Russia's war on Ukraine: As Vladimir Putin signals fresh offensive, Ukrainians remain determined to resist – Steve Cardownie

As my Ukrainian relatives in Edinburgh watched Vladimir Putin’s “State of the Nation” address yesterday their worst fears were realised. Putin was unrepentant, blaming the West for starting the conflict and stressing his commitment to reinforce his invading troops in Ukraine.
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My relations were crestfallen but had been prepared for bad news. They have been in Edinburgh for nearly a year now and have enthusiastically taken the opportunity to engage with local community groups. The parents have been taking English lessons while the children involve them in the homework they have been assigned from school. From only having a rudimentary grasp of English when they arrived, they are now confidently conversing with their neighbours and fellow pupils, engaging in social activities, both Ukrainian and Scottish.

They are extremely complimentary about the welcome they have received from the people of Leith and Edinburgh and the youngsters in particular have been taking part in all the activities schools can offer, participating in sports and chess tournaments as they try to block out what is happening back home. But, try as they might, they miss their loved ones back in Ukraine enormously. Skype calls help to fill the gap but they are no substitute for the warm human contact with their families that they yearn for.

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This Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s illegal invasion, with no sign that peace is on the horizon. My relatives told me when they arrived in Edinburgh last March that they hoped to be back home by Christmas. Little did they think that, one year on, they would still be here.

My brother-in-law has missed seeing his little boy take his first steps and his daughter’s birthday. Putin’s speech will have done nothing to console him and he has resigned himself to missing further birthdays as his children grow up in Scotland for the immediate future.

As Putin attempted to justify his actions, the United Nations’ Human Rights Office issued a statement on the number of civilian casualties in Ukraine since the invasion. It currently stands at 8006 verified deaths and 13,2687 injured although the figure is likely to be much higher, according to Matilda Bogner of the UN human rights monitoring commission in Ukraine.

The UK Ministry of Defence last Friday estimated that more than 200,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the start of the invasion, all to fuel Putin’s expansionist ambitions. However, despite such losses, it is expected that Russia will launch a new offensive in the spring, incurring huge casualties on both sides. Putin ended his speech with the words “the truth is on our side”, which beggars belief.

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So, it seems my Ukrainian relatives can expect to be here for some time yet. Whilst their resolve to return home is unrelenting, the reality of the situation dictates that they should continue to embrace the safe refuge that Edinburgh offers. In the meantime, more Skype calls will have to suffice and my brother-in-law will have to wait before he can pick up his wee boy again. This is a war not of their choosing but they are determined to see it through, come what may.

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