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Community / Shetland rising to the challenge of helping Ukrainian civilians and refugees

AS THE world watches on in horror at Russian troops invading Ukraine, several initiatives are now underway in Shetland to help in the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Two fundraising accounts were set up over the weekend to help alleviate at least some of the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing the borders into neighbouring Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova.

North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson is raising funds for the Red Cross, while Polish citizen Kate Niesciur, who lives in Burra, has set up a crowd funding appeal in support of UNICEF Ukraine.

Niesciur, a mother of a four-year-old, said children were the true victims of war.

With the conflict escalating, millions of children and their families are exposed to immediate danger, she said. As little as £46 could help provide a family with an emergency water and hygiene kit.

“For some it’s just £46 for others it’s everything,” she said.

“I am not getting involved in the politics of it all as I understand people have different opinions and I respect that, however, we all should have the same opinion when it comes to saving innocent children and helping them in any way we possibly can.

“Shetland has been home for the last seven years and it really is a warm and supporting community to live in. I believe that if anything happens, we would get support from Shetland folk – let’s spread that hope to children in Ukraine who need all the help now more than ever.”

Councillor Thomson added: “People I’ve spoken to in Shetland feel helpless and are watching on in horror at the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and folk just want to be able to help somehow.

“Raising money for the Red Cross means they will be able to expand their response to reach even more men, women and children affected by this war, and will provide basic necessities like fresh water, food, first aid, medicines, warm clothes and shelter.”

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Meanwhile, the focus on tankers belonging to the Russian state-owned shipping company Sovcomflot is switching from Shetland to Orkney this week where the NS Champion is scheduled to dock at the Flotta terminal on Tuesday.

It is the second Sovcomflot tanker since Vladimir Putin’s troops invaded neighbouring Ukraine to load a cargo of crude oil at Northern Isles oil ports.

Last week Shetland News broke the story of the Sovcomflot owned NS Challenger berthing at the Sullom Voe Terminal just hours after the invasion had begun.

She sailed again the following day and is currently in the southern North Sea on her way to the Italian port of Sarroch on the island of Sardinia.

And although prime minister Boris Johnson made a commitment to “immediately investigate what is happening with the Sovcomflot tanker” when challenged by isles MP Alistair Carmichael in parliament on Thursday, very little seems to have happened as the episode looks set to be repeated in Orkney on Tuesday.

NS Challenger berthed at the Sullom Voe oil port on Friday last week. Photo: Shetland News

Sullom Voe port owner Shetland Islands Council said it would be in breach of the ‘open port duty’ if it attempted to deny access to the port and added that it was for the government to determine whether sanctions imposed against Russia will apply to shipping.

Neither EnQuest as the operator of the Sullom Voe Terminal, or BP who chartered the Sovcomflot tanker, have responded to requests for comment.

Highlands and Islands Conservative Jamie Halcro Johnston.

Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, who lives in Orkney, has meanwhile called on the UK Government to expand the package of sanctions against Russia to include shipping.

“I am deeply concerned that UK ports appear to remain open to Russian shipping, with the Sovcomflot-owned NS Champion scheduled to visit Orkney’s Flotta terminal this week,” Halcro Johnston said.

“I raised this issue directly with the Secretary of State for Scotland [Alister Jack] on Saturday morning and have been advised that the matter is being raised further with Number 10.“The United Kingdom has already closed our airspace to Russian airlines, and our waters should be closed to Russian state-owned shipping too.

“It is important that, given the actions already taken against Putin’s regime and its interests, we ensure there are no loopholes left available to be exploited by Russian state interests.”

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