Lugansk (also known as “Luhansk”) is the administrative centre of Ukraine’s most easterly province (or oblast). It is located around 400 miles from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the disputed territory which occupies most of the Crimean peninsula. However, the province borders Russia and many of its inhabitants are Russian speaking, and Russian has the status of second official language. Many people in the province hold pro-Russian views, and some are sympathetic to the idea of separation from Ukraine.
So far, our SOS Children’s Village in Lugansk is unaffected by the unrest. All SOS families are safe and the Village has experienced no violence. Our families in the capital Kiev also remain safe, as well as those we support in the community. Our current concern is the worsening economic situation and the effect it might have on government subsidies for our work. As ever, we are doing all we can to protect our children and ensure that they are shielded from the changing political situation.
Why is Ukraine in turmoil?
Unrest has affected Ukraine since November, when the cabinet of ousted premier Viktor Yanukovych threw out an agreement for closer ties with the EU which was seen by some as a swing away from Russia. Early December saw 800,000 protesters gather in Kiev’s Independence Square and City Hall.
Over the following months, violence between the police and protesters resulted in the deaths of 77 civilians. As the violence escalated, President Yanukovych signed a compromise deal. The following day, he fled the country, claiming to have been overthrown in a political coup.
The situation today
Olexandr Turchynov was appointed as interim president following Yanukovych’s departure. Parliament then voted to refer President Yanukovych and his key supporters to the International Criminal Court for their involvement in the deaths of protesters. Shortly afterwards, Russia stepped up its military presence in Crimea, an autonomous republic which became part of Ukraine after its formation following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This has sparked outrage from the international community, although Russia claims it is merely protecting its interest and that of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine. No blood has been shed so far, but Russia declares it reserves the right to use military force to protect these interests if necessary.
Ukraine’s economic woes were key in sparking the unrest. Today, the country remains on the brink of defaulting on its foreign debt.
What is SOS Children doing to help families in Ukraine?
Ukraine's tough economic conditions mean that many families struggle to stay afloat. More than a third of people live below the national poverty line, joblessness is high, and the country has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in Europe. Many children grow up without their parents, most of whom are placed in institutions which do little to prepare them to succeed in later life.
We are there to provide care to the most vulnerable of these children. In 2003, we began supporting fragile families in the Podol district of Kiev. By distributing food parcels, we helped impoverished families in the short-term, and over time, we have helped many get back on their feet through ongoing support.
In 2010, we opened a Children's Village in Brovary, just 15 miles from the centre of the capital. Here, we care for nearly one hundred children, offering them a loving home in an SOS family, and the long-term support they need to thrive. Since October last year, we have offered care to children at our Children’s Village in Lugansk, and today, we support 137 families in the local community as well.
You can help. By sponsoring a Children's Village with SOS Children, you can give Ukraine's most vulnerable children a loving home:
Alternatively, find out more about our work in Ukraine.