'This is my home': Australian teacher defiant amid calls to leave Ukraine

The Australian federal government is calling on its citizens to consider leaving Ukraine immediately while upgrading its travel advice to "Do Not Travel".

colin palmer

Australian Colin Palmer lives in Ukraine. Source: Supplied

Australian citizen Colin Palmer is one of the hundreds who have been told to leave Ukraine immediately as the threat of “armed conflict” with Russia escalates.

He lives in the city of Sumy in Ukraine, around 100 kilometres from the Russian border and says there’s little concern about a new war.

“Honestly, it’s just another day, just another normal day, nothing is different not a single thing,” he told SBS News.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is following the lead of the United States and the United Kingdom and evacuating the family members of its diplomats from Kyiv, and the Australian travel advice for Ukraine .

A spokesperson for DFAT has warned that if Australians choose not to leave they may get stuck in the country because “flight availability could change or be suspended at short notice”.

Mr Palmer, an English teacher, said was contacted by the Australian Embassy in Kyiv, but informed them he won’t be leaving.

“This is my home, it’s the longest in my entire life I’ve ever lived at the one single address. I have a wife, I have a family, I’m not going anywhere,” said Mr Palmer.

“Nobody here is concerned for their safety at all. I don’t know a single person who is worried.”

Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison estimated about 1,400 Australians were in Ukraine.

“Australians who decide to remain in Ukraine should review their personal security plans, be prepared to shelter in place if required, maintain heightened security awareness and register with DFAT,” the spokesperson said.

A woman walks past the US Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, 24 January 2022.
The US State Department is allowing non-essential embassy staff to leave Ukraine. Source: AP

NATO sends ships and jets to eastern Europe

The Australian announcement comes as in response to Russia's military build-up at Ukraine's borders.

The move added to a flurry of signals that the West is bracing for an aggressive Russian move against Ukraine, though Moscow denies any plan to invade.

"I welcome allies contributing additional forces to NATO," the Western military alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. "NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the alliance."

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne has called on Russia to take active steps to de-escalate the situation.

"We are deeply concerned by the military buildup on Ukraine's border ... We'll continue to call with like-minded for a de-escalation of the situation and continue to call for support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Ms Payne told ABC radio.

Senator Payne again ruled out military assistance but said Australia will consider providing additional cyber security support.

"There has been a significant cyber attack already on Ukraine, understood to have come from potentially Russian sources," she said.

Australia has provided cyber security training to Ukraine over the past year.

Further sanctions are also under review.

The tensions over Ukraine have contributed to a rise in oil, with the latest Russia-US talks on Friday failing to produce any big breakthrough.

An estimated 100,000 Russian troops remain poised within reach of the Ukrainian border. 

With Reuters

Australians in need of emergency consular assistance can contact the Australian Government 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 in Australia or +61 2 6261 3305 outside Australia.

4 min read
Published 24 January 2022 at 10:53pm
By Ben Lewis, Anna Henderson