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Foreigners fleeing Ukraine claim border guards assaulted non-Ukrainians

Mar 2, 2022, 13:13 IST
Business Insider
Non-Ukrainian citizens from India, African countries, and the Middle East seen after crossing the Ukrainian-Polish border on Tuesday.Beata Zawrzel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Two Africans attempting to flee Ukraine said guards at the Poland-Ukraine border were abusive towards non-Ukrainians.
  • One medical student told The New York Times he was beaten so badly that he "couldn't walk."
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Two Africans trying to flee Ukraine amid Russia's invasion have claimed that Ukrainian border guards assaulted non-Ukrainians as they attempted to leave the country.

A Nigerian doctor, 24-year-old Chineye Mbagwu, told The New York Times that she witnessed Ukrainian guards preventing foreigners from crossing the Poland-Ukraine border and "beating up people with sticks."

"They would slap them, beat them, and push them to the end of the queue. It was awful," she told The Times.

Another escapee, 22-year-old French-Tunisian medical student Ahmed Habboubi, said the "Ukrainian army" had beaten him so severely that he "couldn't walk," The Times reported.

Habboubi said that foreigners were directed to a border gate that could only process four people an hour while Ukrainians were freely allowed through another passageway, according to the outlet. He added that he was taken "straight to the hospital" by Polish authorities once he crossed the border, per The Times.

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According to Ukraine's education ministry, around 16,000 students from Morocco, Nigeria, and Egypt live in Ukraine, per Reuters.

Earlier this week, several African students studying in Ukraine shared with Insider's Alia Shoaib their experience of trying to leave the country.

"We're not getting any help from any of the embassies. They have pretty much just said, 'save yourselves,'" said Korrine Sky, a 26-year-old medical student.

"Some people have gone to get buses, but they're not allowing Black people basically onto the buses. They're prioritizing Ukrainians," added Sky, who is a British citizen of African heritage.

Reports have also emerged on Twitter of Black people being barred from various forms of transport departing Ukraine. In one video, a Twitter user wrote that African families had been left stranded at a train station.

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However, some foreigners — including a Pakistani student, an Afghan national, a Moroccan student, and several Vietnamese workers — told The Times that they crossed the border into Poland or Moldova without any issues.

Ukraine's Deputy Interior Minister Anton Heraschenko has denied that the country was stopping foreigners from leaving, per The Times.

"We are first to release women and children. Foreign men must wait for women and children to come forward. We will release all foreigners without hindrance," he told The Times. "Same goes for blacks."

Ukraine's Ministry of Interior Affairs did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Intense fighting continues in Ukraine, nearly a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a "special military operation" in the country.

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