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Local Russian market owner protests Ukraine invasion by covering up the word 'Russian' with blue and yellow tape

Jolene Almendarez
Market owner Viktar Lobach protests against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

A store owner has crossed out the word "Russian" on his Russian and European Market signage in Symmes Township. Blue and yellow tape, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, block out the word. Owner Viktar Lobach says it's his protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin's politics, not against Russian people.

"All Ukraine people hate Russian aggression. It's not the fault of Russian people. It's the fault of Putin," he said, shaking his head. "Crazy old man."

In his shop Sunday, customers spoke Russian at the deli counter while Ukrainian and Russian food and wine lined the shelves. Signs saying "Pray for Ukraine" and anti-Putin political cartoons were taped by the register. Resistance flags that would land him in jail for five years back home hang in the storefront windows.

Lobach says he's from Belarus and spent a decade living in Russia. He also has family in Ukraine who he's been able to keep in touch with.

They've told him stories about women and children hiding in basements, men taking up arms, and civilian areas being hit by rockets. More than 300 Ukrainian civilians are predicted to have been killed since fighting broke out late last week, NPR reports.

Lobach's home country of Belarus plays a role in the invasion, letting Russian aviation and rockets launch through the country.

"Our crazy dictator [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko, he allowed Putin to do it," Lobach said, adding that he sought political asylum in the United States about 10 years ago from Belarus.

Lobach says nobody expected the Ukrainian military to stand up so well against the Russians and got teary-eyed explaining the bravery of the Ukrainian people.

"All people in Ukraine, all men, help in the fighting. So be proud for Ukrainian people and we are believing that Ukraine will win in this war."

Then, he said in Russian, "Long live Ukraine."

NPR reported Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met in Belarus yesterday for talks, but it's unclear if the countries reached any agreements.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.