Clare Senator, Timmy Dooley (FF) visited Ukraine for the second time since Russia’s invasion in February, here he writes for The Clare Echo about what he encountered.
There has been over 40 days of war in Ukraine since I last visited alongside my colleague Billy Kelleher MEP. This week as part of my role as Co-President of the Alliance of Liberal Democrats for Europe I visited Ukraine again on the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People Party.
When we reached the Polish border we drove two hours to the city of Lviv, followed by a ten hour train journey to Kyiv. In Kyiv, we met with my good friend Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna. I have known Olga for a number of years but have been in very regular contact in the lead up to the invasion. Deputy Prime Minister Stefanishyna was very keen to stress her appreciation and thanks for the hospitable and humane welcome given to Ukrainian refugees in Clare.
As the Russian forces retreated from Kyiv the people of Bucha and Irpin have faced the frustration and cowardice of the Russian military.
Those who remained in Bucha and Irpin had their homes shelled and when they attempted to flee they were shot senselessly as they ran from their homes by Russian forces. Those who managed to get to their cars were assassinated at point blank range. We saw bloodstained cars riddled with bullets, and the dead bodies had been temporarily buried by the local priest in an effort to prevent the spread of disease and the further mutilation of the dead.
We visited that mass grave in Bucha where civilians lay dead in body bags. While there investigators were excavating the bodies in order to gather evidence for what will hopefully one day be a case against Vladimir Putin.
It makes you think about the atrocities carried out in our own country and our own struggle for freedom over 100 years ago.
Deputy Prime Minister Stefanishyna also made a special thanks to the people of Clare who have been unwavering in their kindness and hospitality to those Ukrainian refugees who have sought refuge in our county.
When we last visited Ukraine thousands of refugees were crossing the borders into neighbouring countries everyday. Thankfully, since then the infrastructure on either side of the border has become much more humane and people are able to travel across speedily.
When we travelled across the Polish border this week into Ukraine I couldn’t help but notice that the flow of refugees has reduced drastically and we even noticed some people returning to Ukraine.
While the situation for refugees leaving Ukraine has improved, the destruction inflicted by Russia has taken a heavy toll on those who remain and what remains of the places they called home.
Having seen these atrocities at firsthand, it is even more heartwarming to see Ukrainian women and children receiving a warm welcome in Clare.
Since my return I have been working hard to ensure Government support is not lacking in this area. I’ve been in touch with the Taoiseach and other Government colleagues to ensure that appropriate funding is put in place to match the goodwill offered by the people of Clare.