Durham students in Russia warned of potential for immediate evacuation as Ukrainians in Durham fear for their homes

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Durham University students spending their years abroad in Russia have been told they can return home without detriment to their accreditation.

Students were told they may have to vacate their placement “at short notice” as Russia launched extensive military action across Ukraine in the early hours of this morning.

Professor David Cowling, head of the School for Modern Languages and Cultures, wrote to students early this morning “in light of the worsening security situation in Ukraine”, explaining, “while there is currently no indication that the Government will advise UK citizens to leave Russia in the near future, we are aware that the situation is fluid”.

Students have been advised to ensure that they are in possession of a fully approved University travel insurance policy in case they are required to leave Russia. 

One Durham student in Russia told Palatinate: “The atmosphere hasn’t changed at all. It’s been very chilling how calm everywhere is here considering the chaos Putin is causing in Ukraine”.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected by this and we are committed to supporting any of our staff and students who are impacted.”

durham university

Durham University currently has eight students studying Russian, at Tomsk State University, St. Petersburg State Transport University, and Moscow State Pedagogical University.

Meanwhile, several students about to leave for Russia have been contacted by the University and asked to stay home.

Palatinate understands the Russian Studies department has already drawn up provisional contingency plans involving institutions in Latvia and Estonia for students who were due to go to Russia next academic year. 

Ukrainian students in Durham

Data from a Palatinate Freedom of Information request show there are currently 15 Durham students directly from Ukraine and 34 from Russia. But scores more have family and friends in the country, and they fear for their safety.

One described how she woke up this morning: “A friend woke me and said ‘wake up, because I have some bad news for you. They’re bombing everywhere. They’re bombing my city, your city, they’re bombing all the cities. It’s a full-on invasion.’”

Another said she is “completely frozen … my father and my brother are currently in the territorial defence defending my home city, Kyiv”.

The Durham University Russian Speaking Society has cancelled all events and its over 100 members, shaken, are organising a vigil to be held outside the library tomorrow afternoon.

Durham responds

In a statement, Durham University said: “The situation in Ukraine is one of international concern and, for some members of our university community, a time of particular personal anxiety. 

“Our thoughts are with all those affected by this and we are committed to supporting any of our staff and students who are impacted.

“The safety of our staff and students is paramount. We will follow, and are urging our staff and students to follow, advice from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

“We are also encouraging staff and students with any concerns to get in touch.”

Image: Defence-Imagery from Pixabay

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