Red tape holding up refugees from reaching the UK could be distracting husbands and fathers left behind to fight Russian forces as they worry about the safety of their families who have fled, a former prime minister of Ukraine has said.
Volodymyr Groysman was Ukraine’s premier between 2016 and 2019, and has been warning about the threat from the Kremlin for many years.
He led a government taskforce coordinating investigations into the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down by a missile launched from an area of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists in July 2014.
He also led the resettlement of Ukrainians from the occupied Donbas and Crimea.
Now, although he remains in the country, his whereabouts are kept secret as he finds himself on Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s kill list as he works to defend his home.
Speaking to the PA news agency through a translator, Groysman had nothing but praise for Boris Johnson, calling the British prime minister, who has spoken most days to the country’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s number one ally.
Groysman said he had known Johnson “personally … for many years already.” “We’ve met on several occasions, I can tell you that he is real, he is genuine and he’s a strong world leader, who is clearly on the good side. We feel the support and we are very grateful for the support.”
But Groysman, who said he could hear bomber jets outside during his interview, said he was meeting every day those having to flee Ukraine, as he called the situation “tragic” and “very frightening”.
“I’m not only observing the pictures of those people, I’m also meeting those refugees on a daily basis,” he said.
“So this is a real nightmare for families and this nightmare, unfortunately, has a specific name. This nightmare’s name is Putin and he has to be punished for that and I’m sure, I can tell you for sure, that we are never going to forget what he has done to us.”
He said the country was “very grateful for everything the UK is doing for us in these difficult times” but said he was aware of some “technical difficulties” with refugees from Ukraine getting visas.
“If there is a possibility to cut this red tape for Ukrainians and to help those people of course it will be welcome, because I think you’re not going to regret the fact that you care about Ukrainians because Ukrainians are very good people, they are very bright, they need your help.”
He added: “You also need to understand that each father or each husband who is now holding arms in his hands, he is really distracted from this war with the fact if he hears that there are some kind of technical difficulties which his family is suffering. .”
Leveling up secretary Michael Gove is due to set out details of a new “sponsored” humanitarian route to allow Ukrainians without family links to the UK to come to the country.
The British Red Cross said the quickest way of fixing the problem would be to remove the requirement for a visa, which has been done in other countries.
Home Office minister Lady Williams of Trafford said on Friday that 1,305 visas for Ukrainian refugees had been issued as of Thursday morning.
Home secretary Priti Patel has said there will be a “streamlined approach” from Tuesday, and a government spokesperson said: “We are standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainians which is why we’ve made it easier for those with Ukrainian passports to come here. This is alongside changes to visas to ensure Ukrainians in the UK can stay here.
“We have expanded our visa application capacity to 13,000 a week, deployed additional staff across the EU, with a 24/7 helpline in place to ensure those who need appointments can get them to come here. This allows us to balance security risks while welcoming those in need.”
Groysman said it was “very important for people around Europe to know the truth and what’s happening today in the center of Europe”, as the Russian invasion entered its third week.
“We hear air alarms several times a day, we hear bombings, bombs are being dropped at our Ukrainian cities, and I really believe that this is a world war three already there and Putin started this world war three against Ukraine and against the western countries , against all the democratic countries of the world and his aim is to destroy the western values and the democratic world as we know it and the first country on his way was Ukraine.”
Groysman said he had been warning “all the time that there is a high risk of Putin becoming more and more aggressive”.
“I want to look into the future and to discuss what can be done now in order to stop Putin whom I these days refer to [as] modern Hitler,” he said.
But this would not include Ukraine accepting Moscow’s demands in negotiations that the independence of the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk was recognised.
“I’m with the majority of Ukrainians who don’t perceive such claims on behalf of Russia as adequate,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism