Russia's war on Ukraine: Christmas for Ukrainian refugees will be tinged with sadness, but their resolve remains strong – Steve Cardownie

Christmas promises to be a bittersweet occasion for some members of my family this year. As we gather round the table for our Christmas dinner on Sunday, my Ukrainian in-laws will no doubt be thinking of their loved ones back home.
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Celebrating their first Christmas in a foreign country, they will have to console themselves with the thought that at least they and their children are safe. But, having left family members back in Kyiv, I have no doubt that the celebrations are sure to be tinged with sadness.

They made the decision to flee to Scotland soon after Russia’s illegal invasion of their country and have now settled into life in Edinburgh. Attending local schools and clubs they are extremely grateful for the warm welcome that has been extended to them here but have pledged to return to Kyiv as soon as it is safe to do so.

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Unfortunately, the war shows no sign of letting up as Putin continues his murderous crusade and, having failed to subdue the Ukrainian armed forces, he has now diverted his attention to the civilian population, targeting the power infrastructure to try and freeze the country into submission.

In a new, worrying development, fears are now being raised in Kyiv that Belarus may be about to play a more active role in the war as Putin and his Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, recently visited Minsk, with the Belarussian defence ministry stating that it had completed a series of inspections of its armed forces’ military preparedness. Aware of the potential threat, Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Sunday that “protecting our border, both with Russia and Belarus, is our constant priority”. He added, after meeting with Ukraine’s top military commanders, that “we are preparing for all possible defence scenarios”.

And still the Russian onslaught on civilian infrastructure targets shows no sign of slowing down, on the contrary, Moscow seems hell-bent on piling on the pressure. Thirty-five “kamikaze” drones were let loose on Ukraine on Monday, damaging critical infrastructure in and around Kyiv in the third air attack on the Ukrainian capital in six days.

Although the air force successfully shot down 30 of the Shahed drones, the ones that got through still exacted a heavy toll as they caused “fairly serious” damage in Kyiv region according to the local governor, Oleksiy Kuleba, adding that three areas in the region had been left without any power supply. All this as winter temperatures set in.

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And still there is no end in sight. The United Nations’ General Secretary, Antonio Guterres, said at his annual end-of-year conference in New York, that he was “not optimistic” about the prospect of peace talks in the immediate future, adding: “I do believe that the military confrontation will go on.”

A woman decorates a Christmas tree at the grave of her husband, Oleg Skybyk, a Ukrainian serviceman who was killed resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Picture: Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP via Getty Images)A woman decorates a Christmas tree at the grave of her husband, Oleg Skybyk, a Ukrainian serviceman who was killed resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Picture: Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman decorates a Christmas tree at the grave of her husband, Oleg Skybyk, a Ukrainian serviceman who was killed resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Picture: Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP via Getty Images)

I have no doubt that the prospect of spending another Christmas apart from their families back home will not be welcomed by my Ukrainian relatives here in Edinburgh, but their resolve still shows no sign of weakening. Of course, they will raise a glass as they toast absent family members, but they will also spare a thought for the whole Ukrainian population, who have had to endure so much, yet are more determined than ever to defend their freedom.