As warnings mount that a Russian invasion could happen at any moment, airlines have suspended flights to Ukraine, diplomats have started to leave and countries around the world have urged their citizens to leave.
But many foreigners in Ukraine did not rush out.
“I’m not going anywhere,” said Thomas Jones, a British national who moved to Ukraine seven years ago to help a non-governmental organization distribute food and medical supplies after Crimea was annexed. by Russia in 2014. He is now married to a Ukrainian woman and works as an English teacher, writer and translator.
Lamenting a “panic media frenzy” by Western broadcasters over the current crisis, he said Ukrainians have been living with the constant threat of Russia and Russian-backed separatists since 2014 and are now used to it, prepared and relatively calm. .
“It’s not like people are running to the stores and buying a container of toilet paper and canned goods,” he said.
His view echoes that of many foreigners in Ukraine who in recent weeks have been torn between warnings from Western governments and urgings from the Ukrainian government not to panic.
After weeks of frantic diplomatic talks that seemed inconclusive, more than a dozen countries – including the United States, Australia, Britain, Italy, Israel and Kuwait – asked their citizens to leave the country for security reasons.
France, however, took a different approach, saying on Sunday that it was not advising the roughly 1,000 French nationals living in Ukraine to leave. France’s ambassador to Kyiv said in a statement that the two nations should not postpone major economic projects.
Ukrainska Pravda, a Ukrainian media outlet, reported on Sunday that an unusually high number of private and chartered jets were departing from Kyiv, a possible sign that the country’s elite are packing their bags.
But for many foreigners, their reluctance to leave Ukraine was rooted in financial concerns. Roberto Marcuccio, who lives in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, said he left everything in his native Italy five years ago to start a new life there. He is married to a Ukrainian, works for his wife’s billboard company and has a 5-year-old son.
“What am I going to do in Italy? I have no family who can help me, what am I going to eat, how am I going to live? said Mr. Marcuccio, 48. “I won’t leave until they start shooting,” he added.
The State Department said about 6,600 Americans resided in Ukraine as of October, but the total number of American nationals in the country could reach 16,000, including tourists and visitors.
John Jones, a 63-year-old Californian who owns a solar panel maker in Ukraine, was determined to stay in Kiev, not wanting to turn his back on his colleagues and friends.
“You can’t leave a business unattended,” he said, “and I wouldn’t leave unless all my people left too.”