Fear grips M’sians in Ukraine

Defence mode: Ukrainian military vehicles moving past Independence square in central Kiev. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: “We cannot leave right now, we don’t know if the roads are clear, we don’t know where the Russian troops are.”

Software engineer Karuna Krishnasamy’s words echoed the anxiety and fear that the Malaysians in Ukraine are experiencing right now.

The handful of Malaysians currently living in Ukraine say they are going to stay put for now given the unfolding situation between Russian forces along the country’s eastern border.

Karuna, 29, who lives in Odessa with his girlfriend, said the Russians were already there.

“Cities across Ukraine are being hit, I am staying put for now until I know more,” he said when contacted by The Star.

In an earlier interview, Karuna, who is originally from Nilai, Negri Sembilan, said he and his girlfriend would not leave Ukraine until Russian troops actually start crossing the border.

“We live about 30km from the border with Moldova and we will head there if we need to evacuate.

“We hope it will not come to that, but at least we have a plan in place,” he said.

Karuna, who speaks fluent Russian, said he kept himself informed by reading Ukrainian and Russian news reports.

He said he generally avoided Western news sources because it was unnerving to read.

“The police have been put on enhanced duty, there are more patrols and security around key facilities. Also, all Ukrainian military personnel have been recalled from leave and are ready to be deployed,” he said.

Karuna, who has been living in Ukraine for five years, said the Ukrainian government reminded people to remain calm, saying they had taken the necessary precautions.

Another Malaysian who wanted to be known as Ahmad, 31, said there was panic and fear among the people in the capital, Kiev.

He said it was understandable given the present situation.

Originally from Ampang, Ahmad who has lived almost 10 years in Ukraine and speaks the local, German and Russian languages, said a lot of the news especially from the United States were blown out of proportion.

“This conflict is not new, it has been going on for eight years now in Donbass, in the eastern part of Ukraine. It is a Russian separatist controlled area.

“I will be staying put because there are no tanks or planes flying over here. Yes, they have imposed a martial law but that is a standard procedure as you can still go out and do normal things.

“They have shut down the airport and airspace because after what happened with Malaysia Airlines MH17, the government is taking a precautionary measure, which I think is for the best.

“There are lots of talks behind the scene. When there is conflict, someone always profits from it. If they really wanted the war to stop, there should be a political will to stop it but we don’t really know which side is profiting from this,” he said.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, when it was brought down by a missile while flying over Ukrainian airspace. All 298 people on board were killed in the incident.

A Dutch-led joint investigation team concluded that the airliner was downed by a Buk surface-to-air missile launched from pro-Russian separatist-controlled territory in Ukraine. Investigators traced the weapon used to Russia, which denies involvement.

Although many expatriates from the West have left, Ahmad was comfortable in the capital of Ukraine running his import and export business.

However the Malaysian embassy, his family and friends are in contact with him to ensure everything was okay.

“Not many Malaysians are here, and even I am unsure of the number. I don’t know another Malaysian other than the embassy people,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Malar Santhi Santherasegapan, who is known for her Facebook page ‘Celoteh Dr Malar’ where she shares information on public health, said she was sad to hear the news on Ukraine.

The doctor at a private hospital in the Klang Valley is an alumnus of the Crimea State Medical University in Simferopol, Ukraine.

“My heart is broken to read the news about Russia launching an attack on Ukraine. How can I not be (sad)... this was my home for six years and hundreds of students from Malaysia who studied medicine there,” she said in a Facebook post yesterday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine yesterday while its Interior Ministry said the “invasion has begun”, as there were reports of troops crossing the border from multiple directions, and explosions in several cities.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky also announced martial law across the country while urging the citizens to remain calm.

On Feb 13, Wisma Putra urged all Malaysians currently in Ukraine to immediately contact and register with the embassy in Kiev.

The ministry is also closely monitoring developments in and around Ukraine, especially concerning the Malaysian nationals registered with it, which included its nine staff members and their dependants.

Malaysians requiring consular assistance in Ukraine are advised to contact the Malaysian Embassy in Kiev at +380 442 855 271 or +380 988 387 885 (after working hours).

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