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‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, Putin will come’: the 2014 Ukraine refugees forced to flee for a second time | Ukraine

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In 2014, photojournalist Serhii Korovayny watched Russian forces take his home town, Khartsyzsk in Donetsk region. Eight years later, with the next invasion by Russia, he and his family fled their home in Kyiv. The situation prompted Korovayny to track down others from Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine who also had to flee for a second time.

“Is it harder to lose their home again? Or do they already have these survival skills?” he asked. “Did they have the full tank of gas and luggage ready? And where are those homes now?”

Daria Kurennaya.

Daria Kurinna, Truskavets

“I think it’s easier for me than for those that experience it for the first time. I know that life doesn’t end there. It will go on. War is a test that shows what you’re capable of and how much faith and willingness to fight you have in you,” says journalist Daria Kurinna. She jokes she can now pack the entire house in 30 minutes. “I immediately realised that I was going to leave Kyiv,” she said. “I didn’t want to put myself in harm’s way again”.

Andriy Shchekun and his son Olexiy.

Andriy Shchekun with son Olexiy, Lviv

In 2014, Andriy Shchekun, an activist from Crimea, organised a resistance movement on the peninsula. He was soon captured and held for 11 days before he and other prisoners were exchanged for a high-ranking Russian official. He had been living in Kyiv and calling himself a forcibly deported Crimean citizen. This February, when the invasion began, he and his family immediately went to Lviv. Shchekun had to use multiple trains and buses to get there. However, he had every aspect of the route planned beforehand.

Serhii Kolesnikov.

Serhii Kolesnikov, Lviv

Serhii Kolesnikov compares abandoning your life during war to a parachute jump. “When I first jumped, I was told that it was scary only for the first-timers. This is not true at all,” says the 32-year-old, who runs a media company. At the time of the occupation of Luhansk, Kolesnikov was 24. He had nothing to lose. Everything that happened was seen as an adventure and a challenge. Sleeping on the floor seemed sort of romantic then. Now, in Lviv with his family, it feels like a month of nights on a train. “We are renting an apartment here, but my house is in Kyiv.” Kolesnikov expected war for eight years. “I advised all my acquaintances not to buy any real estate. They looked at me like I was an idiot. It would be better, of course, if they were right, not me. I recently read a book about Holocaust survivors who advised their kids to only have the property that fits in a small bag. I understand them very well now.”

Diana Berg.

Diana Berg, Lviv

Diana Berg, an artist, moved to Mariupol from occupied Donetsk in 2014. She wanted to turn Mariupol into the cultural capital of Donbas and created an art platform called TIU. Now she helps people in Mariupol to escape the occupied and destroyed city. “Just like other migrants, we put a lot of love into rebuilding our life in a new place. Our entire lives were left back at home, including close ones who did not have phone service. We were grateful for the Donetsk that we used to have. That’s why we put all our love into the new home in Mariupol. We had to furnish it from scratch, so we got cats and we bought string lights to put in our apartment overlooking the theatre. Now my loss of home hurts even deeper. Back then, we were still able to go to Donetsk on occasion, but as for Mariupol, there’s nowhere to return to.”

Ksenia and Tetiana Ivanov.

Ksenia, left, and Tetiana Ivanov, Ivano-Frankivsk

Sisters Ksenia and Tetiana Ivanov work for a charity in Ivano-Frankivsk whose work revolves around those affected by war – shelters for victims of domestic violence are being repurposed for the needs of internally displaced people. In Donetsk in 2014, they didn’t even consider “waiting the fighting out”. Their pro-Ukrainian parents quickly realised they didn’t want to live there any more and moved to Kyiv. But this time their parents refused to flee on principle. Tetiana says it is as painful to experience war now as it was the first time around, eight years ago. “You can’t ever be ready for such a tragedy even if you’ve experienced it before. You have dreams, make plans, build your life from scratch – and all this makes it even worse. Russians are once again taking these most precious things from us.”

Danylo Pavlov.

