Be vigilant, be responsible for your security | 5 things we learnt from the embassy’s letter to Nigerians in Ukraine

Russia has launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine – land, air, sea, regarded as the most comprehensive attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.

The attacks began Thursday, February 24, after Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised address that he had approved a “special military operation”. This came after Moscow recognised rebel-held territories in Luhansk and Donetsk, saying they had asked for Russia’s “help”.

Putin justified the attacks, saying it is to protect people, including Russian citizens who have been subjected to “genocide” in Ukraine.

Russia has rained missiles on Ukranian cities. Russian troops attacked from Belarus as well as Russia with Belarusian support, and an attack was also launched from annexed Crimea, Ukraine’s border guard service said.

Ukranian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said martial law has been declared and he appealed to world leaders to impose all possible sanctions on Russia, including on Putin.

“Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes. This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now,” he said.

The Ukrainian government has shut its airspace to civilian flights citing a high risk of safety, while Russia suspended domestic flights at airports near its border with Ukraine until March 2.

In response to the build up of the attacks, the Nigerian embassy in Ukraine released a statement January 26, 2022, asked Nigerians in Ukraine to contact the embassy for enquiries, consular and welfare requests.

The letter advised Nigerians in Ukraine to “take their individual and collective safety and security very seriously.” It further asked Nigerian citizens to avoid “unnecessary travels within the country”.

The letter ended with a plan to make periodic “announcements as the need arises”. That is probably what informed another letter today, February 24, titled “NEW TRAVEL ADVICE BY THE EMBASSY OF NIGERIA, UKRAINE”.

The ‘lessons’ from the letter

The possibility of ‘calm’ in a furnace: Reports say Russia’s invasion has already taken lives – no confirmed number yet – and cities are being destroyed. Russia’s defence ministry said it had taken out military infrastructure at Ukrainian air-bases and degraded its air defences. There are possibilities of other countries joining the Ukrainian government to fight off Russia, but the embassy thinks calm is the right word to use.

Nigerians in Ukraine understand war, so they can protect themselves: The letter asks Nigerians to “stay vigilant and be responsible for their security and safety.” But, the January letter says Nigerians can call the embassy, providing phone numbers.

Relocation is a personal arrangement: The embassy agrees that the ‘war’ may turn out to be emotionally damaging, so Nigerians may consider temporary relocation at their own arrangement. In fact, “do all the needful to validate all their resident documents for ease of return to the country when desired.”

Students can relocate too – without the embassy’s interference: There is a call for students who wish to relocate to do so, but ensure they “seek proper clearance and guarantee from their respective institutions, authorities/agents…” Talk about an African parent asking the child to look left and right before crossing the road but won’t help the child cross that road. And yes, it’s more serious than that.

The embassy doors are open: The letter says Nigerians who “consider it appropriate” to stay in Ukraine can visit the embassy, as it’s consult duties and responsibilities have not ended.

However, the House of Representatives has offered to shoulder the immediate evacuation of Nigerians, students from Ukraine.

The House leader, Chair, Committee on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will travel to Ukraine Friday, February 25 for this reason. This is as Ukraine has shut its airspace for civilian flights.

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