June 2022 Newsletter Newsletter

June Update on the War in Ukraine

Good News

  • Kalush Orchestra, the Ukrainian entry, won the Eurovision Song Contest on 14 May. The band members had special permission to leave Ukraine and had to return on the following Monday. The Orchestra then sold their trophy, raising £712,000 to buy drones for the military. 
  • Russian human rights activists have formed an ‘underground railroad’ that is helping Ukrainians transported to Russia to escape to the West.
  • A British man along with Special Forces veterans have evacuated 1,500 orphans at risk of being trafficked from Ukraine. According to the UN, 100,000 children in Ukraine were living in institutions when Russia launched its invasion.
  • Oxford University has launched a scholarship scheme for Ukrainian refugees. It will run from September, with up to 20 scholarships awarded to graduates who are ordinarily resident in Ukraine.
  • Russia house in Davos, the venue in which Russians formerly stayed during the World Economic Forum, has been turned into an exhibition highlighting alleged Russian atrocities in Ukraine.

Schemes for Ukrainian Refugees

  • Long delays continue to plague visa applications under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. The most recent figures (30 May) show that 120,200 visas have been issued through the Homes for Ukraine and Ukraine Family Scheme. Only about 50% of applicants are being successfully processed through to arrival in the UK.
  • Mothers granted a visa under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme sometimes find that their babies and young children are not. This means they have to obtain Biometric Residence Permits from an approved centre which may be hundreds of miles away, possibly via areas under attack from Russian forces. One sponsor described the system as ‘unnecessarily slow, unnecessarily complicated and unnecessarily cruel’. 
  • Ukrainian refugees staying with family in the UK receive no financial or other support from local authorities; nor do the family members. This has meant financial hardship for some. In contrast, sponsors in the Homes for Ukraine scheme get £350 per month and an initial payment of £200 to help with the additional costs, thus creating a ‘two-tier system.’ 
  • Lone Ukrainian teenagers are being blocked from the Homes for Ukraine Scheme because they would be travelling without their legal guardian and because of safeguarding concerns. The UK director of Save the Children has said it was important to balance the ‘competing dangers’ of them remaining in Ukraine or other countries alone or bringing them to the UK. He was concerned about organised crime preying on such children and recommended the placement of specialists who could make an informed assessment on a case-by-case basis. 
  • A Home Office official suggested that Ukrainian refugees crossing into Northern Ireland from Eire without a visa would be eligible for the scheme to send refugees to Rwanda. However, the Prime Minister has insisted that would not be the case, raising questions about the treatment of non-Ukrainians refugees who follow the same route.

War Crimes

  • In May, Amnesty reported, as had other groups previously, that there was compelling evidence that Russian troops has committed war crimes, including extrajudicial executions, rape and the torture of civilians. 
  • The International Criminal Court announced that 42 investigators will be sent to Ukraine to investigate war crimes committed by Russian troops. UK experts are amongst these. 
  • Around 15,000 suspected war crimes have been reported in Ukraine since the war began, with 200 to 300 more reported daily. Some 600 suspects have been identified and 80 prosecutions have begun.
  • Newspapers have reported that Russia planned to deport 2mn Ukrainians and that plans for 1,320 transit centres were drawn up pre-invasion. By mid-May about 1.2mn people had been taken to Russia, some more than 5,000 miles from the border including to Siberia, the Caucasus, the Arctic Circle and the Far East. This constitutes forced transfer under international humanitarian law.
  • So-called ‘filtration camps’ have been set up in occupied parts of Ukraine to distinguish people deemed enemies of Russia from those to be funnelled into Russia. Thousands of the former are being used as forced labour to remove evidence of mass slaughter or to check buildings for mines. Others are being held in two prisons in the Donetsk region renowned for using torture. An estimated one in ten people ‘fail’ the filtration system.
  • About 2,000 children have been removed from Ukrainian orphanages and Putin has announced that rules for adopting children from Ukraine have been eased.
  • The first war crime prosecution of a member of the Russian military started on 13 May in a civilian court. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old tank commander, confessed to being ordered by a superior to kill a man so that he would not report the soldiers to a Ukrainian unit. He said that he repented, did not want to kill and only fired the rounds after twice refusing to carry out the order to shoot. On 23 May, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. 
  • On 31 May, a Ukrainian court sentenced two members of a Russian artillery unit to 11 and a half years each in jail for shelling the town of Derhachi in eastern Ukraine.
  • Russian leaders have called for the almost 2,000 members of the Ukrainian military and Azov Battalion evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol to face a war crimes tribunal, with some calling for them to face the death penalty. 

More Bad News

  • High-end British-made electronics have been discovered in armaments being used by Russian forces in Ukraine. An investigation has been ordered by the government.
  • Britain has imported £400mn of Russian diesel since the invasion of Ukraine. Figures collated by Vortexa show 13 vessels carrying 410,000 tons of it arriving since 1 March. Ships not registered in Russia are still permitted to carry its oil and coal.
  • Figures compiled by Thomson Reuters showed a massive increase in online demand for sex with Ukrainian women since the Russian invasion, prompting UK charities to urge the government to introduce anti-exploitation safety measures.
  • A helpline in Poland has received five times the normal number of calls about trafficking since the war in Ukraine began, prompting calls for urgent government action to prevent sex and labour exploitation. A report released by the anti-trafficking NGOs La Strada and The Freedom Fund said refugees were being targeted by strangers at the border, in shelters and online. They urge prompt registration of refugees in the country of arrival.
  • Research carried out by Age International found that 91 per cent of older people in Ukraine do not have enough to eat and that 79 per cent do not have access to clean drinking water. The managing director said that staying in Ukraine for many meant not only living in a constant state of fear but also saying goodbye to their families, friends and neighbours.
  • According to UNICEF, at least 100 Ukrainian children were killed in April alone.
  • It is claimed that residents of Russian-occupied Mariupol are being forced into labour for food.
  • Romani refugees fleeing Ukraine are being housed away from others in Moldova, a practice which amounts to discriminatory treatment according to Human Rights Watch.