Connect with us

World

Nearly 20,000 men have fled Ukraine to avoid being drafted

Published

on

A man with a Ukraine flag walking on the streets
A BBC Eye investigation highlights how Ukrainian men have escaped the war and claim asylum in its neighbouring countries | Photo: Jo Kassis

BBC World Service’s investigation unit, BBC Eye, has revealed that nearly 20,000 Ukrainian men have used various routes to flee their country to avoid being drafted, following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The BBC Eye investigation, Ukraine’s Draft Dodgers, talks to some of the men who have escaped the war, as they explain their unique situations, their choices, and what they have gone through to get out of Ukraine and claim asylum in its neighbouring countries. BBC Eye’s covert reporting identifies smugglers whose paid services are advertised on a messaging app.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukrainian men aged 18-60 were banned from leaving the country unless they had an exemption. But BBC Eye has established – by requesting from Romania, Moldova, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia data on illegal border crossings – that 19,740 men illegally crossed Ukraine’s border into these neighbouring countries between February 2022 and 31 August 2023.

According to the Ukrainian authorities, out of the 21,113 individuals who were caught trying to escape the country, the majority – 14,313 – were attempting to walk or swim across the border, and the remaining 6,800 tried to use fraudulently obtained official paperwork stating exemptions.

Ukraine’s 1200km-long border with Moldova has become the most popular route out for these men: since the start of the war, over 11,000 have crossed illegally into this country. While some have simply walked across the border, other escapes have been dramatic. One video shows a man swimming across the Dniester river towards Moldova, with Moldovan border guards urging him across to safety.

In a refugee centre in Northern Moldova, BBC Eye met Erik, a 26-year-old musician from Kharkiv, who says he crossed over to Moldova by walking across the plains of Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region and then swimming across a river. Erik eventually made it to the US, where he was reunited with his wife and four-year-old daughter.

The BBC report also found attempts that had fatal outcomes – such as those who drowned while trying to cross the Tisa river between Ukraine and Romania. A video shows the bodies of men being pulled to shore by the Ukrainian guards.

For those with enough money, there is another route out of Ukraine conscription – paying for fake paperwork to grant them an exemption, such as men with medical issues, or with caring responsibilities, or fathers to three or more children.

Posing as a Ukrainian keen to leave the country, an undercover reporter working for the BBC Eye investigation spent a month corresponding with smugglers who are advertising their services on a messaging app. He found at least six groups on the Telegram messaging app, with membership ranging from a hundred to thousands of people. “It’s also easy to message the group administrator, who quickly responds and provides a list of services. […] the scale of this illegal business seems quite large.”

The various options to escape Ukraine offered to the BBC Eye undercover reporter included presenting himself as a volunteer; adding a number of children to his existing family (which would allow him to leave the country); sharing a route which would allow him to bypass the Ukraine border checks; and the most expensive of all – a medical exemption for joining the army (“white ticket”), which means he would have the freedom to come and go from the country as he pleases. “They explained that part of this money goes as a bribe to someone who will produce the ticket,” says the reporter.

In August 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called out the “corrupt decisions” made by the country’s medical military commissions, which he said had resulted in a ten-fold increase in exemptions since February 2022. He warned that bribery during war was “high treason” and announced that all regional officials in charge of military conscription had been removed, and more than 30 people faced criminal charges.

Talking to BBC Eye, Fedir Venislavskyi, member of parliament and the president’s parliamentary representative, acknowledged the seriousness of the problem: “The government realises that this phenomenon is not isolated and that it is widespread. But unfortunately, I would emphasise that corruption is very resilient. It is very difficult to eradicate it.” He added that Ukraine was doing “everything possible to keep the number of corruption cases to a minimum”.

Venislavskyi told BBC Eye that the number of men who have left or tried to leave was having no impact on the war effort: “I am convinced that the resilience and readiness of Ukrainians to defend their independence, sovereignty and freedom is 95-99%. Those who try to avoid mobilisation are about 1-5%. They are definitely not critical to the defence of Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s Defence Minister, Rustem Umerov, said in September 2023 that of Ukraine’s 1-million-strong defence forces, more than 800,000 are in the country’s armed forces.

Ukraine’s Draft Dodgers, from the BBC World Service and produced by Helen Littleboy, is available for viewing in the UK – via BBC iPlayer – and internationally, on BBC World Service YouTube channel. The documentary will also be available in Ukrainian via the BBC News Ukraine YouTube channel.

EuroNewsweek is a dynamic news platform featuring lifestyle, sustainability, successful stories, tech, leadership, creative marketing, business, and the unstoppable people behind them.

World

Physicians Group responds to humanitarian needs of Sudan’s conflict

According to the Displacement Tracking Matrix, some 736,000 Sudanese have newly internally displaced within Sudan since the start of the conflict.

