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By Citizen Reporter


‘Spirit of ubuntu’: First batch of SA students flying home from Ukraine

A total of 25 students are expected to be evacuated by next week.

A group of South African students trapped in the Ukraine are expected to touch down on home soil on Thursday morning.

This thanks to a partnership between the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) and Aspen Pharmacare, who are assisting with the emergency evacuation.

Russia declared war on Ukraine on 24 February.

At the time, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise said there were no plans to send South African National Defence Force soldiers to Ukraine to evacuate South Africans.

But by 8 March, Dirco Minister Naledi Pandor said during the National Assembly Plenary that the country pursued efforts in earnest to get South Africans home.

ALSO READ: ‘We don’t take any side’: Dirco denies backtracking on Russia-Ukraine conflict

“We have been really pursuing efforts to assure that we get South Africans back home from Ukraine. We have been assisted by the ambassador of South Africa in Ukraine as well as by our ambassador in Moscow.

“We have a number of young people already back in South Africa… there are some that are stuck in between the border of Ukraine and Russia. And we are currently in discussions with the foreign affairs department in Russia to ensure that the students are granted safe passage so that they return back home,” she said.

Students to land today

The stranded students, many of whom had limited resources, were forced to flee Ukraine into neighbouring countries such as Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Aspen and Dirco said the first group, consisting of ten students, will be arriving at OR Tambo Airport at around 11am on an Air France flight.

A total of 25 students are expected to be evacuated by next week.

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The pharmaceutical giant’s senior executive for strategic trade Stavros Nicolaou said they appealed to government and corporate South Africa over the weekend to arrange for the students’ safe return.

“Our students are our future, and it is important that the spirit of ubuntu prevailed and that together with our Government, we were able to move swiftly to ensure their safe and timely return. We hope that they will be able to resume their studies in the not-too-distant future. 

“Aspen is particularly privileged to have played a role at this time where we are witnessing a global humanitarian crisis unfold before our eyes.”

Nicolaou said 23 of the 25 students will be home by the weekend, with the remaining two expected to be in the country by next week.

Dirco deputy director general Clayson Monyela thanked Aspen for their partnership.

“We also want to extend a word of gratitude to all our ambassadors, team of diplomats and South African volunteers (at home and abroad) who played a role in this project. This is the diplomacy of ubuntu in practice”.

As of Tuesday, the United Nations said deaths in the Ukraine totalled 474, including 29 children, warning the actual number could be far higher.

The Ukraine estimates more than 12 000 Russian soldiers have been killed.

NOW READ: DA launches petition over SA’s stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine

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Compiled by Nica Richards.

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