Here's how you can help as Lancaster district shows support for Ukraine

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last week, people have been asking what they can do to help.

By Gayle Rouncivell
Monday, 28th February 2022, 2:26 pm

After Russian forces moved into Ukraine last week, many residents of Lancaster and Morecambe and the wider region have been asking how they can help show support and solidarity with Ukrainian people.

The invasion began on Thursday morning with a series of missile strikes, many on key government and military targets.

These were quickly followed by a ground assault from the north, east and south as Russian military headed towards Kyiv.

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A man walks in front of a destroyed building after a Russian missile attack in the town of Vasylkiv, near Kyiv, on February 27, 2022. Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images

Since then, many of the capital's residents have been taking shelter underground in makeshift bunkers, cellars and metro stations.

Back in Lancaster and Morecambe, residents have been showing their solidarity by displaying the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag, and the Ashton Memorial is also being lit up.

The mayor of Lancaster, Coun Mike Greenall, said: “We have all been shocked and appalled at the tragic events of the last week.

“There are no winners in war and our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine at this moment. As a symbol of our support and solidarity, the Ashton Memorial will shine brightly in the colours of their national flag.”

A woman with two children and carrying bags walk on a street to leave Ukraine after crossing the Slovak-Ukrainian border in Ubla, eastern Slovakia, close to the Ukrainian city of Welykyj Beresnyj, on February 25, 2022, following Russia's invasion of the Ukraine. Photo by PETER LAZAR/AFP via Getty Images

Lancashire County Council has confirmed that they would co-ordinate any moves to resettle Ukrainians fleeing the conflict across the county, should a refugee resettlement programme be set up by the Home Office. They would then mobilise district councils to carry out the resettlement.

The authority has previously taken on a local lead role in bringing Syrian and, just last year, Afghan refugees to Lancashire.

The council has illuminated County Hall in blue and yellow to express the county's solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

County Coun Phillippa Williamson, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "Lancastrians are horrified at the violent conflict which is unfolding in Ukraine, and we want to add our voices to those across the world calling for the Russian leadership to immediately cease their aggression towards this peaceful country.

Residents wait in a shelter in Kyiv on February 27, 2022. Photo by DAPHNE ROUSSEAU/AFP via Getty Images

"There are many people in Lancashire with links to Ukraine and Eastern Europe who will be desperately worried for family and friends in the region, and deeply concerned at the situation which is developing.

"The people of Ukraine are at the very forefront of our minds, and we have chosen to illuminate County Hall in the colours of the Ukranian flag as a simple gesture of our solidarity with them as we hope for an immediate end to this completely unjustified invasion.

"It is shocking and upsetting to see people driven from their homes in fear, however we stand ready to play our part in aiding their resettlement should the Home Office establish a programme, and continue Lancashire's longstanding support for those fleeing conflict in their homeland."

The Catholic Bishop of Lancaster Paul Swarbrick said: "We are all conscious of the tragic developments in Ukraine. I have joined the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales in sending a message of solidarity to the church in Ukraine and to the Ukrainians resident in the UK.

People stand in line in front of a supermarket while smoke billows over the town of Vasylkiv just outside Kyiv on February 27, 2022, after overnight Russian strikes hit an oil depot. Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images

"I have no need to tell you how much prayers are needed in hope of a swift resolution to this conflict. What a fragile thing peace is and how easily it can be lost. There is a great lesson in humility here for all of us, that we should not take peace for granted, ever. We turn to the King of Peace and humbly ask Him to have mercy on us all, but particularly on those suffering in Ukraine."

Rt Rev Julian Henderson, the Church of England Bishop of Blackburn, and his leadership team have written a letter to parishes across the Church of England in Lancashire, condemning the Russian invasion as "a gross abuse of power and a criminal act".

Bishop Julian said: “My Leadership Team and I are horrified by the events of the past few days and the unprovoked and violent assault launched by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

“Together we have sent a letter to all parish clergy across Lancashire which states that this invasion is a gross abuse of power and a criminal act, and it has rightly brought upon the aggressor condemnation and heavy sanctions.

“Meanwhile, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called on the whole church to take action in the coming days, and on Tuesday March 1 with call to pray for and with the Diocese in Europe at 6pm for the chaplaincy in Kyiv and the churches that serve Ukraine.

“We will also participate with the wider church in Pope Francis’s call to offer our customary prayer and fasting on Ash Wednesday, March 2, as a prayer for peace."

A soldier serves soup to a Ukrainian woman in the building of the main railway station of Przemysl which has been turned into a temporary reception centre for refugees from Ukraine fleeing the conflict in their country, in eastern Poland on February 25, 2022, one day after Russia launched a military attack on its neighbour Ukraine. Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Holy Trinity Church in Bolton-le-Sands has also been holding daily online prayers over Zoom for the people of Ukraine and Russia.

If you wish to help with financial support, Ukrainians have collated a list of local organisations you can donate to through secure methods such as PayPal.

These include United Help Ukraine here, Sunflower of Peace here, and Voices of Children here.The British Red Cross has also launched an emergency crisis appeal here to help Ukraine.

They said: "It's a rapidly evolving crisis, and your donation could help someone affected get food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water."

