Kenya has asked its citizens living in Ukraine to leave immediately, citing safety fears after Russia invaded the Eastern European country.
In a public notice on Thursday, the government urged Kenyans to leave by any available means.
“Following the escalating tensions and the attack on Ukrainian territory by the Russian Federation on 24th February 2022, all Kenyans living or studying in Ukraine are hereby advised to urgently consider leaving Ukraine and stay away until further notice,” read the message from the Kenyan Embassy in Austria.
“Those wishing to stay are strongly advised to exercise increased caution.”
Kenya has only an honorary consul in Kyiv, Ukraine, with its embassy in Moscow, Russia, also accredited to Ukraine.
The Mission in Vienna, Austria, said Kenyans could contact it via Tel +4317123919 or reach the honorary consul in Kyiv via +38442297913 or email [email protected]
Officials did not say how many Kenyans are in Ukraine, but earlier reports say there could be as many as 202, most of them on government-to-government student scholarships.
On Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised those who wish to remain to move to safer regions such as the west of Ukraine where there is minimal fighting.
The government said it is also getting in touch with neighbouring countries to ensure those who leave are given safe passage.
The situation in Ukraine became dire on Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to enter Ukraine, as he raided crucial sites such as the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the north.
Putin said in a televised speech that the West had violated Russia’s “principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe” by courting Ukraine, which he called “our historical lands”, to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
“In response to our proposals, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns. Its military machine is moving and, as I said, is approaching our very border,” he said.
“Any further expansion of the North Atlantic alliance’s infrastructure or the ongoing efforts to gain a military foothold of the Ukrainian territory are unacceptable for us.”
Many western countries have condemned Russia’s move. And Kenya, a member of the UN Security Council, accused Russia of seeking a dangerous expansionist move that could awaken “dead empires.” Nairobi said it rejects “irredentism and expansionism on any basis.”
On Thursday, Dr Martin Kimani, Kenya’s permanent representative to the UN, said both sides have a chance to negotiate.
“Kenya believes that diplomacy can still deliver de-escalation as a start to a broader negotiation of a renewed European security architecture. The world needs visionary leadership that reinforces the UN Charter.”
And the African Union joined the fray on Thursday, saying the attack was a “dangerous” move that could escalate.
In a joint statement, Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the African Union, and AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said Russia should leave Ukraine. Both sides should “establish an immediate ceasefire and open political negotiations without delay,” the African leaders said.