to military film festivals, song and graffiti festivals, photo exhibitions and flash mobs.

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