Svetlana Koshkareva has burned her Russian passport.

"It's the best visual message for everyone who is against the government, but still proud to be a Russian citizen," she said in a telephone interview Monday.

"I don't need this piece of paper, because I'm not going to visit Russia until this dictatorship and this horrible government is out."

The Edmonton woman is originally from Irkutsk in east-central Russia and has been living in Canada since 2013. She received her Canadian citizenship in 2019.

Russians around the world have taken to the streets daily to denounce their homeland's invasion of Ukraine and some, like Koshkareva at a rally on the weekend, have burned their documentation.

"I still love my country. I'm just ashamed to have this dictator in the government."

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave orders on Thursday for troops to invade Ukraine in a three-pronged attack by ground, air and sea.

Shocked Russians have reacted with protests in major urban centres across that country and thousands of people have been arrested.

In Canada, thousands turned have out at rallies in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton in support of Ukraine.

Russians protest in support of Ukraine. #UkraineRussia #UkraineInvasion #Russia #Ukraine

Koshkareva said news of the invasion was predictable but still shocking. When organizers asked her to be at the rally outside the Alberta legislature, she felt it was important to be there to stand in solidarity.

"Putin is not Russia ... we're against this war and we're standing with Ukrainian people," she said. "It's our pain together."

In Ottawa, many emotions passed through Tatiana Lebedeva when the initial reports of Russia's invasion came out.

At first, she said, she felt sadness and dismay. Anger and fury at the Russian government followed.

"I have never been more ashamed to be Russian as now ... that's one of the reasons I can't just sit silent," she said.

Lebedeva has created a Facebook group called "Ottawa Stands With Ukraine." She also organized a rally outside Russia's embassy last week.

Lebedeva said she wanted to create a way for others to show international support for Ukraine and to give a voice to Russians who can't speak up in their home country.

"I want to send a message (to the embassy) that Russians don't agree with the governmental actions. Not all of them can openly say it," she said.

"We want to support our fellow Ukrainians. Ukraine is a sovereign country. (Russia) doesn't have to invade it."

Last week, the embassy issued a defiant statement defending its government's position. It said the West is trying to turn Ukraine into the anti-Russia.

"The evolved political-military situation and dynamic of NATO military posture in Europe created a clear and immediate danger for Russia that could not have been mitigated by any other means," read the statement.

"The attempts by the West to turn Ukraine into a kind of 'anti-Russia' will not succeed."

Lebedeva moved to Canada in 2014, but most of her immediate family still lives in St. Petersburg, including her parents and grandparents.

Conversations with relatives have been sombre. "In Russia you feel like you don't have enough power to climb out of this."

She will continue to condemn Russia's actions and call for peace, she said.

"I want to make sure that others know there are Russians who don't support it and are vehemently opposing this movement."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2022.

— With files from AP

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship

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