Danylo Pavlov Lviv

Danylo Pavlov, a documentary photographer and photo editor at Reporters magazine, did not expect war in 2014. A month before it started, he spent all his savings on building materials. He dreamed of creating the ideal family space in his home in Donetsk. When the war began, he left the city with his wife and two young children, little to no luggage and no plan B. Like most acquaintances, they left for “for two weeks, tops”. At first, they went to relatives in Uzhhorod, and later to Kyiv after an invitation from a magazine. It took years to settle in a new place and buy things to do up a new apartment in Kyiv. As soon as he partly completed the repairs, war returned. “When we discussed the possible invasion at home, it piqued the children’s interest. I went too far with my stories and realised it when my son cried.” What hasn’t changed since 2014, Pavlov says, is the painful issue of the relationship between those fleeing the war to peaceful regions and those living there. “I did not expect Kyivites to face the same thing that the easterners faced previously. There are issues with regard to renting apartments, gossip about rude migrants and language issues – all of this had already happened to Donetsk residents when they came to Kyiv eight years ago. It hurts that people are not ready to accept each other. But I still feel like we are more united now than ever.”

Portrait of Lyubov Zavhorodnya in Drohobych, Ukraine

Lyubov Zavhorodnya, Drohobych

Lyubov Zavhorodnya, 71, says that it is easy to tell whether a person is a refugee. “I came to the market, and a woman stall owner offered me shoes at a discount. She saw that I wore clothes the same size as her. The next day she brought me two trunks of clothes. She said that if I didn’t need them, I could give them to others. I was so grateful.” This time Zavhorodnya fled the war from Dnipro. Eight years ago, she fled Debaltseve. One day, she was waiting for the shelling to end in the basement of her home. “Our yard has always been green and bushy. There were so many tall trees. And when they came out of the basement after the shelling, it was so light that my eyes hurt. They fired so hard that not a single leaf on a tree was left.” Now Zavhorodnya does not know where her house is located geographically. She only knows that home is where her son, daughter-in-law and four-year-old granddaughter are.

Anastasiia, left, Natasha, centre, and Iryna Doroshenko.

Anastasiia, Natasha and Iryna Doroshenko, Drohobych

“My daughter Natasha was 18 months old when we had to flee from the shelling in Luhansk. We went to relatives in Severodonetsk to wait until it was over,” says Anastasiia. Eight years later, war has found them there. They spent the first nine days in a bomb shelter. Anastasiia has achieved a lot in this time. She worked at a local university, completed higher education, got a job as an editor at a radio station and bought an apartment where she lived with her daughter and mother. But the feeling of anxious anticipation has never left. “In 2018, my father died; he couldn’t take all this. He was such a patriot. He was even buried with a flag. He has always told me to be alert. The Russian world, he said, will expand sooner or later. And I was always afraid of that.” Anastasiia is now in Drohobych, western Ukraine, thinking about what to do next.

Nastya Daeva.

Nastya Daeva, Kyiv

“I’ve moved to so many places. This time it was devastating emotionally. I only reached the point in my life when anxiety went away and I felt happy for a week or two. Then Putin did this. I lost my home in Makiivka in 2014, when I was 18. It took me years to rebuild my life, to get into the prewar state I was in before 2014. It’s like one little building block after the other. First, you look for a new dwelling. Then you need to find a place to finish your BA, then MA. I’ve only been able to find friends and properly socialise after five years in Kyiv. Recently I became financially independent, rented a flat on my own. This time I didn’t even want to leave. How old will I be when I get my life back again – 35? 40? I have been waiting for eight years for Putin to go farther into the country. I kept thinking – tomorrow, tomorrow, he’ll do it. I won’t be able to finish my studies – he will come. I won’t have time to find a job – he will come. I did what I planned. So did he.”

Portrait of Artem Bakanov in Lviv, Ukraine

Artem Bakanov, Lviv

It was easier for 29-year-old Artem Bakanov to leave Donetsk in 2014 than Kyiv now. Back then, he didn’t have much. It was difficult to find a place to stay in Odesa, where he moved with his girlfriend – people from Donbas often faced prejudice. The couple worked as waiters and tempered their spirits. They participated in pro-Ukrainian rallies. Then they moved to Kyiv, found work and made their first attempts to open a business. Finally, they felt the sky was the limit. Bakanov has managed to enter the restaurant business, develop his own company and taxi services as well as start a project to ship vehicles from the US. The possibility of an attack on Kyiv sounded ridiculous. “I tried to calm my wife down. I was telling her that everything was going to be OK. Everyone kept withdrawing cash from their accounts, and I kept reloading mine as normal. It took one morning to lose everything you’ve been working on for the last eight years.” After the next move – to Lviv – they asked themselves what was next. Bakanov’s partner decided to start a self-defence school; every day, volunteers from Kharkiv, Odesa, Kyiv and Lviv teach 120-150 people. Medical and military instructors offer their knowledge and help. They are building a shooting range so that any visitor can learn how to fire guns safely.

