By Euronews with AP, AFP
Travellers wait at the the departures board ahead of their flights at the Boryspil airport some 30 kilimetres outside Kyiv on February 13, 2022. – Copyright SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP
The message from Western businesses operating in Ukraine appears to be very much “business as usual” — at least for now — despite intensified warnings from international governments of a potentially imminent Russian invasion.
The renewed alerts follow the latest intelligence assessments of Russian preparations on the Ukrainian border.
Several European governments have advised their nationals living in Ukraine to leave the country, following US President Joe Biden who said last week that US nationals should get out as soon as possible.
But the American Chamber of Commerce says it “continues to operate in Kyiv”.
“We are constantly in touch with our members, Ukraine’s government, and the US Embassy. This continuous dialogue and communication have been a strategic pillar of AmCham for the past 30 years in Ukraine,” said its president in Ukraine Andy Hunder, in a statement provided to Euronews.
“American Chamber of Commerce member companies continue to operate in Ukraine, contributing to the country’s economy, having already invested over $50 billion (€44.2 billion) in the country, employing people, and contributing to the state budget.”
The UK’s Foreign Office said on Friday that “British nationals in Ukraine should leave now while commercial means are still available”.
Jock Mendoza-Wilson, a British businessman living in Kyiv, said on Monday that he will leave Ukraine if he believes it necessary to do so, but does not think “we have reached that point yet”.
“People talk about the war, the current security situation is the talk of the day. Nonetheless, we’d all rather, and we all as much as possible get on with doing our normal business where that’s possible,” the director of leading Ukrainian holding company System Capital Management (SCM) told a discussion with Business New Europe on Friday.
“So we’re not spending our days worrying about war, we’re trying to get on with the business plans we have, and the plans we have for the future, whether it’s in our business lives or our personal lives, because it’s impossible for us to predict the situation with regard to conflict.”
‘Most people just stay calm’
Drumbeats flooded Kyiv’s central Maidan Square on Sunday evening and passers-by stopped to dance as residents of the country’s capital continued with their daily lives despite warnings of a possible war in the coming days.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has played down the international warnings, saying he has yet to see convincing evidence of a possible Russian invasion within days.
Several Kyiv residents appear to be paying more heed to their own government than to foreign leaders advising their nationals to leave Ukraine immediately.
“You should always be ready for everything, and then you will have nothing to be afraid of,” said Alona Buznitskaya, adding that she felt “calm”.
Another resident brushed aside any fears of a large-scale conflict.
“I don’t think that there will be a serious military conflict, I think most probably there will be some economic blockade, said Taras Kuts, 26.
Kateryna, a Kyiv resident who declined to give her last name, admitted that she feels “afraid” at times. “But most people just stay calm and they are trying to make plans for different scenarios, perhaps looking to move somewhere (else),” she added.
Kyiv airport ‘tense’ but ‘no panic’
Ukraine has reportedly moved to provide temporary insurance for airlines after some international insurers pulled cover at the weekend. Some flights have been cancelled and the government has vowed to keep international travellers safe and its airspace open.
A spokesman for Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport described the atmosphere on Sunday as “very tense” but added that there was “no panic”. Some foreign nationals, however, have been acting on their governments’ advice for people to get out.
“I am leaving because of the situation, and because I value my life,” said Aimrane Bouziane, a 23-year-old from Morocco. “I think this is the soundest choice to make, to leave Ukraine now.”
“I personally don’t think anything’s going to happen, but I guess nobody can read, unfortunately, Vladimir Putin’s mind,” said Denis Lucins.
The American football coach has flown from the United States to join his wife and seven-year-old son who live in southern Ukraine, defying Washington’s instruction to leave.
People are worried, Lucins admitted, adding that he backed Biden’s strategy of warning several months ago about Russia’s troop buildup. But he stressed that people had already lived through Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the Donbas region. “Where I live, in Mykolaiv, we hope that nothing bad will happen,” he said.
Armenian traveller Armen Vartanian, 36, said he thought that the Ukrainian capital has “nothing to fear”, though he believes that Putin may seek to seize more territory in the country’s east.
But “Russian troops in Kyiv? No, I don’t think that will happen. That would be World War Three, that’s too much,” he added.