Ukraine's east is in turmoil. In the last week, the world's attention has shifted from Sloviansk to Donetsk to Odessa and now to the port city of Mariupol. Clashes between government forces and pro-Russian separatists have seen the felling of army helicopters, the seizure of government and municipal buildings and the declaration of independence by rebels.
Unrest in Lugansk
One hundred miles east of Sloviansk lies the city of Lugansk, the regional centre in the province (or “oblast”) of the same name. Lugansk, also known as “Luhansk” in the media, is home to one of our two SOS Children's Villages in Ukraine. Although the violence here has not reached the intensity of Sloviansk, Lugansk has not escaped the unrest. Earlier this week, armed rebels entered various buildings, including a TV studio, a police station and the prosecutor's office.
While the situation remains volatile, we believe children from our Village will be safest at home with their SOS families. We believe passionately that education is vital for children's future success. However, the dangerous and unpredictable conditions across eastern Ukraine mean that, for the moment, it is vital for the welfare of the children that they remain home from school. We are monitoring the situation carefully and will take steps to evacuate SOS families should this become necessary.
What is the cause of the crisis?
- The crisis began in November when protestors occupied Kiev's Independence Square to campaign against the government's decision to throw out a trade agreement with the EU.
- When government forces opened fire on prostestors, killing more than 70, opposition intensified and President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown and forced to flee the country.
- Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, a region of Ukraine with a Russian-speaking majority, sparking criticism from the West.
- Pro-Russian separatists within Ukraine have since attempted to secure independence but have met with resistence from the government.
How has the crisis affected SOS families in Ukraine?
We provide care for children at two SOS Children's Villages in Ukraine. Brovary is located around twenty miles from Ukraine's capital, Kiev. SOS families also live in house across the community in the city of Lugansk in eastern Ukraine. We call this an “integrated Village”, and this model is becoming more and more common in Europe as we adapt to provide children with the best care we can.
SOS mothers tell us that children in Lugansk are scared. It is the unpredictability of the situation which is most upsetting because families do not know how the crisis will develop. “At the moment it’s relatively stable here, but we are insecure,” says SOS mother Olga. We wanted the children to grow up, get an education, and find their place in life. Now we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”
Our Children's Village in Brovary, near the captial Kiev, is relatively unaffected. However, our team on the ground has reported that the conflict is having a profound psychological impact on the children who live there. The threat of war is not the only strain on families. Prices are rising as the crisis continues, making it increasingly difficult for people to afford everyday necessities such as bread and milk.
However the crisis develops, we will be there to ensure the welfare of the children we look after. Please keep an eye on our news section for further updates. Find out more about our work in Ukraine.