Ukrainians in S'pore anxious over Russian troop build-up, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Ukrainians in S'pore anxious over Russian troop build-up

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The Ukrainian community in Singapore is on tenterhooks after the recent Russian troop build-up on the Ukrainian border, with some fearing an invasion and others hopeful of a diplomatic de-escalation.

Ms Galyna Kogut, president of the Ukrainian Club in Singapore, told The Straits Times that there is "definitely a lot of anxiety" over what could possibly happen.

She and several club members have been watching the situation, though they have not had large group discussions in person because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The club, which has a few hundred active members, used to organise parties and gatherings during festive seasons to unite the 450 or so Ukrainians living here.

Asked about the similarity of the current situation to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ms Kogut said: "There was an internal Ukrainian crisis then, and the Russians capitalised on that... They started attacking people in the streets and annexed part of Ukraine (Crimea).

"At that point in time, it was very surprising that they did that, and that tells me that this country can do anything, so there is a much higher level of anxiety at the moment," she added.

Mr Kostiantyn Terekhov, 42, a manager in a shipping company here, feels that the anxiety of not knowing if an invasion is imminent is debilitating.

"My parents live just 50km from Crimea, which is temporarily occupied by Russia, so we worry a lot. Crimea is still under Russian control, and now that we know what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is capable of, I hope Ukraine will be better prepared in case of an invasion," he said.

He makes it a point to ensure that his children - aged five, seven and 11 - are aware of Ukrainian history and Russian aggression, to inculcate in them a sense of national identity. The children are enrolled in weekly Ukrainian lessons and are exposed to books and texts from their home country.

Russia's recent deployment of around 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border comes amid demands for the West to bar Ukraine from ever joining Nato, and for the military alliance to pull back troops and weapons from Eastern Europe to the levels in the 1990s.

Last Friday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US was committed to helping Ukraine defend itself, through the provision of more weaponry given that Russia had amassed enough military capacity to attack Ukraine.

Since then, Russian and Ukrainian representatives have agreed to preserve a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine to hold new talks in Berlin this month.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has downplayed the possibility of an invasion amid escalating tensions, for fear of hurting the country's battered economy.

Some Ukrainians here remain hopeful the situation will take a turn for the better and war can be averted, especially with diplomatic negotiations under way.