Ukrainians living in Liverpool are becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of relatives in their homeland after Russian troops were ordered into two regions in Eastern Ukraine this week.
There were reports on Thursday that Russian forces have now launched a major military assault on Ukraine, with further reports of missile strikes and explosions across the country.
Rev Dr Taras Khomych, a senior lecturer in theology at Liverpool Hope University and priest of a Ukrainian parish in Liverpool, has spoken out about the ‘very dangerous situation’ in his native country.
Rev Khomych told LiverpoolWorld: “Ukrainians in Liverpool are worried for their relatives who live in Ukraine as well as for the native country as a whole, but they don’t want only to observe what is happening.”
Ukrainians living in Liverpool have been organising prayer services both in person and online and are trying to raise awareness about the situation in Ukraine.
Rev Khomych, who has been a priest for Liverpool’s Ukrainian catholic community based at St Sebastian’s RC Church since 2017, is on retreat this week at Hinsley Hall, Leeds, with other Ukrainian catholic clergy to pray for peace in Ukraine.
He said: “The most recent move of the Russian president, namely the recognition of the so-called separate republics in the East of Ukraine, violates international agreements and creates a very dangerous situation in Ukraine.
“Many Ukrainians feel extremely worried about this new development. At the same time, this is the latest step in the ongoing conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, which is going on since 2014.”
Rev Khomych said: “The Ukrainian army is defending the country and is ready to oppose the aggressor.
“Those who are not part of the armed forces at the moment, organise themselves in squads of territorial defence, preparing to defend their own cities or regions in case of Russian intrusion.
“Ukrainians in Liverpool are worried for their relatives who live in Ukraine as well as for the native country as a whole, but they don’t want only to observe what is happening.
“In addition to prayer services organised in person and online, we also organise different actions and appeals to do our best to continue raising awareness about the war and about Ukraine more generally, organising donations to humanitarian aid charities.”
A multi-faith service with prayers for peace in Ukraine was held at the start of February on the steps of Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral.
Liverpool academics give views about Putin and Ukraine
Meanwhile, academics at the University of Liverpool have written a blog about the Ukrainian crisis for the university.
Dr Alex MacKenzie, a lecturer in the department of politics who has researched the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, said: “I can’t see how it would be a short conflict for Russia.
“If there is going to be an invasion it will be pushed back on by Ukraine, which has improved militarily over the last ten years. They will fight and the population would be mostly hostile.”
Michael Hopkins, a reader in US foreign policy in the university’s department of history, believes Western governments have acted “much more in unison that Putin expected”.
Dr Hopkins said: “Putin is in the position now where if he doesn’t do something, if he decides to de-escalate, to move his forces back, it would all be rather humiliating for him.
“He is probably hoping there will be a negotiation where some gesture is made by the US, and I think Biden might be the kind of individual to do that.
“But I don’t think NATO is willing to make a commitment to not allow Ukraine to ever become a NATO member.”
Beatrice Penati, a lecturer in Russian and Eurasian history at the university, said: “I think Putin has climbed up a tree and is unable to get down – he has basically cornered himself.”