28 Feb 2022

New Zealanders with links to Ukraine say they feel horrified and helpless

8:02 am on 28 February 2022

New Zealanders with friends and whānau in Ukraine say they feel helpless and horrified at what is unfolding there.

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Ukraine supporters at a protest outside the Russian embassy in Wellington on Friday. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

A series of blasts were heard to the west of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv's centre, last night, minutes after air raid sirens sounded, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Local media also reported explosions and a gunfight in a nearby town as Kyiv citizens hunkered down, hiding in bunkers and underground train stations for another night.

Northland resident Olya Tolpyhina, whose parents are in Ukraine, said she is desperate to help.

"It's this helplessness that we all feel, how can we help? We know we should help but right now there's war, how do you help?

"The fighting is basically, it's our army and our men."

Follow RNZ's coverage of the Russia-Ukraine conflict here

Tolpyhina's parents live in the west of the country and chose to stay and fight - offering up their home to those who have been displaced.

The Ukranian government has banned all men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country, instead urging them to fight against Russian soldiers.

Wellington resident Andriy Legenkyy said some of his family in Kyiv hid in their bathroom as shelling struck nearby, but are determined to help any way they can.

"One of my family members has just joined the army and they are ready for street fighting in Kyiv, in case it's needed," he said.

"My father is a doctor, so they're preparing the hospitals for the wounded and doing operations."

He said those who join the army are given a machine gun and are quickly taught how to use it.

Legenkyy hopes the New Zealand government will offer emergency refugee visas to those in the Ukraine with family here.

He also wanted the government to consider extending the length of the temporary visas some Ukrainians hold in the country, as the fighting there continues.

Olya Tolpyhina has been donating to local aid groups on the ground in Ukraine and wants the West to keep the country in its thoughts.

"Once this is over, we'll have to rebuild," she said.

"There will be so many injured, so many devastated people. Homes will be lost, incomes will be lost.

"It will be absolutely heartbreaking. I have no words ... whatever support we can get to help us rebuild is needed."

Ukrainians and their supporters protested in Wellington against the invasion at the Russian Embassy in Karori on Friday and in Civic Square on Saturday.

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