MADRID – At least 100 Spaniards are currently in Ukraine. At the moment, it is impossible for them to return to Spain. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised them to remain in Ukraine and to seek safe shelter there for the time being.
Last Sunday, Minister José Manuel Albares managed to evacuate 106 Spaniards from the war zone. Another 100 Spaniards had already returned on their own just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is unknown how many Spaniards are still in Ukraine who have not made this known to the authorities.
Spanish couple in Kiev
One of the Spaniards who cannot leave Ukraine at the moment is the 70-year-old Luis Escudero. Together with his Ukrainian wife Svetlana, he flew to Kiev on February 22, despite the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already issued a negative travel advice for the country. Escudero would act as a jury member in a dance competition in Ukraine. From Kiev, the couple flew to Zaporizhzhya, in southeastern Ukraine, where Russian troops have currently arrived. Here they failed to be repatriated by the Spanish authorities.
According to Delgado, telephone contact with the Spanish embassy in Ukraine was impossible; all he got was an automatically generated email. “They just left us here. The city is surrounded, there are bombings and there is no way out,” Delgado said. Now, on the advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they should not attempt to get away and above all stay where they are now. Delgado nevertheless considers trying to reach the border by car. “We are tired, discouraged, and want this nightmare to end,” Delgado said.
When asked why he travelled to Ukraine despite the negative travel advice, Delgado answers that it was a travel advice and not a travel ban. Ministry sources confirm Delgado’s story but say there is nothing they can do for the couple now, other than advising them to stay at the hotel.
Spaniards in Odessa
The difficult circumstances also detain the 44-year-old José María Moreno in Ukraine. He flew to Odessa with his Ukrainian wife Sandra in early February for a few weeks of family vacation. They would return to Spain on Saturday 26 February. Two days earlier, Russia invaded Ukraine, preventing them from flying back to Valencia. By phone, Moreno informs El País that Russia did not yet take the city, but that they can hear the explosions at close range. Despite the fact that the situation in Odessa is relatively calm, authorities allow no one to leave the city.
The couple now hopes that the roads will be safe again in a few days and that they can reach Moldova, which is 100 kilometres away. But Moreno realises all too well that a few days can just as well turn into a few years. Until then, he and his wife will stay in her family’s house.
On the day of the raid, Moreno contacted the Spanish embassy in Kiev for help in returning to Spain. Because they do not live in Ukraine themselves, they first had to send an e-mail with their details and the situation they found themselves in. After there was no reply to this email, the couple tried to get away on their own. This soon failed, as on the way they immediately encountered a military confrontation between the Russians and Ukrainians. Another attempt, but at night, also failed.
They did not resign themselves to the situation and contacted the Directorate General of the Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to present their story. So far they have not received a reply from the Spanish authorities.