Russia's war on Ukraine: Vladimir Putin's 'kamikaze' drone strikes on Ukrainian civilians may lead to fresh wave of refugees – Steve Cardownie

On turning on my TV yesterday morning to watch the news programme Good Morning Europe, the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitaliy Klitschko, was speaking to camera about the latest Russian drone strikes to hit his city.

Ukrainian firefighters work on a destroyed building after several drones hit Kyiv on Monday (Picture: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian firefighters work on a destroyed building after several drones hit Kyiv on Monday (Picture: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images)

He said that “the Russians need a Ukraine without Ukrainian people” and that Ukrainians were angry and “wanted to defend their home town, their home country”. The latest Russian outrages killed at least eight people – four in Kyiv, including a man and his wife, who was six months pregnant, as a residential building was partially destroyed, and four in the city of Suny.

When I met Mayor Klitschko in his office a few years ago, he commented on the war that was being fought with Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine and was at great pains to point out that whilst Kyiv had remained untouched by the fighting, the Ukrainian people would not buckle under Russian pressure and would do everything in their power to preserve their country’s borders.

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Now, with Russia’s illegal invasion last February, the Ukrainian people’s appetite for defying Russian aggression is being put to the test and their response has been one of heroic resistance, which the latest drone attacks will only stiffen rather than diminish as Moscow had hoped. In his latest TV broadcast to the Ukrainian people, President Zelenskyy referred to this as he paid tribute to the population, when he said that “the enemy can attack our cities but they won’t be able to break us”.

The drones in question are reputed to be Shaheed-136s, manufactured in Iran and exported to Russia in defiance of United Nations sanctions. They have been labelled “kamikaze drones” as they are packed with explosives which detonate on impact, destroying the drone itself. According to US sources, Iran is planning to send hundreds of the drones to Russia, which at £17,800 each, is relatively cheap when compared to the cost of the long-range precision missiles that Russia has been using up to now.

If these attacks continue, they are likely to lead to more Ukrainian mothers and children seeking refuge in other countries, including Scotland. So far it is estimated that one third of Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recently estimated that more than 7.6 million had been displaced across Europe.

As of October 11, 35,357 visas granted through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme named a Scottish sponsor and, of those visas granted, 20,591 displaced Ukrainians had arrived, 16,868 sponsored by the Scottish Government and 3,723 by individual sponsors – leaving thousands with valid visas who have not yet taken up the option of fleeing to Scotland. The response to the Scottish Government’s welcomed super sponsor scheme has been overwhelming and has surpassed estimates of the numbers expected to reach our shores. While this has presented the government with logistical problems it clearly indicates the desire of Ukrainians to put the welfare of their children first and foremost by setting up a temporary home in Scotland.

The recent drone strikes in Ukrainian cities that have not been subjected to concerted attacks up until now will probably encourage those with visas to reconsider their options and seek refuge here – we must be ready to welcome them.