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February 15, 2022
Paul Anticoni

Update: Ukraine-Russia Border Tensions


Update: Ukraine-Russia Border Tensions

By Paul Anticoni

As it is widely reported that Russia has 100,000 soldiers on its border with Ukraine, we are in close contact with our local partners in the country and prepared to scale up our support for them at any moment. Today’s report that Russia is pulling back some of its troops is of little reassurance to our client group, particularly in eastern and southern Ukraine, for whom memories of violence in 2014 are still fresh.

We have worked in Ukraine since 1989 supporting a primarily Jewish client group to find sustainable employment, and to meet the needs of older people so they can live their later years with dignity. This past year we assisted 13,000 people in the country through 29 local partners, including communities in separatist controlled Donetsk. And many of the participants on our employment programmes are internally displaced people, who were forced to flee their homes in eastern and southern Ukraine during the 2014 conflict.

Protracted tensions over the past weeks and months have left the 13,000 people we support in the country in a state of panic. One partner said:

The powerful flow of information from the media about the imminent threat of war, painting visuals of rocket attacks and bomber airstrikes, causes much grief and anxiety amongst our elderly clients. Considering this information is only repeated again and again with heightened urgency, it puts people in a state of panic and hysteria. Our employees are in touch with clients, trying to calm and support them.

We hope for a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the tensions. We are monitoring the situation very closely, and ensuring we are prepared for a worst case scenario amid growing fears of a Russian invasion. The outbreak of war could be catastrophic for the older people we support in particular, who are already feeling the effects of rising tensions, rising utility bills and soaring living costs. They rely on deliveries and home visits from our partners, are often not able to leave their houses to go out and about. They would be severely impacted by, for example, disruptions to the supply chain or a banking collapse meaning they are unable to access their pensions.

Partners tell us they are making contingency plans in case of an incursion. These include planning alternative routes around the city in case transport links go down, and storing up non-perishable foods, water, blankets, torches and matches in case supply chains are affected. They are continuing their social activities, to keep older clients busy, preventing a cycle of fear and isolation. We are in regular contact with our partners and preparing to offer vital support should the worst happen.

As the political situation continues to make headlines, we hope people will consider the human and civilian impacts of a conflict, which could be catastrophic.

We have not launched a fundraising appeal at this stage, but we are poised to do so should additional funds be needed to have the greatest impact possible on the ground.