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Threat alert Irish citizens vow to stay in Ukraine as war with Russia looms

"At the end of the day, this is my home. This is my wife’s home"

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Bradley Stafford and wife Anastasiia have decided to remain in Ukraine despite the growing threat from Russia

Bradley Stafford and wife Anastasiia have decided to remain in Ukraine despite the growing threat from Russia

Paul Niland

Paul Niland

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Bradley Stafford and wife Anastasiia have decided to remain in Ukraine despite the growing threat from Russia

Two Irish citizens have told how they will remain in their “home” of Ukraine despite Department of Foreign Affairs instructions to leave, as threats of a Russian invasion loom heavily.

Paul Niland and Bradley Stafford have stated their plans to stay in Ukraine, where they have both lived for some time, despite the Irish State security update to Irish citizens asking they “depart immediately…due to the increased threat of military activity”.

Photographer Mr Stafford, from Wexford, is married to a Ukraine woman and has moved from their home in Kyiv 300km away to stay with his mother-in-law in the city of Lina.

“At the end of the day, this is my home. This is my wife’s home,” Mr Stafford told the Sunday World.

Mr Stafford, who is married to Anastasiia, said he found out about the alert for Irish citizens to leave Ukraine during a phone call with his sister.

“She just called me out of the blue and said: ‘Have you heard the news?’ And at that point I hadn’t,” Mr Stafford said.

“I was out with my wife having a meal and then I checked my email and there had been an email come in from the (Irish) Embassy, saying that they updated their travel status to the country and furthermore, they were advising all citizens to leave as soon as possible, by any means.

“For the time being, we’re staying put.

“We actually left Kyiv about a week ago. We’ve come to my mother-in-law’s house in a small city known as Lina.

“We took the decision to leave about a week ago, because my wife was getting very worried about reports she was reading in the news about the potential for conflict in and around the Kyiv area, which had been almost unimaginable.”

Mr Stafford told RTÉ Radio 1 that people in Ukraine “are a lot more worried” currently than they had been in recent weeks and months about the prospect of a Russian invasion.

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“Ukrainians are kind of used to the fact now that the war in the East has kind of become a part of daily life,” he added.

“It’s being discussed a lot more among people and people are beginning to get worried,” Mr Stafford said.

“People are putting plans in place (regarding) what they are going to do if the inevitable happens, or if the unthinkable happens, rather.

“For the time being, we have no plans to leave Ukraine.

“My wife has a family here. She has her grandparents here, who wouldn’t really be in any state to leave Ukraine.

“For the time being, we’re going to stay.

“Now, if it were, God forbid, to kick off… If the unthinkable were to happen, then, possibly then we would have to reassess our options,” he said.

Mr Stafford also said he knew getting on a flight to escape Ukraine may soon become “impossible”.

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Paul Niland

Paul Niland

Paul Niland

However, he felt his positioning so close to the Polish border meant he and his wife would be able to cross the border in an emergency.

Fellow Irish citizen Mr Niland, from Dublin, who runs a suicide prevention organisation in Kyiv, told RTÉ: “Well, I’m not going to leave the country, I’m not going to go anywhere. This is home.

“I understand people are making plans to leave.

“Some people are deciding to go to western Ukraine, because they feel that that’s safer.

“Some people are looking to get on whatever flight they can to be able to leave, as soon as possible.

“I’m staying here. I have things to do here.

“My life is here, my friends are here. This has been my home for 19 years and I’m staying.”

Mr Niland admitted he’s “concerned about the threat to the east of the country, because that’s where Russia already occupies a part of the two regions of Donetsk and Luhansk”.

He added: “They (Russia) have occupied them (Donetsk and Luhansk) since the initial invasion came in the spring of 2014. I don’t believe there’s a big threat to the capital city Kyiv, which is where I am, simply because there are three million people resident here in Kyiv.

“It’s a very, very large place and there’s no way the Russian military could either occupy this or dream about holding this.

“The resistance to them, the civilian resistance, would be enormous and they just would not be able to hold on to this place.”

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