Internal Affairs

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Don’t discriminate against civilians fleeing Ukraine – UN chief

UNITED NATIONS— UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is against discrimination against some foreign nationals attempting to flee the fighting in Ukraine, his spokesman said.

“The secretary-general strongly repudiates, in any shape or form, all discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, in the context of this conflict, as well as in terms of the treatment of people trying to leave Ukraine to seek refuge in another country,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres.

The stern statement followed reports of some nationals of other countries, such as students and workers from Africa and Asia, being refused accommodation on transport out of Ukraine.

Several African students and other foreigners said that they were ordered off buses to make room for Ukrainian nationals, left stranded in border towns and beaten.

While the official count of African and Black people in Ukraine has not been updated in 20 years, the media reported that there are more than 16,000 African students in Ukraine, citing the education ministry. As of 2020, Moroccan, Nigerian and Egyptian citizens made up nearly 20 percent of all students in Ukraine.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry called on relevant agencies to support foreign citizens but appeared to dismiss the reports of discrimination as Russian propaganda. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, tweeted Tuesday that Africans needed to evacuate the country safely.

“However, do not be misled by Russian disinformation,” the statement read. “There is no discrimination based on the race or nationality including when it comes to the crossing of the state border by foreign citizens. The first-come, first-served approach applied to all nationalities.”

In Geneva, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, said donors pledged 1.5 billion U.S. dollars toward the 1.7 billion dollars sought in relief for victims of the fighting in Ukraine.

Despite the fighting, UN staffers are still staying and delivering humanitarian aid, the spokesman said.

He told reporters in a regular briefing that the number of staffers in Ukraine remained roughly the same as he reported last week, around 1,500, with some shifting of staff in and out of Ukraine.

The world body’s communication lines with staff remain open, Dujarric said.

The UN Children’s Fund and its partners are mobilizing to treat the mental and emotional damage caused by the conflict, and the first shipments of the World Food Programme are on their way from Turkey to Ukraine, the spokesman said.

The UN Refugee Agency delivered its first truckload of household materials to central Ukraine for families in evacuation shelters and others in need, he added.