Stranded in Ukraine's Kherson: Egyptians want to go back home

Zeinab El-Gundy , Wednesday 2 Mar 2022

A group of Egyptians trapped in the Ukrainian city of Kherson, which fell under Russian control on Tuesday, are pleading to be evacuated from the city as the fight gets more intense.

Russian troops
Russian troops reached Kherson. Photo courtesy of The Moscow Times website.

We are a group of at least 55 Egyptians who live in Kherson and its outskirts. We have been trapped here for six days and cannot find a way out," Mohamed Samir told Ahram Online on Tuesday evening.


Some of the youngest members of the group are two years old, he added, noting that a number of Egyptians are married to Ukrainian women and are now trying to find a way back home after Kherson, which is close to Crimea, has fallen into the hands of the Russians. 


Earlier on Tuesday, the Mayor of Kherson Igor Kolykhayev announced that the Russian army had reached the city and set up checkpoints on its outskirts after intense fights that lasted for days.


Videos showing the Russian army entering the city have surfaced.


Kherson has a population of around 280,000 and lies north of the Crimea peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014.


Russia claimed to have besieged the city on Sunday.


“Russian troops are patrolling the city and searching houses. It is not safe here at all,” Samir said. 


The Egyptians stranded in Kherson managed to get in touch with the head of the Egyptian community in Ukraine Ali Farouk five days ago. However, he has not answered their calls since, they said.


Ahram Online called Farouk on his cell phone on Tuesday but he did not pick up. 


The group said they also failed to contact the Egyptian Embassy in Kyiv.


“We want to go back home like the other Egyptians who were repatriated from Ukraine,” Samir said.


An official source in the Egyptian Ministry and Expatriate Affairs told Ahram Online on Wednesday that Egypt is aware of the situation and is comunicatiing with Russia to try to evacuate the stranded Egyptians in Kherson and similar areas in the nearest time possible.


On Tuesday evening the first group of Egyptian students residing in Ukraine returned to Cairo from Bucharest on a CairoAir plane that flew to Romania as per the directives of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.


The Egyptian Embassy in Kyiv had earlier stated it was difficult to reach Egyptians in the cities of Kharkiv, Kherson, and Dnipro due to the military operations and unsafe roads.


It requested Egyptians trapped in these cities to stay safe and to follow the embassy's instructions.


Nonetheless, the group are extremely worried about their safety, Samir continued. 


“I paid $3,000 to a taxi driver to get me out of the city. We failed due to the shelling and turned back,” he added.


The situation is made worse by the constant power and water cuts, Samir said. 


“We can’t go out to buy food because of the ongoing conflict. The streets are not safe,” he added. 


At present, the majority of the Egyptians stranded in Kherson are taking refuge at a shelter, while Samir and a few others are staying at a nearby one-storey house waiting for a chance to join the others. 


Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine started last week, around 6,000 Egyptians had been living in Ukraine, including 3,000 youths who study in Ukrainian universities, especially medicine.


The Russian invasion has thus far claimed scores of lives, forcing more than 500,000 people to flee from the country, according to the UN.


No deaths have been recorded among Egyptians in Ukraine, but one injury was reported of a man who was hit in an air strike in Kharkiv over the weekend and is currently in a stable condition, according to officials.


The government has instructed the Egyptian Embassy in Kyiv to provide all the necessary support and care to the injured Egyptian nationals and other Egyptian expats in Ukraine.


More than 1,200 Egyptian students arrived in Poland and 250 others reached Romania from Ukraine, Egypt’s Minister of Emigration and Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram said on Monday.

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