Ukraine, till now was admirably successful in shifting the entire narrative in its favour. Be it the photo-ops of Volodymyr Zelensky or the staged surrender of Russian troops. But now all of it has come crashing down. In its desperation of garnering support from the international community the leadership in Ukraine has taken a really unethical step, i.e. holding international students hostage. The Ukrainian authorities and military men are involved in broad-based racism against the African and Indian students among others.
Nigerian students attempting to flee war-torn Ukraine have claimed that evacuees attempting to depart the country via neighbouring nations face racial discrimination.
But it’s not just the African students, Indian students stranded on the Ukraine-Poland border have been making increasingly distressing phone calls. As per reports and OSINT updates, students are saying that they were ‘manhandled’ and ‘ill-treated’ by Ukrainian security forces, purportedly because India abstained from the UN Security Council.
The way in which African and Indian students are being denied access to bordering nations shows the shallowness of the authorities and their desperate arm-twisting of the authorities in India and African nations to take a clear stand against Moscow, ‘for the safety of their citizens’.
Indian students: Hostages in Kyiv’s arm-twisting tactics
Many of the Indian students claimed that they were kicked, beaten up, dragged, and even had their phones seized from them as they were detained in freezing cold for over 72 hours. Reports mention students claiming that the Ukrainian authorities initially allowed some students to cross the border, but afterwards barred them from entering Poland.
Some of the students had to return from the Poland border, claimed reports. Students said that the ill-treatment was due to the Ukrainian personnel’s dissatisfaction with India’s preference for Russia. The Indian government’s cautious approach appears to have enraged the Ukrainian administration, which is now attempting to exploit trapped Indian students studying in Ukraine as a ‘leverage’ against India.
The Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said at the UNSC emergence session that countries that abstained from voting should have thought about it before making a choice.
Ukrainian amb at UNSC to India: "It is exactly the safety of your nationals, why you should have voted Yes to end the war."
Confirms that the Maidan regime is using Indians as 'hostages.' They are turning away planes sent from India, and are shelling border posts used by buses.
— Tarun Raju (@btarunr) February 26, 2022
Staying true to his diplomatic credentials, the Ukrainian Ambassador at UNSC, without naming India, the UAE or China, said, “It is exactly the safety of your nationals in Ukraine that you should be the first to vote to stop the war to save your nationals in Ukraine, and not to think that you should vote or not vote.”
African students face abject racism
Students are attempting to flee Ukraine as the country’s turmoil enters its fourth day. Several videos published on social media, however, appear to show situations at Ukraine’s borders where students from Africa and the Caribbean are blocked from leaving the nation in search of safe refuge. Africans being shoved off trains and at border crossings have gone viral on social media, provoking outrage and prompting comments of worry from the African leaders and officials.
Stephanie Hegarty of the BBC produced a series of tweets outlining the students’ ordeal. She said that as she was waiting to cross the border, a Nigerian medical student told her that Ukrainian guards refused to let black people cross and sent them back. “They have to let ‘Ukrainians’ through first,” she added.
A Nigerian medical student at Poland/Ukraine border (Medyka-Shehyni) told me she has been waiting 7hrs to cross, she says border guards are stopping black people and sending them to the back of the queue, saying they have to let 'Ukrainians' through first.
— Stephanie Hegarty (@stephhegarty) February 26, 2022
Another user, Nzekiev, claimed that Africans were the last to board any train. He also tweeted that Africans had been at the border for two days, but that the Ukraine Police and Army had refused to let them pass. He said in another video that Ukrainian security forces had threatened to shoot them. In the footage, the Africans can be heard saying, “We don’t have guns.”
In the train stations here in Kyiv, children first, women second, white men third, then the remaining is occupied by Africans. This means that we have waited for many hours for trains here & couldn’t enter because of this.
Majority of Africans are still waiting to get to Lviv.
— Nze (@nzekiev) February 25, 2022
In a tweet, Dr Ayoade Alakija, Special Envoy, ACT WHO, stated that Black Africans in Ukraine experience racism. She tweeted, “Black Africans are being treated with racism and contempt in Ukraine & Poland. West cannot ask African nations to stand in solidarity with them if they cannot display basic respect for us even in a time of war. Ignored in a pandemic and left to die in war?!! UNACCEPTABLE.”
A representative for the Polish border force stated that anyone from Ukraine is welcome to enter Poland. However, even after these statements, the problems that these international students of colour are facing makes an obvious case of racism laced with a touch of arm-twisting. The message from the Ukrainian authorities is clear. If you want the safety of your citizens, leave the diplomatically prudent position and crash on the side of Ukraine and its enablers.