By Marcel Gascón
Siret, Romania-Ukraine border, Mar 8 (EFE).- Russian president Vladimir Putin has presented his invasion of Ukraine as an operation to “denazify” the country and liberate the population from the yoke of what he claims is an ultra-nationalist and fascist regime.
But Russia’s military offensive against its smaller neighbor is affecting the lives of millions — and has cut hundreds short so far — including the country’s ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities who, according to the Kremlin, need to be freed.
Thousands of Ukrainians of Jewish, Tartar, Romanian, Bulgarian and even Russian origin cross the border into Romania each day, fleeing the bombs and missiles that Russian troops have rained down on Ukraine’s cities and towns in the name of “liberation.”
“What the Russians are doing is worse than fascism,” Viktoriia Klymenko, the head of a pediatric ward in Kharkiv, located in eastern Ukraine, where around half of the population identify as ethnic Russian, told Efe as she waited to cross the Romanian border.
As well as Ukrainians fleeing from predominantly Russian-speaking areas like Kharkiv and Odesa, a steady flow of Ukrainian Jews arrive at the Romanian border.
Some have Israeli nationality, which permits them to cross the border even if they are men who fall within the 18-60 age group called up to serve Ukraine against Russia.
“From Bucharest we will travel to Israel, then we’ll decide what to do,” Dmytro, a 28-year-old from Kropyvnytskyi, central Ukraine, told Efe.
David Saranga, Israel’s ambassador in Bucharest, said 4,000 Israeli citizens had crossed the border from Ukraine to Romania.
Ukrainians of Romanian origin have arrived at the border region in their hundreds while those of Bulgarian origin, including Bessarabian Bulgarian, are being picked up by transport sent by Sofia.
Turkey on Monday said it had repatriated 12,000 of its nationals from Ukraine. Ankara is also helping citizens from Turkic countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
Turkey’s emergency response service AFAD told Efe that hundreds of women, children and older people of Tatar ethnicity had also crossed into Romania.
Thousands of ethnic Tatars were forced to flee from the Crimean Peninsula when Russia annexed the territory from Ukraine in 2014. EFE