Ukrainian refugees have asked to return home, says Ambassador Sergii Shutenko

Ukrainian refugees

Kiev's ambassador to Greece, Sergii Shutenko, thanked the Greek government for its help and support in a press conference on Thursday afternoon and said Ukrainian refugees have asked to go home.

He expressed his satisfaction for the Greek embassy in Kyiv reopening.

Shutenko also thanked both the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, and the Greek Consul to Mariupol, Manolis Androulakis, who is now the head diplomat in Kyiv.

At the same time, he said that in some parts of Ukraine, where the Russian army has either been completely defeated or seen territories liberated, everyday life has returned.

The ambassador said that several Ukrainian refugees in Greece have already asked to return.

Referring to Mariupol, where many Greeks are, Shutenko revealed that it has been completely destroyed.

According to him, more than 20,000 people have lost their lives, while 40,000 have been forcibly relocated to Russia and their fate is unknown.

He also claimed that the Russians have committed crimes in the area and have opened mass graves, wanting to hide evidence against them.

The Ukrainian ambassador, answering questions from journalists about whether there has been a meeting with representatives of SYRIZA, said that there has been no contact, however, he knows that they support the Ukrainian people.

Elsewhere, as the war in Ukraine drags on with no immediate end in sight, Poland’s initial embrace of the refugees is starting to show signs of strain, as resources — including volunteers, housing, classroom space and jobs — are running thin.

Poland has taken in an estimated 2.9 million of the more than 5 million Ukrainians who have fled the country.

The population of Warsaw has grown by roughly 15 percent since the war started.

Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski has warned that the Polish capital is at “capacity” and unable to absorb another wave of refugees, which he worries could be coming as Russia changes its strategy to focus its attacks on the eastern part of Ukraine.

“Long term, we envision quite a lot of problems and it puts an enormous strain on the city,” he said in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday.

The mayor visited the United States to plead for more help from the international community and warn that “with the escalation in the east and with 7 million people displaced within Ukraine, we can expect another wave.”

Thousands of people in Poland mobilized at the start of the war to welcome Ukrainians into their own homes, but finding housing has since become more difficult. Polish families willing to host refugees have already filled up their spare rooms.

The number of available apartment units for rent in Warsaw has diminished significantly and rental prices have increased by more than 30 percent since the end of February.

Employment has emerged as another major hurdle for some refugees, as they grapple with the reality that it could be a long time until they can return to their lives, their jobs and their support systems in Ukraine.

Although Poland had a high number of job vacancies when the war began, refugees who don't speak Polish or English have had trouble finding work.

Since the vast majority of refugees are women and children, many women are also competing for a limited supply of jobs that can accommodate child care needs.

Taras Tsymbaliuk, a manager at an international employment services organization who has been helping refugees at the expo centre find jobs, said that employment opportunities have become increasingly scarce over the past two months.

“There’s a lot of refugees looking for a job, and not a lot of jobs to offer,” Tsymbaliuk said, sitting at the employment booth at the expo centre.

The Polish Parliament has given Ukrainian refugees permission to stay in the country legally for 18 months, granted them access to social security and health care systems, and set up programs to give small cash payments to Polish families hosting refugees in their homes.

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