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By: Andrew Kathindi

The night sky turned bright orange in the very early morning hours of Thursday morning in the capital city of Kyiv, Ukraine.

Opoili Kavela, a student at International European University in the eastern European nation, says he was still trying to go back to sleep when he heard the loud bangs. The sun had not yet risen.

“I was about to sleep, and I heard explosions close by. The explosions were so loud that the alarms of cars in the surrounding went off. I heard four more explosions, and I thought, ‘This is not happening,'” he tells The Villager.

The tensions between Ukraine, Russia and the rest of the world have been building for months. In reality, the complex dispute has been heating up since Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Kavela just went there to study medicine. He is a first-year medical student in his second semester.

“I’m frightened. I’m anxious. There were bombings. It was so worrying because they were so loud. It was like lightning struck at night. The sky turned orange.”

Following the explosions of what is considered the most significant invasion by a European nation into another sovereign territory since World War 2, Kavela says he turned to the news that informed him that Putin had sent air missiles into Ukraine.

According to the newly updated maps, the troops are no longer along the borders; they are in the cities.

“In the morning, people were panicking, packing and leaving, which made us anxious, and we started packing. We wanted to go to Lviv, the only safe city because it is close to Poland, and Poland is part of NATO. I tried booking trains, but it is fully booked. If we have to take a bus, it will take 9 hours to get there. They have fired some missiles at some cities in Ukraine, and they destroyed some buildings.”

He says that he has been informed that Russian troops blocked some highways. They are stuck in the cities.

There are currently around 100 Namibians, including 92 students in Ukraine.

“It’s very nerve-wracking. I never imagined myself being in a war. I’m not sure if things are going to happen. Some of the Ukrainians are still going to work. They are trying not to panic, as their government has told them.

“We have tried to talk to the Namibian embassy in Russia and countries bordering Ukraine, as we don’t have one in Ukraine. We reached out to the home affairs and immigration ministry, and we still haven’t heard anything back. We did reach out to someone who works there who told us they reached out to the minister who has delegated someone to work on it.”

According to rumours on the Ukraine/Namibia WhatsApp chat, people say that Namibia’s Russian embassy is talking to Poland Hungary to let Namibians go there to book flights back home because the airports in Ukraine are closed.

“It has been so chaotic, but right now, it is calm. We have been informed to go to the metros because they can be used as bombing shelters. We are trying not to worry our parents back home. We are waiting for the ambassador to reach out. A secretary at the embassy informed us that he told them that this was an urgent matter and would get back to us as he was in a meeting. He informed us to speak to the ministry of international relations and cooperation (MIRCO), so it’s a bit confusing.”

The Namibian students at the International European University are currently hiding in the dorms. The university informed them that the campus is safe, but should anything happen, they should all go down to the last floor and take cover, as there is a basement there.

“I told my parents that I need more money on my account because you never know what will happen and when I need to move. If I need to go to Poland, I can buy a ticket and come home.”

He says currently, he has enough food to last him a week. The shops in the nearby malls have been looted.

“The Ukrainian government has told us which apps to download if the internet shuts down.”

Quizzed on if he was concerned if the situation could worsen, as western allies, including the USA and UK, have promised retaliation, he said, “Yes. I am so sure. The UK imposed sanctions on Russia, and Russia still invaded. The only thing NATO and the allies could do is impose sanctions because if they try and bring in their troops, Russia might do something very foolish, leading to World War 3.”

Kavela is disappointed that the Namibian authorities have not responded quicker.

Last week, Namibia’s ambassador to Russia, Clemens Kashuupulwa, said there was no need for Namibian students studying in Ukraine to be concerned about their safety.

Kavela says that the Namibian government should have moved its citizens in the country over a week ago when the tensions were still building.

“Two weeks ago, they told us to hand in our names, next of kin, and our campus addresses, but they haven’t reached out. I feel like they knew that this situation would escalate anytime soon, but they still haven’t told us anything. They could have taken us to a city close to a western country, but they haven’t done that. All they told us was to stay calm and pray,” Kavela tells The Villager.

Kashuupulwa had labelled the impending invasion at the time as propaganda.

“They should be calm, nothing is happening, and they have reported that there are no attacks in their areas. Some of them are in the sixth or fifth year, and they should not be worried about this propaganda being spread,” he said last week.

MIRCO executive director Penda Naanda said that the ministry was in consultation with all stakeholders, such as NSFAF, in finding an immediate solution to ensure the safety and safe return home of all Namibians in Ukraine should it become necessary.

The government further called on the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, to work towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine.

“In the same vein, Namibia urges the international community to contribute to the immediate de-escalation and avoid taking further counterproductive measures that inflame the situation.”

Julia Heita

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