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University of Edinburgh show support for students in Ukraine

After one week since the Russian government began its invasion of Ukraine, there have been significant and growing casualties of soldiers and civilians on both Ukrainian and Russian fronts. 

The United Nations have reported that over 600 Ukrainian civilians have died as a result of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Russian troops have shelled military targets and civilian areas such as schools, university buildings and residential areas. The real number of civilian casualties is likely to be much higher. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, stated that over 1.5 million refugees have now fled Ukraine; this mass exodus of refugees includes thousands of students both native to Ukraine as well as exchange students from around the world.

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According to the latest Ukrainian government data from 2020, around 76,000 foreign students were studying in Ukraine.

The outbreak of war has devastatingly impacted students who were studying in cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv, where there has been intense shelling and bombing from the Russian military.

A large proportion of foreign students, around 20,000, are from India. 

Naveen Shekharappa Gyandagoudar, a 21-year-old Indian student from Karnataka, was killed in Kharkiv on Tuesday March 1 whilst trying to buy food, when Russian missile strikes targeted the area.

On Wednesday March 3 Harjot Singh, a medical student from Delhi, was hospitalised in Kyiv after being shot whilst trying to escape the city. This comes after the Indian embassy in Kyiv urged students to leave Ukraine immediately.

The volatile and horrific situation evolving in Ukraine has undoubtedly affected students in Edinburgh. The Edinburgh University Polish Society has created an open letter, which more than 30 societies at the university have signed so far. 

The Polish Society has also organised pro-Ukraine protests outside the Main Library and at Bristo Square, where students have gathered to show their support. 

In response to the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine, the University of Edinburgh released the following statement:

“Our immediate focus has been on supporting affected students and staff. We have suspended all affected exchange programmes and have been supporting the safe repatriation of all affected students. 

“We value our exchange partnerships but we have a responsibility to act in the best interests of our students and to take decisive action when there are concerns for safety and wellbeing.

“We are working closely with students to minimise the impact of any disruption to their studies and to provide alternative placements. Ukrainian and Russian students who have been impacted financially can apply for hardship funding and their applications will be prioritised for assessment and payment.

“We are liaising with our civic partners at the City of Edinburgh Council to explore how we can best support the Ukrainian community at this time. The city of Edinburgh is twinned with Kyiv, and we stand ready to provide whatever support we can.  We will work with the Home Office, UUK and others to ensure a secure and welcoming environment for refugees and asylum seekers.

“In view of recent events and the sanctions that the UK has implemented against the Russian state, we are reviewing our collaborations to take account of any potential security risks.

“We are reviewing the implications for our endowment portfolio, a small proportion of which includes indirect investments in Russian-related assets. Where these are held in pooled funds, we are engaging with fund managers as part of our review.

“This is a highly distressing time for all of us and we encourage our students and staff to come together and support each other, as we look to the future with hope for peace.

“A second Vigil for Peace will be held on Wednesday 9 March from 12:15-12:45pm in The Sanctuary, The Chaplaincy Centre.

“We are here to support you if you have been affected by these events in any way, both through the University Chaplaincy and counselling services.”

Edinburgh University Students’ Association have also released a statement in support of students:

“As a Students’ Association, we want to voice our support for both our members impacted by this crisis, and the many friends, family members, and others with ties to our community, who have been affected by it. 

“The threat this conflict poses to the safety, security, and human rights of the people in the Ukraine cannot be understated, and after 77 years without war between major European powers, we hope the Edinburgh community will demonstrate its solidarity with the people of Ukraine and support their right to self-determination in the coming weeks. 

“Respect for each other, democracy, and the importance of peaceful dialogue are all central to our beliefs as a Students’ Association, values we hope all in our community will act in accordance with, as this crisis continues. 

“The University and Students’ Association are currently in close communication as this situation develops, ensuring that students and staff in affected areas have been contacted and are being supported. We especially extend our thoughts to our Ukrainian and Russian students and staff at Edinburgh during this time, and the Edinburgh students currently in, or returning from, Russia and affected regions.
“If you have been affected by the situation in the Ukraine, and need support, you can contact the Advice Place.”

Image courtesy of Ash Tomkins