Ukraine: Snow and frost do not stop escape in Palanca Ukraine: Snow and frost do not stop escape in Palanca  (ANSA)

Former British Ambassador to Ukraine says war must be brought to an end

As more than 2.5 million people flee Ukraine, the Chairman of the Ukrainian Institute in London and former British Ambassador to Ukraine, Robert Brinkley, speaks about the destruction of a country he knows so well, the importance of welcoming refugees, and the powerful voice of leaders like Pope Francis at this time.

By Lydia O’Kane

More than two weeks on from the Russian invasion of Ukraine the humanitarian crisis continues to grow.

The United Nations said on Friday that more than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine as of March 11.

That figure is an increase of 200,000 refugees since the International Organisation for Migration's last report through to March 10.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday that at least 1.85 million people were displaced inside Ukraine.

Humanitarian corridors

Aid agencies working in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries have stressed the need for humanitarian corridors to give people the opportunity to flee intense bombardments.

The medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has stressed that “one-off humanitarian corridors can be helpful, but are not enough.” It adds that safe passage for those willing and able to escape should be urgently assured across war-affected areas inside Ukraine, “regardless of the existence of humanitarian corridors or ceasefires that may temporarily be put in place.”

Robert Brinkley is a former British Ambassador to Ukraine and Chairman of the Ukrainian Institute in London. Speaking to Vatican Radio, he said it was horrific to see the destruction of a country he knows so well.

“The situation is appalling and it’s heartbreaking particularly as I’ve lived in Ukraine and know many people there. It’s tragic the way in which Russia is bombarding innocent civilians in cities, and trapping them, not allowing them safe passage out or food and medical supplies in.”

Plight of refugees

Since the start of the war, European countries have been welcoming refugees fleeing Ukraine. The European Union is allowing Ukrainians a three-year residency without the need for a visa. But the UK has taken in only 1,000 refugees so far and is retaining controls on entry.

On Wednesday, London Church leaders called on the British Government to make it easier for Ukrainians fleeing war to come to the UK.

Facing criticism, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson Friday announced a new scheme that would allow Britons to welcome Ukrainian refugees into their homes.

Addressing this issue, Mr. Brinkley said the way in which the countries of central Europe are welcoming Ukrainian refugees was tremendously heartening.  He noted that the British Government had already announced two new routes for Ukrainians to get visas to come into the UK. However, he said, “I think they could have acted faster and they can probably still go further.”

Listen to the interview

Promoting peace

Around the world, millions of people are showing solidarity with the people of Ukraine, whether it be peace rallies or prayer vigils in order to bring this war to an end.

At last Sunday’s Angelus, Pope Francis called for the “armed attacks” to cease and that "negotiation - and common sense - prevail.”

“The voice of Pope Francis is one which is listened to throughout the world,” said the former ambassador.

“I’m constantly, like many other people around the world, praying for peace, praying for Ukraine to be delivered from evil. I know the Pope is praying hard as well, and I hope that he will discern a way he can use his great influence to bring peace.”

Generosity and compassion

Mr. Brinkley is the current Chairman of the Ukraine Institute in London, which is a centre for Ukraine-related educational and cultural activities. It also highlights important contemporary and historical issues affecting not just Ukraine but also the wider world.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine over two weeks ago, staff at the Institute have been rushed off their feet doing what they can to help, and have also been liaising with the Ukrainian Eparch of the Holy Family Cathedral in London, Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski. The Institute’s website also provides information for those who want to support the people of Ukraine through donations.

Futility of war

In just a short space of time, the effects of this war have already been catastrophic. Over 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country, many have been killed, the country’s cultural heritage is being reduced to rubble and many children have had their education interrupted.

“This is the horror and devastation of war and this war is completely unnecessary,” said Mr. Brinkley, adding, “this is not a war of the Russian people.” He went on to say that “it flies completely in the face of Russia’s commitments under international law, under the United Nations Charter, and it must be brought to an end as soon as possible.”

11 March 2022, 14:03