President Solih orders to facilitate return of Maldivians in Ukraine

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih speaking at a press conference.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Tuesday ordered to repatriate Maldivians residing in Ukraine amidst fears of a war breaking out between Ukraine and Russia.

According to the Spokesperson for the President’s Office Mabrook Azeez, upon the President’s orders, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has commenced efforts to bring back Maldivians.

Following this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that they are providing assistance to the students who wish to return to Maldives.

As per the Ministry at this time, they are not doing a full-scale evacuation. 

"We are not doing a full scale evacuation of Maldivians. We are providing financial assistance to the students who wish to return. As flights are operating and borders remain open as usual, students will be able to travel normally, via commercial flights."

Additionally, the ministry said that more information on the issue will be shared later.

There is a total of 50 Maldivians in Ukraine, from which 29 of them, are residing in an area called Kharkiv, which is the closest main city to the Russian border. Hence, with any attacks or an invasion, the city is very likely to be affected.

It was only a day prior to this that a Maldivian student in the Kharkiv city spoke to Sun and said that the fear of a war breaking out was widespread within Kharkiv, and the Maldivian students in the city want to return.

Since the air travel will shut down as soon as attacks begin, students are eager to fly back to Maldives at the earliest possible, said the student.

The Foreign Ministry had previously advised against travelling to Ukraine during this period of instability.

In a statement released on February 15, Maldivian students residing at Kharkiv stressed their proximity to the border and noted that none of the government authorities had contacted them regarding the matter. Subsequently, the students said that they had sought the contacts of the nearest Maldivian diplomatic mission to Ukraine – being the Embassy of Maldives in Germany – on their own.

The students also expressed disappointment over government officials making false statements with regard to how they have been handling the situation and having to chase after authorities to help evacuate from while they are so less in number – whereas countries that have more than 4000 students in Ukraine are evacuating them without them having asked for help.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalated when Ukraine initiated talks to join North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In mid-December 2021, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a set of demands which included a ban on Ukraine entering NATO and a reduction of NATO troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe in order for its military forces to be withdrawn.

These demands were rejected by the United States and other allies of NATO, and also warned that if Ukraine is invaded, there will be retaliation through means such as economic sanctions, and deploying assistance including small arms and other defensive weaponry. 

The situation continues to escalate, and along with it, the fear of war. Russia has stationed over 100,000 military personnel outside the borders of Ukraine as of the present.

Many countries have urged their nationals residing in Ukraine to leave the country, including the United States. Embassy of United States in Ukraine has also been shut down.