Thousands of Ukrainians were deported to Russia. Many of them ended up in Siberia, on the border with North Korea. – They had no choice, says Rev. Grigory Miknov Vaitenko.
after, after weeks of bombing And artillery protection could finally the thousands of Ukrainians still remaining in the city of Mariupol Evacuated to safety. The Russians announced in late April that they had captured a strategically important port city located on the Sea of Azov in the breakaway Donetsk province in southeastern Ukraine.
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But evacuees should not be allowed into parts of Ukraine still under the control of the Kyiv government.
Instead, they were sent to enemy territory.
– Many of them told me that they preferred to travel to Ukrainian lands, but did not have the opportunity. They can travel to Russian lands, or they can stay in Mariupol. Russian priest and human rights activist Grigory Miknov-Vitenko tells VG that staying in the city is too dangerous.
Instead, several buses loaded with Ukrainians were taken from Mariupol and across the border into Russia. The same must have happened in Kharkiv.
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– It wasn’t that they brought a gun to the temple and were taken on an evacuation bus, but it wasn’t a voluntary evacuation either. The priest explains that they had no other choice.
And on the Russian side of the border, Miknov-Vytenko and the volunteer service he had put in place to help Ukrainian refugees coming to Russia waited.
The priest is a fierce critic of Putin, and he left the Russian Orthodox Church eight years ago, in protest of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Mikhnov Vaitenko is now Archbishop of the Baltic Orthodox Apostolic Church. In addition, he is the leader of the Monitoring Group of the Human Rights Council in Saint Petersburg.
Here it is sent
Ukrainian refugees were first taken by bus to the Russian cities of Taganrov and Rostov-on-Don, a few hours’ drive east of Mariupol. They were then taken on their evacuation trains to various places in Russia, according to the refugees’ own accounts.
– Many were sent to the area around the city of Vladivostok in the Far East, others were sent to the northern parts of Siberia. Just look at the map – all of Russia is involved in this, says Miknov-Vytenko for VG.
– These camps are far from civilization. The Russian priest says there are good places to rest, but not good places to live or work or have potential for anything.
– How are the conditions in these camps?
– This is Soviet-era clay that unions used to rest. The criterion is absolutely basic.
– Do you think that the Kremlin is trying to fill the pig areas of the country with this?
– No, I don’t think so, they don’t care what happens to these Ukrainians, answers Miknov-Vytenko.
Away from Vladivostok, 300 Ukrainian refugees have been persuaded to travel to the village of Vrangel, east of Vladivostok, according to the independent Russian online newspaper. medusa.
They are said to have received promises of free housing, low housing interest rates, and jobs, but none of the parts yet.
“I don’t know who to contact for help, and I don’t know what to do,” Olga, a Ukrainian nurse from Mariupol who was deported to Vrangel, told Medusa.
Severe lack of information
The Russian pastor says the refugees he and his colleagues are talking to are confused and desperate.
– They have been expelled from their country, they have no access to information. This is the biggest challenge, says the pastor on the phone from St. Petersburg.
Ukrainian refugees do not know what they are entitled to, where they can live, whether they can find work, whether they can travel abroad or whether they can return home in Ukraine. The priest says that most of them come almost empty-handed without much money or possessions.
– We tell them the rules, try to find places to live for them, book trips to other parts of Russia or abroad. We try to find medicine for those who need it, and educational materials for school children.
I started from scratch
Miknov-Vietenko says she has so far helped hundreds of refugees after more than three months of war. He says he lost count long ago.
– They are many. We have a little time to talk to everyone. We ask them where they want to go, whether they have relatives waiting in other countries and if they have identity documents. Then we say “good luck and be careful”.
According to the priest, there is no infrastructure to receive refugees to Russia.
– Nothing is prepared for this position. We organized ourselves from scratch.
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The priest says that Ukrainians living in old Soviet camps in Siberia and other regions are trying to get away from there.
Many of them prefer to return to Ukraine, but this takes several reasons: there is unsafe and constant fighting in several parts of the country, the Russian-Ukrainian border is closed to civilians. The same is the border between Ukraine and Belarus. Therefore, they must first go to Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia or Poland, and then cross into Ukraine.
– It is very difficult to organize their travel back home in Ukraine. The priest says it is easier for them to travel to Germany or other European countries.
He says he is not afraid
Are you putting yourself at risk by doing this job?
– No, I don’t have to hide the help I give.
– Have you openly criticized the Russian authorities before?
– Yes, because I am sure that politicians are anti-Christian, so I am against them. I am not against Russia, the Russian language or the Russian people. I am against the government and I am against war above all else. First Chechnya, then Crimea, then Syria, and now Ukraine. All these years, Russia has been at war, and I don’t understand what we are doing here.
– What do you think most Russians think of the invasion of Ukraine now?
There are more people questioning and opposing the war than the government gives an impression of in the propaganda we see in newspapers and on television. The priest answers: I think more than 80% are against the war.
He says he knows a lot of Russians who try to help Ukrainian refugees in Russia, like him.
There are countless examples of Russians spending money on Ukrainians, giving them assets and taking them home. But we do all this on our own – without the support of the authorities.
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