On Friday afternoon, LUkraine asbl, a non-profit organisation representing the Ukrainian community in Luxembourg, held a press conference at Neumünster Abbey (neimënster) in Luxembourg-Grund, in the presence of Lydie Polfer, Mayor of Luxembourg City, Claude Radoux, Luxembourg’s Honorary Consul to Ukraine, and Maurice Bauer, Member of Luxembourg City's municipal council.
This press conference focused on the worsening situation in Ukraine following the Russian invasion and the many initiatives being implemented in Luxembourg to support the Ukrainian population at this time.
Mayor Lydie Polfer began by emphasising that the City of Luxembourg (Ville de Luxembourg - VdL), like the Luxembourg Government, was "ready to help wherever we can". Whilst a lot remains unknown about the situation and how it will develop, the VdL is "trying to help as quickly and concretely as possible", she noted. Ms Polfer praised the solidarity of Luxembourg nationals and residents towards Ukrainian citizens, with many individuals and families volunteering to open their homes to Ukrainian refugees in the coming days and weeks.
Luxembourg City's Mayor also pointed out that the VdL had just this morning made available an old preschool in Rollingergrund for the purpose of hosting Ukrainian arrivals. She added that they were working to give Ukrainian children educational opportunities as soon as possible. Despite the "generosity" of Luxembourg residents in offering to host Ukrainian families, housing remains an issue. As such, the VdL has rented a hotel in order to be able to "very quickly" house people in need.
Nicolas Zharov, President of LUkraine asbl, thanked the VdL and everyone in Luxembourg who continues to support the organisation. He noted that LUkraine asbl lacks the human resources required to fully respond to the situation but that it was working closely with partners such as the VdL and the Luxembourg Government to find solutions. The non-profit has also partnered with hospitals in Luxembourg, such as Hôpitaux Robert Schuman (HRS), with a collection point set up at Hôpital Kirchberg. Mr Zharov added that they were working together with Ukraine's Defence and Health Ministries, as well as the Embassy of Ukraine in Brussels (Belgium), to determine the material needs of the Ukrainian people. The most up-to-date information is available on the dedicated website, launched by LUkraine asbl: help.ukrainians.lu. Another way to show support is to attend the next organised protest, which is taking place in Place de Clairefontaine in Luxembourg-Ville on Saturday 5 March 2022 at 15:00.
Turning his attention to Russia's military actions in Ukraine, namely the recent incident at Europe's biggest nuclear power plant, Nicolas Zharov stated: "These acts [...] concern the situation in Ukraine but also the situation in Europe". He described such acts, which also include the bombing of creches and hospitals in Ukrainian cities where there is no military base nor infrastructure, as "unacceptable". On a more positive note, he highlighted the resistance and unity of the Ukrainian people, adding that: "We feel the support of the whole world". Nevertheless, Mr Zharov reiterated earlier calls for humanitarian and military aid.
Moreover, the LUkraine asbl President stressed that "Ukrainians do not support the message of hate", including towards Russian nationals, adding that the non-profit was "aware that most Russians do not support [President Vladimir] Putin's actions". In this context, Mr Zharov called on the public to avoid targeting Russians based on their nationality. He emphasised that many Russian people have shown their support for this cause - many in Russia have been arrested for voicing their opposition to the invasion of Ukraine.
Honorary Consul Claude Radoux reiterated Mr Zharov's message of "unity among Ukrainians, Luxembourgers and Europeans in the face of this exceptional crisis". He recalled that Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over his country. "This is not [...] usual, but we are confronted with a critical situation that will worsen", Mr Radoux stated. The Honorary Consul added that it was important to maintain hope, although support was still needed.
For his part, Maurice Bauer stressed that "all refugees are welcome here in Luxembourg", adding that what was needed now was preparation and a readiness to "be there" to support Ukrainians arriving in Luxembourg.
In the question and answer (Q&A) session that followed, Nicolas Zharov addressed the reticence of NATO and the European Union (EU) regarding involvement in this situation: "I understand that the engagement of NATO and the EU scares everyone but a Russian President who says he will use nuclear weapons against anyone [...] is even scarier". He added: "Unfortunately, Europe must also be prepared for all the possibilities and probabilities of the war. The Russian President will not stop at Ukraine".
Regarding how many Ukrainian refugees can be housed in Luxembourg, Claude Radoux recalled that European countries were "prepared to welcome all refugees", with the Grand Duchy able to take in up to 3,000 people using the quota system. However, "if the situation worsens […], we cannot predict the number of refugees". Lydie Polfer added that the ideal situation would be to house Ukrainians arriving in Luxembourg in family homes and apartments. However, if there is a "very big influx", all refugees will still be welcomed but will have to stay in "more precarious conditions". She added that "the availability is there but it all depends on the scale of the influx". Moreover, adapted solutions will be needed for the long term.