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Locals React To Russian Invasion Into Ukraine With Rallies, Prayer Services

WESTWOOD (CBSLA) — The aftershocks of the early stages of the Russian invasion into Ukraine are being felt worldwide, as Vladimir Putin directed his military to begin a full-scale operation, aimed at the "demilitarization" of Ukraine early Thursday morning in Eastern Europe.

As the Ukrainian military fights to repel oncoming Russian forces, thousands of Americans countrywide rallied to show their support and fight for peace in Ukraine.

In Southern California, hundreds of Angelenos converged outside of The Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue - armed with Ukrainian flags and signs offering their own support.

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Signs reading  "No War In Ukraine," "Stop Putin Today!" and "Stand with Ukraine," amongst many others could be seen littered throughout the crowd that gathered in the early afternoon, before heading to another rally scheduled for the evening on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City.

Attendees of the rally were met with countless honks from cars passing by.

"I think this is a really important step that we need to take right now," said Evan Roth, one of the many protestors in the area Thursday. "Catch Putin before it gets worse."

RELATED: Economic Impact Of Russian Aggression In Ukraine Felt In SoCal Gas Prices, Groceries

They were also joined by several Ukrainian and Russian citizens now living in the area, who offered CBS' Jasmine Viel reports from friends and family back home, detailing the airstrikes that have already impacted so many - as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy disclosed Thursday afternoon that 316 people have been injured, and 137 soldiers killed thus far.

Olena Ostapchuk, who hails from Ukraine, shared several images she received from family members that showed the remains of what appeared to be Russian bombs or missiles and videos of the air raid sirens that have been blaring for the greater part of 24 hours in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital city.

"They are crying. They are afraid for their families," Ostapchuk said. "Some people are leaving behind the old people and animals."

The main goal for the protestors is to send a message, not only to Russian officials, but to American government - President Biden especially - calling for more sanctions and action to stop the Russian invasion before it gets too far.

Russian Orthodox Prayer Service

Congregators also met at the Holy Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church on Thursday evening for a prayer service with one thought in mind: world peace.

Nazari Polataiko, the archpriest leading the service was quoted at one point as saying, "Nobody has a right to suppress somebody else's freedom." Polataiko's family still lives in Ukraine, he disclosed to CBS reporters, but they were able to flee to safety before the majority of the fighting broke out.

The oldest Russian Orthodox Church in Southern California, Holy Virgin Mary was founded in 1921 and is traditionally home to Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Romanian community members living in the area. With the ongoing war occurring in their homeland, many of those same members converged to pray for the safety of their loved ones still at home.

Polataiko urged that his members pray for the wisdom of everyone involved in the situation, Russian leaders and military members included.

"Nobody wants a war," he said. "Unfortunately, it's happened. The war is a terrible thing. We are going to feel the results of it, all of them."

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