Government’s refugee visa policy appalling, says UK-based lecturer from Ukraine

Andrii Zharikov said he had given up trying to bring his sister and mother to Britain.

18 March 2022

A Ukrainian-born lecturer at the University of Portsmouth has said he is “appalled” at the Government’s handling of visas for war refugees from his country.

Andrii Zharikov, a senior lecturer at the Hampshire university’s law faculty, said he had given up on the idea of bringing his sister, Anna-Maria Zharikova, 19, and mother, Tetyana Zharikova, 53, to the UK because of red-tape restrictions.

He explained that although the UK Government has offered to allow Ukrainians to bring family members here, it does not apply to people like himself who have work visas.

The 30-year-old told the PA news agency: “I was appalled by the way it has been presented with the Government saying it has an open door policy, but the scope is very, very limited.

“I am very grateful for the EU approach and know my family will stay in the EU because of this and they are better off there, and I will do my best to look after them by sending money.”

Mr Zharikov added there is a huge difference between how the general public in the UK has responded to the war through donations, fundraising and emotional support, and that of the Government’s “limited” visa offering to refugees.

Andrii Zharikov’s mother Tetyana, centre, with family and friends next to a refugee bus taking her to safety from Ukraine (family handout/PA)

He said his sister had managed to leave Ukraine with the help of a stranger who drove her to the border, before a friend then drove from Amsterdam to collect her and took her to live with him.

She will soon move on to Germany to live with their mother, who left with relatives by refugee train and bus and who has been given somewhere to live for at least six months.

Mr Zharikov said his 55-year-old father Victor, a history teacher with no military training, had chosen to remain in Kyiv where he has joined the self-defence territorial forces.

He said: “We have been messaging each other twice a day, I managed to talk to him for like 20 minutes, it made me so happy to hear his voice finally.”

He explained his father’s battalion of volunteers is protecting a major road to the south of the city, checking for suspicious people attempting to enter the capital.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Andrii Zharikov, left, with his family prior to the Russian invasion (family handout/PA)

Mr Zharikov said: “I think it is best for him to be there than somewhere else, he was always of a patriotic nature and perform his duty to Ukraine.

“I am so proud of him, I worry about him a lot because you can’t be safe now anywhere, but at least I know he is happy for what he is doing and possibly even safer than at his home doing nothing.”

He said he had considered returning to Ukraine himself to fight but decided he would be more useful to his family to remain working, as he is the only one with a steady income to support them.

Mr Zharikov said he believes the invasion has united the people of Ukraine against Russia.

“I haven’t seen such consensus in the country, what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin did was dreadful, but the good thing is he united the country, we never had such unity, we need to use this moment to reset our development and get closer links to Europe,” he said.

He explained the feelings of his father and other members of his battalion are that the Russian army needs to be expelled not only from its recent invasion but also from Crimea and the separatist regions.

Andrii Zharikov’s 19-year-old sister Anna-Maria is currently in Amsterdam, living with a friend (family handout/PA)

He said: “From what I see from people on the frontline, they are prepared to stay there, they are not prepared for a ceasefire to allow Russia to regroup and attack again, Russia already violated so many agreements.

“I don’t think there will be peace soon where both sides will be satisfied.”

Mr Zharikov said he wants to thank the international community for its support, but said more weapons, particularly anti-aircraft defence systems, are needed.

“Ukraine is standing for certain values, democracy and freedom, we are defending those values,” he said.

“We have scenes like Mariupol, a city being besieged like in medieval times, cut off from all supplies and being constantly bombarded with 80 or 90% buildings destroyed or damaged.

“If you look at those atrocities, my heart is bleeding because that’s my country, those are places I have been to and I’m seeing them being destroyed.

“All those atrocities, the reaction should be stronger, maybe world war three has already started, Russia will find a pretext if they want to start a wider war anyway.”

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