Ukraine Russia war: As Vladimir Putin launches new wave of attacks, more Ukrainian refugees will be forced to flee for their lives – Steve Cardownie
The United Nations has now estimated that five million Ukrainians have now fled their country. Here my Ukrainian family members have been adapting to life in Edinburgh over the last fortnight, free from the fear that Russian artillery fire regularly inflicted on them back home in Vassylkiv, a town just outside Kyiv.
They have been taking in the sights and sounds of the city and are grateful for the assistance provided by the City of Edinburgh Council which has ensured that their transition to life here has been as smooth as possible.
Their first few days were taken up with filling in some appropriate paperwork, registering with the NHS and being taken on board by a local clinic.
Schools were next on the agenda and Emma, at nine years old, was lucky enough to attend her local primary school for a couple of days before the Easter holidays.
Yura will attend his secondary school when they return but, in the meantime, is continuing to participate in online schooling provided by the Ukrainian authorities and their mothers can now breathe easier knowing that their children’s lives are no longer under threat.
All of this is offering a welcome respite from the war that is raging in their homeland but inevitably news reports keep them up to date and remind them of the deprivations faced by their loved ones back home.
The Ukrainian military has surprised many by resisting the Russian invasion with a ferocity and tactical awareness that has rocked the Kremlin – but the second phase of the offensive has now begun.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Russia has now launched its expected assault in the eastern Donbas region after Russian defence officials said that its main objectives in the “first stage of the operation had been generally accomplished” as its forces were moved from areas around Kyiv towards the so-called “liberation” of the Russian-speaking Donbas region.
Mr Zelensky said in response that we “will defend ourselves” and “not give up anything Ukrainian”. The Russians will not have it all their own way in the Donbas as they will have to engage some of Kyiv’s most battle-hardened troops.
It is believed that 40-50,000 Ukrainian soldiers are operating in the region, with many of them involved in fighting Russian-backed separatists in the area over the last eight years.
Mr Zelensky said in a video message that “a very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive” but that his forces will continue to resist the invaders, going on to say that “no matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight”.
Despite this renewed attack, Kyiv officials stressed that the new Russian offensive did not mean that Moscow had ended its attacks on other parts of Ukraine, meaning that no one is safe from the missile and ground force attacks that have plagued the country since February 24.
So, Edinburgh can expect to see more Ukrainian women and children seeking shelter and, if my experience is anything to go by, I am sure that not only will the relevant authorities rise to the challenge but the general population, understanding what these families are going through, will do all that they can to extend a friendly welcome.