Local communities rally to help Ukrainians

By Connor Steel

GOSPORT AND FAREHAM residents have joined with others across Hampshire in a bid to help Ukrainian refugees; so far organising community fundraisers and organising a range of donations that are due to be transported to the region within the next week

It comes as Russia launched a large-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday morning under President Putin’s orders; with misses fired alongside heavy fighting occurring in major cities across the country including Kiev, Dnipro and Kharkiv.

The Kremlin’s decision to invade marks a dramatic escalation in the Russo-Ukrainian war that started eight years ago with Russia annexing the region of Crimea in 2014; this latest move condemned by international leaders including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

The opening four days of conflict has seen an unknown total of deaths and injuries on both sides; Russia being repelled by Ukraine and have not yet taken control of any city, with President Putin putting his country’s nuclear deterrents on ‘special alert’ in his Sunday statement.

Sunday also saw a small glimmer of hope for peace in the region as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed talks would be held between Kiev and Moscow on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. This development comes following phone discussions and a meeting place near the Pripyat River, but it is extremely unclear how successful negotiations will be.

In the meantime large economic sanction packages have been announced by UK, American and European governments in a bid to isolate Russia financially; with further measures planned if the conflict worsens, But there is immediate concern about the approximately 350,000 displaced refugees who have fled their homes in Ukraine so far as fighting intensifies.

Downing Street and Boris Johnson have vowed that Britain will offer an intense resettlement programme; with Whitehall officials working on full details and an announcement is likely to be made in the coming days. Currently any refugees will have to apply for visas before being allowed to enter.

In response the Labour leader slammed the slow approach as he said: “The Government has got this one wrong. They are applying the same rules as they had before. That means Ukrainian refugees who want to come here must apply for visas first. We must help Ukrainian people looking for safety. That is what we have always done as a country in a moment like this.”

And communities across the country have vowed their support to refugees including Hampshire; with Portsmouth-based Ukrainians launching a social media appeal for aid from local supporters translated as: “Aid for refugees from Ukraine – Portsmouth, Bognor Regis and surroundings”. By Sunday evening a total of over 700 members had joined the group with many residents offering their addresses as drop-off points for the much needed donations from the community.

At the time of writing on Sunday (9pm) there is one drop off point in Gosport, two in Fareham and three in Whiteley. All addresses and contact information can be found on this Facebook post, which will be updated regularly by organisers and the first packages are currently scheduled to be sent to Poland next Saturday (March 5) via Maya Delicatessen Portsmouth with transport seemingly arranged.

Organisers have requested a long list of products that can be included in packages and are welcome to further suggestions as the conflict continues. These cover hygiene products such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, nappies, sanitary pads and paper towels; working alongside medical supplies such as painkillers, wound packs, and face masks.  More pressingly is the need for thermal blankets, power generators, sleeping bags and winter clothes (both child and adult sizes); with the majority of refugees seeking safety in low temperatures and heavy snowfall.

Crowdfunding links have also been launched by national groups that have raised thousands of pounds for Ukrainian refugees, including one by the Hookers and Clickers Do It for Charity that has raised over £1200 for urgent aid. Readers are asked to keep an eye out on local groups for potential announcements of ‘localised Ukraine fundraisers’ as the conflict develops.

And in one final show of unity across the area on Sunday night, the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth was again lit up in yellow and blue to solidary with Ukraine; whilst flags could be made visible around Fareham Town Centre in the coming days pending approval. This follows a display of lights at various UK landmarks such as Downing Street and Liverpool’s St George’s Hall; joining similar worldwide events.

PICTURED BY BBC NEWS: Scene in Ukraine as explosions and intense fighting hit the European country following Russian military invasion that began on Thursday.