Artur Stadnik.

Artur Stadnik, Lviv

Public official Artur Stadnik is 26 now. When there were battles for Donetsk, he was a student going through the work and travel programme in the US. He hasn’t returned to his parents’ home. As soon as he finished his studies in Kharkiv, he moved to the capital with his parents. “I could always sense their sadness in the background, but I was holding up well. Yes, the house was taken away from my family, but that couldn’t be repeated, not again. And then the Russians expanded their military presence, and I wasn’t so sure any more. I arranged my documents, had a medical screening at a draft board and, since December, have been packing and unpacking my things.” When asked where his home is, Stadnik answers: “Ukraine.”

Marina Shulzhenko and her daughter Masha.

Marina and Masha Shulzhenko, Bohorodchany

Marina Shulzhenko, with her parents and daughter Masha, moved from the town of Khartsyzsk in the Donetsk region to Bila Tserkva near Kyiv in 2014. In 2022, they were once again forced to move. This time to the village of Bohorodchany in western Ukraine. Shulzhenko says that both times it was hard to leave her house. “It feels like the war is following us. There’s nowhere to hide from it. Nowhere is safe. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It would reach us even across the border. Fear and grief. That’s probably what all of us refugees feel. We became very attached to Bila Tserkva throughout these eight years. I want to return there as soon as possible, once it’s safe to go.”

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Russian Intranasal Vaccine Effective Against All Coronavirus Strains – Developers

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The new Russian nasal vaccine against COVID-19 has demonstrated effectiveness against all variants of the coronavirus, Alexander Gintsburg, the director of Russia’s Gamaleya Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed the vaccine, told Sputnik.

“We’ve observed that the currently available and already registered intranasal vaccine is demonstrating high efficiency in protecting against all strains [of the coronavirus], forming mucosal immunity to the pathogen,” Gintsburg said.

The Russian Health Ministry registered the world’s first intranasal vaccine against COVID-19 in April.

Gintsburg told Sputnik in March that the new vaccine was effective against the Omicron variant. He said that the new vaccine was going to be used as a booster, in addition to the Sputnik V shots, until there was enough evidence that this new intranasal method gives the same level of protection as an injection.

In November of last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to become a volunteer in the testing of the new vaccine and said that he felt no side effects after getting the procedure.

Russia became the first country in the world to register a vaccine against COVID-19, dubbed Sputnik V, in August 2020. The Russian Health Ministry has also registered a new, Sputnik M, vaccine for adolescents aged 12-17. Clinical trials of Sputnik shots for children aged 6-11 are currently underway in Moscow, according to Gintsburg.



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Nancy Pelosi: Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan revives the debate on international recognition of the island | International

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Nancy Pelosi’s brief and controversial visit to Taiwan could not have incited more contrasting reactions from the governments on either side of the Formosa Strait. President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration received the speaker of the United States House of Representatives with everything but a fireworks show, projecting flamboyant welcome messages on the island’s tallest building. Beijing, on the other hand, responded to what it considered a “blatant provocation” with a week of unprecedented military exercises. The superpower has also cut ties with Washington on key topics and recently published the first official report on Taiwan in two decades. Its aggressive reaction has brought to the forefront the debate about international recognition of the island, which functions as a state but is recognized by only 14 countries.

“My friends and I were very excited for a figure like this to come. It’s good to attract attention,” says Sun Hui’an by phone. “We are used to threats from China. We can’t let it dictate our lives,” adds the 29-year-old nurse.

