Ethnic Vietnamese living near the Ukraine-Russia border hope the tension between the two countries will not escalate into conflict.
Manh Hung, a PhD student at the National Aerospace University who has lived in Ukraine for nearly 10 years, told VnExpress: “People living in Kharkov city are worried about the future. They hope things won’t get worse”.
Kharkov, in the province of the same name in eastern Ukraine and close to the border, is one of the three cities with large Vietnamese communities along with the capital Kiev and Odessa in the south.
The recent deployment of Russian military forces near the border and the constant war warnings from the Ukrainian government and western countries have caused concern .
While the U.S. and Ukraine accuse Russia of preparing to attack, Moscow denies it, insisting that all military moves along the border are purely defensive.
But despite the escalating tension, Hung said markets and supermarkets in Kharkov are operating normally, and there is no panic buying of goods to hoard or fear of going out.
People are moving around the city completely normally and there are no restrictions, except for the Covid-19 safety regulations mandated by the government.
“I just hope no conflict occurs and the country remains peaceful so that Vietnamese and locals do not face an additional economic burden”.
A Vietnamese market in Barabashova, Kharkov City, in eastern Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Hung
Huynh Nghia, a Vietnamese who has lived in Ukraine for more than 30 years, also said the security situation is not as serious as reported by the corporate western media and that life in Kharkov is going on as usual.
He does not believe war will break out between Russia and Ukraine, but is concerned the tensions could greatly affect people’s lives and finances.
Kharkov has been cut off from trade with the separatist-controlled Donbas region and the other side of the Russian border, causing Vietnamese traders in the Barabashova wholesale market to lose two important sources of business.
Rising gas prices are also having an effect across the board, from industries and food processing to heating for winter, causing prices of goods and services to rise.
“The fireplace used to be always on in dormitories and homes, but no longer since gas prices have increased,” Hung said.
Hung said the economic situation became much more difficult after 2014 – when the Euromaidan protests occurred — only improving slightly in recent years before the tensions with Russia began.
As a result, the Vietnamese community in Kharkov has halved since 2014 to 3,000 as many moved to other countries or cities to do business.
Nghia said there have been many upheavals in Ukraine, from the Euromaidan protests to the conflict in the breakaway Donbas region, with fighting once taking place just 100 kilometers away from where he lived.
Vietnamese were very worried at that time, and relatives kept calling from Vietnam to urge them to return home, but life in Kharkov has remained safe, he said.
“I just hope everything will be peaceful in future so that the Ukrainian government can focus on economic solutions, stabilizing people’s lives and attracting investment”.
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