The Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Iryna Vereshchuk, has urged Ukrainians who have left the embattled nation to stay in their host nations until spring. She says that Ukraine’s energy system “will not cope” if they return.

“We need to survive the winter,” Vereshchuk said, citing Russia’s recent attacks targeting energy infrastructure and causing blackouts across the country.

On Oct. 18, President Zelensky said that the strikes had “destroyed” a third of Ukraine’s power stations, adding that it was just one of many reasons why there is “no space left for negotiations with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s regime.”

Speaking on Ukrainian television on Oct. 25, Vereshchuk emphasized the seriousness of the situation, saying “we need to survive the winter” and warning that “the situation will only get worse.”

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“You see what Russia is doing,” she added, addressing Ukrainian refugees, of which the United Nations’ (UN) refugee agency estimates to number at least 7.7 million. “If it is possible, stay abroad for the time being.”

According to the agency, approximately one-quarter of Ukraine’s total population had left Ukraine for safer European nations by March 20, with 90 percent being women and children.

By the end of March, over half of all children in Ukraine had been taken to other countries, with Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion creating the largest refugee crisis since World War II.

ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 21, 2024
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Many want to return home

Talking to the BBC on Oct. 13, 32-year-old Ukrainian refugee Maryna Naumenko said that life in her temporary host city of Glasgow, Scotland, was comfortable.

“We are lucky because they are really great, they really support us a lot and give us freedom,” she said.

“We hope that we will win this war and we will be able to come home. We want to go home because part of my family – my husband, my father – they are in Ukraine, in Kyiv. It is great here [in Scotland], but we feel like our soul, part of our family, is at home.”

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Also in Glasgow, 35-year-old Olena Bolotova, who fled her home in Kharkiv with her 13-year-old son, told the BBC she was “very glad” to stay in “a beautiful city with an ancient history – but that longer-term housing was a concern.”

“It’s a problem to find it by ourselves because in Scotland there are lots of rules,” she said, adding that “it’s not easy for Ukrainians to rent apartments here” due to being unable to meet criteria set out by landlords or find the money for a deposit.

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