Published

on

Health personnel at the Saudi hospital in Omdurman treat a newborn patient amidst Sudan's Conflict. (Credit: Omer Jay for SAPA)

“70 percent of hospitals and healthcare organizations are out of service in Sudan’s conflict zone – within Khartoum state and the Darfur areas. Across the conflict areas, there is a total of 89 hospitals and 62 are out of service completely. Some 19 hospitals were bombed or attacked by missiles,” says Mohamed Eisa, Secretary-General of the Sudanese American Physicians Association (SAPA), a 650-member strong non-profit founded in 2019.

Since the start of the April 15 power struggle in Sudan between two Sudanese generals–Abdel Fattah Burhan (head of the Sudanese military) and rival Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (head of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces)–SAPA has supported the public health sector with staff incentives, and financial assistance to 2,437 healthcare professionals across Khartoum, Gezira, Port Sudan, South Darfur, and Kasala. 

The U.N. Migration Agency reports nearly 700,000 Sudanese displaced, in addition to the 3.7 million existing IDPs. The power struggle, which continues to wage a bloody battle concentrated around the capital city of Khartoum and the Darfur region, is now a humanitarian crisis.  

“Genocide is again underway in Darfur. Since 2003 it has never stopped. In the past months, over a thousand African Massalit have been murdered by the Arab ‘Rapid Support Forces,’ the renamed Janjaweed, still led by the murderous General Hemeti, who also controls much of Khartoum. Sudan needs a robust Chapter Seven UN Peacekeeping Force with a mandate to end the Sudanese civil war and Darfur genocide. The International Criminal Court should charge both General Hemeti and General Burhan with crimes against humanity and Genocide. The UN PKO should be mandated to arrest them and send them to the Hague for trial,” says Greg Stanton, Founding President of Genocide Watch. “The UN and its members must not get tired of preventing, stopping, and punishing genocide.”

Children, Women, and IDPs Caught in Sudan’s Conflict Zone

With three Interagency Emergency Health Kits (IEHK) delivered to Madani, Sudan’s second-largest city and the capital of the east-central Gezira state, SAPA plans another IEHK for Alnao Hospital and has ​​delivered two tons of medications and supplies to the hospital while awaiting the clearance of 40 tons of medical supplies now held off in Port Sudan.

SAPA has launched new healthcare facilities to lessen pressure on existing public health infrastructure. It provides dedicated healthcare support to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and food provisions for doctors’ residences in five states.

Before the recent conflict, SAPA supported healthcare projects in Sudan forging partnerships with other NGOs and human rights organizations in the U.S. and globally. Since the start of the April conflict, SAPA’s all-volunteer Board of Directors expanded services with support from 30,000 individual donors from over 30 countries.

“SAPA has started services in Gezira where our largest operations are. We now have over 50 full-time staff employees and incentivized volunteers or part-timers,” says Eisa, who is a gastroenterologist and hepatologist based in Pittsburg (USA), and just returned from a month-long work in Khartoum.

Another SAPA member, now in Madani, assists with projects including a fully equipped Operating Room in Madani Teaching Hospital, the largest public hospital in Gezira state providing surgical capacities and patient care. SAPA’s oxygen generation plant in Singa – the second largest city southeast of Khartoum – fills 2,000 oxygen cylinders each month for clinics across the state. The plant, a collaboration with the state’s Minister of Health which provided half of the budget, eliminates long travel distances to obtain oxygen tanks and is a lifesaver during emergencies. The $132,000 investment has already impacted over one million people’s lives in the Sennar and Blue Nile states in East Sudan. In consultation with the Federal Ministry of Health, SAPA also determined that Darfur was in dire need of oxygen tanks since the area has been void of healthcare centers since the 1956 independence.

“Strengthening the local communities, and local civil movements is extremely beneficial for improved healthcare status in Sudan. Our work is not just with the top-level officials and medical unions, but also with the local communities,” Eisa says SAPA, in collaboration with the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), has shipped to Gezira, Sennar, and White Nile states $450,000 worth of medications covering the medical needs of 20,000 people for three months. IMANA is one of the largest faith-based medical groups in the world and the largest Muslim medical organization in North America. SAPA also received $3.6 million worth of medication shipments from its partner organization, United Hand Relief.

With the widespread Hemorrhagic Fever across Sudan, SAPA’s $22,000 vector control project in the eastern Sudanese city of Kasala, provides treatment to over 30,000 households. With most of the capital city Khartoum residents fleeing into Madani, SAPA and the Faculty of Medicine at Gezira University set up the Madani IDP Health Clinic and 70 Mobile Clinics to meet the medical and healthcare needs of IDPs. 

The mobile clinics, mobilized in Madani a few weeks after the April conflict. SAPA hired healthcare workers and volunteers to equip the clinics. Each mobile clinic has about 20 healthcare professionals who have served nearly 6,000 patients across 43 locations in Gezira State with reproductive health, and soon will offer vaccination programs. Additional mobile clinics are planned for Northern and White Nile States as well.

“We operated on an IDP who had colon cancer. With support from partners, we are also able to manage secondary care. For those who need tertiary care, we contact national specialized centers dedicated to tertiary care–from cardiac surgeries, transplants, and cancer,” Eisa says SAPA retrofitted a former contact isolation center as a secondary care hospital and will reopen the hospital with a dedicated monthly operating budget of $90,000.