Formosa was the place to which nationalist leaders and around a million people fled after the victory of the Communist Army in 1949 in the civil war. While in mainland China Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People’s Republic, Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Kuomintang (the formation that had presided over the country between 1927 and 1949), established a government in exile in Taiwan. Not until the 1970s did the United Nations and most Western countries began to recognize Beijing as the legitimate government of China, to the detriment of Taipei.

Taiwan is not a special administrative region of China like Hong Kong and Macau. It has a democratic government, a constitution and an army of 300,000 soldiers. It ranks as the 21st largest economy in the world, and it is the leading producer in the semiconductor industry. In 2019, it became the first place in Asia to legalize marriage between same-sex couples.

For the Chinese government, the island is a headache. The Asian giant considers Taiwan an inalienable part of its territory, whose “reunification” is, in the words of President Xi Jinping, “a historic mission of the Communist Party.” In recent years, especially since Tsai Ing-wen assumed the presidency in 2016, Chinese authorities have spoken with increasing assertiveness about a future unification, for which they have not ruled out the use of force. The rapport between the Tsai Administration and the United States, as evidenced by the recent visit of the American politician, has infuriated Beijing. On Wednesday, China published the first white paper on Taiwan in 22 years, drawing far more red lines than previous publications from 1993 and 2000.

Beijing’s discourse has never quite caught on across the strait. The two main Taiwanese parliamentary groups hold two radically opposed ideas about nationalism. While the Blue Coalition, led by the Kuomintang (KMT), aspires to an eventual unification with the People’s Republic, the Green Coalition, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (PDP), prefers to distance the island from Beijing.

Xulio Ríos, director of the Chinese Policy Observatory, points out that, however, that “the nuances are important”: “In the KMT there is everything from an intense blue –which defends unification and the idea of China – to a sky-blue, which understands that there are two different realities on both sides of the strait. The PDP advocated for independence, but today it does not defend it so aggressively and is committed to maintaining the status quo.”

Although historically opposed, the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have sometimes found ways to collaborate and prevent secession. KMT Vice Chairman Andrew Hsia is currently on a 17-day trip to the mainland to boost cross-border communication. “The cooperation between the KMT and the CCP really picked up momentum in 2008, with the victory of Ma Ying-jeou [KMT] in the elections. This made possible a rapprochement between the business and political elites of the mainland and Taiwan,” says Ríos.

Maintaining the status quo

That approach was cut short in 2014, when a group of protesters occupied parliament to denounce the approval, without bipartisan debate, of a controversial trade agreement with China. “The Sunflower Movement put the brakes on a whole process of rapprochement, which had generated the expectation of a possibility of peaceful unification through dialogue,” says Ríos. “After PDP’s victory with an absolute majority in 2016 is completely the opposite, a completely opposite path opened,” he adds.

Despite the two trends, the surveys carried out biannually by the Center for Electoral Studies of National Chengchi University (Taipei) since 1994 show that the vast majority of the 23 million Taiwanese are committed to maintaining the status quo. In its latest poll, from July, those in favor of unification are few (1.3%) and falling, while those in favor of declaring independence (5.1%) have also lost steam.

“My parents and I share the same opinion: we don’t care who rules Taiwan, but we don’t want to lose our freedoms. My grandparents and my parents had hopes for the principle of one country, two systems, but after what happened in Hong Kong we know that it is not viable,” says Wu, 32, who prefers to identify himself with a pseudonym.

Deng Xiaoping devised the one country, two systems model in the late 1980s. The goal was to ensure conformity to the idea that there is but one China, while ensuring that those areas that had developed their own economic systems could keep them under Chinese rule. The idea, originally conceived for Taiwan, has never been accepted by the island’s political parties.

Taiwanese fear that the idea’s acceptance will bring an erosion of democracy. China had agreed with the United Kingdom to guarantee Hong Kong’s system of freedoms until 2047. But after the 2019 protests, Beijing has become intransigent, with the approval of the draconian National Security Law and with an electoral reform that ended up placing Beijing-backed candidate John Lee as head of government in May.

“Once you visit the Chinese mainland, if you are green, you turn dark green. If you are blue, you go green,” Wu says, summarizing the Taiwanese’s misgivings. But given the obvious difference in opinion that has persisted in high political circles, the most intelligent response seems to be the one reflected by the polls. When asked what he would choose between preserving the status quo or moving towards complete autonomy from Beijing, Wu does not hesitate: “Independence does not deserve a war.”

