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'I have food for a month and won't leave my pets behind' — South African in Ukraine not keen to flee

Roads are bumper to bumper with people trying to get out with their families, says ex-Capetonian living in Kyiv

24 February 2022 - 12:00
Kobus Olivier, who resides in Kyiv, Ukraine, refuses to escape as he does not want to abandon his dogs.
Kobus Olivier, who resides in Kyiv, Ukraine, refuses to escape as he does not want to abandon his dogs.
Image: Supplied

“I’m staying because of my dogs, I’ll never leave them, it’s not even an option,” says a South African in Kyiv, Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “special military operation” in the country.

Kobus Olivier, CEO of the Ukrainian Cricket Federation, originally from Cape Town, believes he is safe in his apartment — even as scores of expats are desperately trying to escape the city.

I had an option to leave but I opted not to
Kobus Olivier

“I have food for a month, for both me and my dogs [Mamma Ticky, Ollie, Kaya and Jessie]. The five of us are stuck here and hope it turns out OK.

“They say the safest is to stay in your apartment. I’m pretty safe here, we are a community of expats who support each other. 

“I emptied my bank account and exchanged my money into dollars last week. I had an option to leave but I opted not to,” said Olivier.

He has been living in Ukraine for four years, he said.

Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent on Monday, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war, reports Reuters.

Mamma Ticky, Ollie, Kaya and Jessie.
Mamma Ticky, Ollie, Kaya and Jessie.
Image: Supplied

“There are loud explosions going off from 5am, the sirens went off at about 4am. The roads are bumper to bumper with people trying to get out with their families.No cars are able to get out or inside the city centre.

“Some people have passed my apartment with suitcases, I think they are trying to get to the railway station. Everyone is trying to get out of Kyiv.

“People are on a complete lockdown of traffic and some are parked and smoking on the side of the roads, trying to get to the Poland border,” said Olivier.

He said he had been living with his father, who relocated with him and died last year.

The SA government said in a statement on Wednesday it was concerned about the ongoing tensions on the Ukraine and Russia border, a situation that if allowed to further deteriorate, could have regional and global ramifications.

“All parties have much to gain from a negotiated outcome and much to lose from an unnecessary and violent conflict,” said minister of international relations and co-operation Naledi Pandor.

“The UN Security Council is the body given the mandate for maintenance of international peace and security and it must exercise its role fully. As SA, we believe all the issues of concern to any of the parties must be addressed in inclusive talks led by the UNSC.”

Pandor added that the world does not need another war as that will result in death and destruction, hence SA’s call for enhanced diplomacy.

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