Some 25 percent of the IDPs treated at SAPA mobile clinics are children, and between 25% to 40% are women, suffering from a range of ailments from simple colds to severe malnutrition among children, to malaria and other infectious diseases, and cancer. The mobile clinics travel through different IDP camps with the smaller minivans providing simple medical services, from measuring blood pressure to a gluco-meter while larger vans are equipped with laboratory equipment and a small pharmacy.

According to UNICEF, an estimated 82,000 Sudanese children have crossed into neighboring countries, while an additional 368,000 children are internally displaced.

In partnership with the Sudan Doctors Trade Union and other entities such as the Sudanese Pediatrics Consultants Society, SAPA ensures ongoing pediatric care in the conflict area.

“We haven’t been attacked so far luckily because Madani is sort of away from the conflict, there isn’t any sort of immediate danger. But we have mobilized activities and support a Saudi hospital, the only hospital that provides obstetrics and gynecology services in Omdurman city right now,” Eisa says SAPA provides salaries for the staff to continue their services and serve children in the conflict area.

Continue Reading

World

Top cities in the US to list spaces on Airbnb

Published

on

A room rented on Airbnb
Budget: 65% of US-based hosts plan to use Airbnb’s earnings to cover the heightened cost of living | Photo: Aislinn Spaman

With the cost of living going up around the world, people are looking for alternative income streams for some relief. In the US, one of those potential solutions for passive income generation has been turning a spare bedroom into an Airbnb rental.

According to Airbnb, the majority of hosts in the US are using the money they earn from sharing their space on the platform to help cover high costs of living. A recent survey released this week highlights that 65 percent of US-based Hosts plan to use the money they earn on Airbnb to cover the heightened cost of living in the next 12 months. 

For those already with a place available in the US, Airbnb has recently released the top-opportunity cities to host across the country.

Chicago, IL

The Windy City,” home of the Magnificent Mile, a big shiny bean, 22 miles of stunning Lake Michigan shoreline and world-famous restaurants and bars. It’s no surprise that people would want to travel to this stunning city – which means there is ample opportunity to earn some additional money by becoming a Host on Airbnb. Last year Hosts in Chicago earned over $140 million with the typical Airbnb Host earning approximately $18,500.

Denver, CO

The Mile High City”, home of Red Rocks, a newly-crowned championship basketball team, year-round outdoor activities and endless places to explore. Denver offers travelers so much, and in turn, is a top-opportunity place to host on Airbnb. Last year, Hosts in Denver earned over $115 million, with the typical Host earning over $18,000. 

San Diego, CA

It’s nicknamed America’s Finest City,” for a reason – pristine beaches, phenomenal weather and restaurant options galore, San Diego offers travelers an escape that’s unlike many other places in the US. It allows it to provide a lot of opportunity for prospective Airbnb Hosts. Last year, Hosts in San Diego earned over $350 million, with the typical Host earning over $20,000. 

Los Angeles, CA

The City of Angels,” amusement parks, beaches, hikes, Hollywood – there is truly no city like LA and because of its uniqueness, it offers ample opportunity for those considering hosting. Last year, Hosts in Los Angeles earned over $375 million, with the typical Host earning over $24,000. 

Sevierville + Smoky Mountains, TN

It’s hard to compete with the scenic, natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains and Sevierville sit at their northern base, with quick access to Smoky Mountain National Park and Douglas Lake, Sevierville offers ample opportunity for those considering hosting on Airbnb, with the typical Airbnb Host earning nearly $20,000 last year.

Continue Reading

World

Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium is looking for a sponsor to add to its name

Published

on

Tel Aviv-Yafo Sport Palaces Ltd., a municipal corporation owned by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, is publishing a tender for primary sponsorship and naming rights for Bloomfield Stadium. The sponsor chosen for Israel’s most popular sports venue will have rights to its name (following the name Bloomfield) and other rights, including advertising rights at central and televised spots, use of a central skybox, hosting events, and other benefits.

Bloomfield Stadium opened on 13 October 1962 and since has hosted thousands of games of Israel’s top football teams, international matches, and performances by international artists. The Stadium welcomes a million and a half viewers each year and generates extensive local and international media coverage through game broadcasts, performances and events. 

Four years ago, the Stadium was reopened after a massive investment by the Tel Aviv -Yafo Municipality through a comprehensive renovation and expansion project. This makeover positioned Bloomfield as the leading stadium in Israel, meeting high international safety and service standards and doubling its number of seats to nearly 30,000. 

Brands looking to submit an offer to name the stadium must submit all paperwork by August 1, 2023. The sponsor engagement is for eight years, with an option to extend for eight additional years.

Co-branding a venue can a lucrative deal. 

Phone mobile network Vodafone reportedly signed a £105m deal, back in 2013, for primary sponsorship and naming rights for Besiktas Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey. In Germany, Bayern Munich’s home ground is believed to be pocketing £6.4m a year from insurer Allianz for a similar naming rights package, which include shirt sponsorship, advertising and stadium technological infrastructure rights.

Continue Reading

Trending