Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK has denied racism is to blame for discrimination at the border, and said “problems” arise because foreigners are being prioritised over Ukrainians trying to flee the country.
Appearing in front of parliament’s home affairs select committee, Vadym Prystaiko was questioned on the bigotry faced by Black and Asian people fleeing Ukraine after the Russian invasion, a number of whom said they were blocked from crossing to safety or refused a place on transport.
“Ukraine is a very homogenic society and [there are] not many people with different races on the streets,” Prystaiko said. “Foreigners do stick out of the crowd – it doesn’t mean we are racist.” He added: “We don’t want it to happen.”
Prystaiko claimed the “problems” are caused when young men with foreign passports are “prioritised over women and children of Ukrainian citizenship who are trying to get on the same trains”. He said police at the border need to do a better job explaining why Ukrainian men are forced to stay behind – men aged between 18 and 60 are unable to leave the country – while men from other nations were allowed through, citing this as the source of the conflict.
He said it was an issue primarily facing people from neighbouring nations, adding: “We’re not talking about different races, in most of the cases.”
He added: “Maybe we will have to gather foreigners in some other place so they won’t be visible and there won’t be conflict with Ukrainians trying to flee in the same direction. This is something that has to be taken care of and we will be doing it.”