As well as donating money, you can also write to your local MP either by email or post.

Correspondence can put pressure on the government to make further changes.

Gisela Renolds, director of the charity Global Link, which supports refugees and asylum seekers in the Lancaster district, said: "At at this point I think all that the people of Lancaster can do is to lobby the Government via their MPs to allow rapid safe passage for any Ukrainians fleeing Ukraine, through the introduction of a rapid and immediate visa scheme.

"Similarly, we need to continue to lobby MPs to stop the passage of the Borders and Nationality Bill which will make it impossible for most refugees to find safety in the UK.

"There are also numerous international charities who are supporting refugees fleeing Ukraine that people can donate to."

Meanwhile, a Lancaster University lecturer has called the Russian invasion "a real Pearl Harbour moment, a 9/11".

Dr James Summers, senior lecturer in international law and director of the Centre for International Law and Human Rights, said: "It's a radical shift and it leaves the countries that border Russia in a very, very dangerous position."

Dr Summers believes the invasion has two main causes, NATO expansion and Slav nationalism.

NATO - the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - is a group of 30 member countries that agree to work together to ensure the security of the northern Atlantic area.

Ukraine's Government has been interested in joining the group for some time.

Putin had said he would step down his military advances if NATO prohibited Ukraine from joining its alliance – a demand that was rejected.

Dr Summers said Russia is keen to keep Ukraine as a buffer between itself and the west.

He said: "Russia has states to the west including Ukraine and Belarus, which it sees as a buffer between Russia and the west.

"NATO expansion has always been a fear for Moscow, because Putin wants to keep it under his sphere of influence.

"Putin and the people around him have made fortunes by controlling Russian oil and gas. They have entrenched themselves in power and don't want to lose it.

"So he hates the example Ukraine has set, where people have the power to change Governments, fearing he could lose an election and power.

"He wants to take over and put a Russian puppet leader in place.

"He hates the idea of democracy and allowing Ukraine to peacefully elect a government sets a dangerous precedent for him."

Dr Summers also says he believes Putin couldn't afford to retire peacefully as he "may not be left alone" as answers are demanded over the loss of 13,000 lives in Ukraine since 2014 and the downing of flight MH17 the same year by Russian separatists.

Another factor for the invasion is Slav nationalism, something Dr Summers says Putin has been "very explicit" about.

He said: "He put a lengthy essay on the Kremlin's website last July and people reading it were thinking he wasn't really serious, but he was totally serious."

In the essay he outlined why he didn't believe Ukraine was a separate nation. He sees it as an artificial creation and that naturally, Russia and Ukraine are one nation."

After the cold war breakdown of the Soviet Union when Russian rulers allowed smaller states to break away and run democratically without the fear of force from Moscow.

Now Dr Summers believes Putin is trying to undo the process, by saying "we don't care about your sovereignty".

Dr Summers said: "He sees himself on a nationalist mission to reunite Eatern Slavs as Vladimir, Unifier of the East.

"He wants to go back to ancient Kingdoms, when Russia was ruled by Tzars, but it's a concocted history.

"It's like arguing Britain can take half of France because it was part of our medieval kingdom. Actually, it's like saying we'll have Denmark too. It's genuinely wacky."

The course of things can be directly compared to what happened with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi's. He decided things should be decided by Aryans and to unite all of Germany under one Reich.

"There are some genuine parallels here. It's the sort of agressive nationalism we had in the 1930s and 40s and we hoped we'd left behind."

Prof Michael Hughes of Lancaster University, who specialises in Russian history and politics, believes times are changing for Putin, as a new generation of adults comes through.

He said: "There's an odd mixture. You can walk around St Petersberg now and see people on their smart phones, accessing all different websites from around the world, and it looks quite Western. But I'd say it's quite sinister behind the scenes. It's an iron glove covered by a thin, silk veneer."

He added: "At the end of the Cold War, Russia was in a dreadful state, and he brought prosperity back for a while. I was living in Russia, and Putin was popular.

"But I think that might be changing now. What's happening is people aged 40 or less don't remember the Cold War and Soviet Union, they don't use the same language as Putin and some of the older generations, so it's harder to keep the chains on.

"The younger generation has much more concern and they are protesting on the streets, even though this can have long-term consequences and affect things like employment for life."

"There's no doubt Russia's military power is strong," said Prof Hughes.

"Putin has put a lot of money into conventional military equipment and then there's a huge nuclear stockpile. That's what's scary when he talked about ''consequences greater than any you have faced in history' last week.

"He easily has the capacity to over-run the Ukranian military, and he's made the bet that Nato wouldn't get involved.

"He will very quickly establish control, but the guerrilla warfare is harder to control. That's when the bloodshed really happens, when they start firing on civilians to flush people out.

"If he established a puppet state, there will be harsh sanctions and tensions between the east and west.

"But if it goes badly for him, then there will be a huge loss of face, he will become more desperate, and take more risks."

However, Prof Hughes believes a flash point will only come if a NATO country is attacked, and thinks that would only be by 'mistake'.

"Three weeks ago I didn't think there would be a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, so I'm predictions are dangerous things, but I don't think we're on the road to World War Three," he said.

Prof Michael Hughes.
Dr James Summers.