September 22, 2014 3:10 AM EDT

Thousands of people staged a peace march in Moscow on Sunday to protest against the Russian government’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict.

People of all ages joined the rally and many waved Ukrainian flags, chanting songs and holding banners that read “Hands off Ukraine!” and “No to war,” the Guardian reports.

“This march is to show the people that there’s quite a number of people who are against the war and don’t think that most Ukrainians are fascists,” 28-year-old Mikhail Garder told the Washington Post.

Sunday’s march was the biggest antiwar demonstration in Russia since clashes between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels began in April.

Officials put the number of protesters at 5,000 but volunteer group White Counter says the number was closer to 26,000 people, the Guardian said.

Many protesters felt the Kremlin was inciting the conflict in eastern Ukraine by equipping the rebels with arms and tanks.

“A war with Ukraine, that’s the most ridiculous, the most idiotic thing that Putin could have come up with,” protester Yuri Smagurov said. “We have put ourselves in such a position that we’re against everybody — against Europe, against ourselves, against the United States, against normal life.”

At one point, several peace marchers clashed with pro-Kremlin supporters along the route but scuffles were quickly stifled by riot police.

Smaller rallies were also held in St. Petersburg and other cities around the country.

Write to Helen Regan at helen.regan@timeasia.com.

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