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‘The Taliban no longer wanted to kill me. Now they wanted to marry me’ | Women’s rights and gender equality

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The day the Taliban entered my city last August, I started to receive renewed threats from Taliban commanders who wanted to punish me for my work as a news journalist. I was forced to leave my home that day, amid the loud explosions of an ongoing battle, hiding under a burqa, and praying to survive the journey.

What I did not know then was that this journey would continue for the next year.

Every few weeks, I moved from province to province, sometimes living in the heart of cities, other times hiding out in remote villages. In the first few days, I stayed at my uncle’s house in Sari Pul province, but once the local Taliban learned he was harbouring a fugitive, we had to leave in the middle of the night.

I went to Mazar-i-Sharif city in Balkh, and then took the road to Kabul, passing through Samangan, Baghlan and Parwan provinces. We were stopped at checkpoints in every province, and every time my heart would pound inside my chest. Luckily, I was under a chadari [the full Afghan burqa] and passed through checkpoints undetected.

In Kabul, the very air had shifted; there was fear and dread, alongside celebrations, as Taliban fighters from all over the country gathered in the capital. With the help of some friends, I was moved to a safe house, where I spent the next three months attempting to find ways to leave the country, but seldom even leaving the compound I was hiding in. The Taliban would launch random raids in the neighbourhood, looking for fugitives like me.

Somehow, our compound evaded suspicion, but when the number of raids increased, I knew I would have to leave Kabul soon.

In December 2021, I heard the news that my cousin had been killed by the Taliban. He was a policeman and often clashed with the Taliban during the years of conflict. Like me, he had been hiding for months, looking for a way to leave the country, but was caught and killed. I broke down, not just in grief over his loss, but also in incredible pain over what my life had turned into.

I decided to go back to my province, but did not go home because I didn’t want to risk my family’s lives. I hid at the home of another relative, but being so close to my family again made me homesick. I yearned for my mother’s embrace; I hadn’t seen her in months.

One day, I met my mother in a crowded marketplace. We hugged each other tight, and I cried, but she gave me strength. I knew I couldn’t give up now.

Over the next few months, I started weaving carpets to help support myself and my family. Since the Taliban takeover, we had not only lost income but my life in exile was costing my parents, who had already sacrificed so much to raise me and now had to support me. It was hard labour, and I developed rashes and sores on my hands, but it helped my family and took my mind off the threats I was still receiving.

Then the threats from the Taliban changed. They no longer wanted to kill me. They wanted me to marry one of their commanders. They reached out to my parents and community elders, pressuring them to give me away in marriage.

I couldn’t believe it was now happening to me. In the past, I covered stories of the Taliban imposing forced marriages on young girls. Now I was one of the women I had reported about last year.

When I refused, they sent me photos of AK-47s and pistols, threatening to kidnap me, and kill my parents. I blocked their numbers and deleted WhatsApp but they still found ways to send me threats. Eventually, I took out my sim card and broke it into pieces. I was terrified of what they would do to me, or worse, to my family.

So in July, with the help of friends, I made one more attempt to leave the country. First, with the help of my father, I moved to Mazar-i-Sharif, and then we took the road to Kabul again. I carried medical certificates, and every time we were stopped, we would say I was going to Kabul for treatment. I was nervous throughout the journey because the Taliban were more brutal than before.

Eventually we made it to Kabul, where I met with other women like myself. Together, under the pretext of seeking medical help, we were able to get on a flight leaving for a neighbouring country.

I am somewhat safer now, but not out of danger. I barely sleep because I fear for my family, who are still in Afghanistan. They are already being shamed because I ran away. A young unmarried daughter leaving by herself is considered very dishonourable in Afghan culture.

But I am fortunate in the support I have received from my parents, at great personal risk. They always prioritised my passion, my happiness, and now my security and future. Contrary to popular belief, many Afghan fathers would, like mine, rather face societal dishonour and threats than deny their daughters opportunities for a better future.

I appeal to our international allies to empower such Afghan families, particularly the women. We worked so hard to attain values of equality and freedom and have lost the most in the last year. But we are still resisting, and we are seeking allies to support us and amplify our voices.

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