By Lizzy Okoji
The Federal Government has summoned the Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexei Shebarshin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Kirdoda Valerii over the raging conflict between their countries and the need to evacuate Nigerians living there.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, met with the envoys separately behind closed doors on Friday in Abuja.
Onyeama said he told the Russian envoy, Shebarshin that Nigeria as a country would not condone the violation of the territorial integrity of a United Nations member state, a country with which Nigeria has diplomatic relations.
“This is really the position of the government and also, that we have 5,600 Nigerians in Ukraine and we are very concerned about what we are hearing and what we are seeing regarding missiles and bombs about the safety of Nigerian citizens there and also that we would like to be able to evacuate them.
“He said that this would be communicated to his headquarters and that obviously, they consider Nigeria a friendly country.
“The Russian envoy also said that they would do nothing to harm Nigerians and assured me that their action is targeted at military installations and that they are not about to start attacking civilian areas and so forth,” he said.
Onyeama added that the Russian envoy insisted that civilians were not being targeted and that hopefully, it won’t last long.
Speaking after his meeting with the Ukrainian envoy, Onyeama said the government sympathised with Ukraine regarding its situation as a country and as a people, in view of the heavy bombardment, which has led to loss of lives.
Onyeama told the Ukrainian envoy that Nigeria has more than 5,000 students and other citizens in the country and very concerned about their safety and welfare.
“I told the Ukrainian envoy that we want the cooperation of the Government of Ukraine to do whatever is possible to ensure their safety and security and to also seek advice as to how the evacuation can be facilitated,” Onyeama added.
He also said the envoy told him that that the Ukrainian government has given all the residents and civilians, specific instructions about how to stay safe and the measures to take.
Onyeama added that the Nigerian Embassy in Ukraine will also act as a coordinating mechanism in reaching out to all Nigerians in Ukraine and ensure that they adhered to all the advice and directives.
On the evacuation of Nigerians in Ukraine, Onyeama said the issue could only come up when the airports reopened.
Onyeama said that during discussions, the Russian envoy stated that they would possibly also see some airports as military targets.
The minister said that they also discussed road travel to facilitate the evacuation, even though some Nigerians were able to get into neighbouring countries such as Holland.
The Russian envoy however told Onyeama that there might be risk involved, while also saying that Russia was mindful of the civilians from foreign countries and that they would take all the necessary measures to ensure their security.
The Ukrainian envoy expressed gratitude to the Government and people of Nigeria for their support.
“Right now, we are in a very difficult situation, but we are fighting against the aggression and we believe that we will all win,” the Ukrainian envoy said.
Valerii also said Nigerian students in Ukraine were in the same situation as anybody else on the territory of Ukraine.
“Ukrainian Government does not differentiate between people on the basis of their nationality and that is the best effort to protect everybody.
“Currently, the evacuation of Nigerian students is not possible because it is not safe to fly on the sky of Ukraine.
“As soon as it is safe to fly on the sky of Ukraine, we will join the Embassy of Nigeria in Ukraine and jointly with the Nigerian Government, we will arrange for the evacuation of Nigerian Students,” Valeri said. (NAN)