Russia-Ukraine war: Kiwi expat horrified at atrocities says it could have been us

A Kiwi expat left Ukraine with family and travelled across Europe where he’s now hearing about more horrors back in his adopted home.

Michael Devoe left Kyiv for a location about 30km south of the capital. But then intense bombing of Ukrainian cities started.

“And in reality there’s not really much you can do about that,” he said.

“We had to plan it so we would have some places to stay overnight on the way. It took about three days to get to the border,” he told the Herald.

After reaching Hungary, Devoe and his ex-wife and children drove further through Europe to Amsterdam.

They and many other war refugees have found some sanctuary in the country.

They have to manage daily necessities of life in a new country with the added emotional toll of hearing about the war back in Ukraine.

War crimes have been alleged north of Kyiv in Bucha, a place Devoe said was a typical suburb before the war.

“Kyiv was expanding so there are lots of new builds in the area, and the big shopping centre that was blown up.”

Devoe said apart from millions of refugees who left their homeland, many Ukrainians were forced to shift around the country due to the Russian onslaught.

“My ex-wife’s father and nephews, they basically moved to our house in Kyiv. They’re okay. Where they’re living, the power and water got cut off for a few days.”

In recent days more evidence of war crimes has emerged, with rapes, massacres and mass graves reported.

New Zealand has responded by expanding sanctions on wealthy and powerful people linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Three dozen more oligarchs and their relatives, including Chelsea FC mogul Roman Abramovich, have been hit with asset freeze and travel ban orders, effective at midnight.

Devoe said it was hard to tell what impact those sanctions would have.

“In Europe, a lot of the yachts have been seized. We’ll see whether it’s more of an annoyance for them or a really painful thing.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this afternoon was asked if New Zealand would provide lethal military aid to Ukraine but did not directly answer.

She said the wait lists for some military supplies ran to months, even years, partly because so many countries were sending supplies to Ukraine now.

“If New Zealand can, they should,” Devoe said when asked if New Zealand should send weapons to Ukraine.

Recent Ukrainian success against Russian tanks has overturned some military orthodoxy after fabled Russian armoured units got annihilated.

The provision of Western arms to the Ukrainians had been helpful, Devoe said

“It’s been helping immensely with anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft weapons.”

Devoe said it was still too soon to go back to Ukraine.

In the meantime, he and others staying with friends or seeking refuge in Europe had to manage the financial and other demands of daily life.

Devoe is a carbon trader with a New Zealand business partner.

Asked how he was doing financially, he replied: We’re sort of okay for now but we need to work on that. It’s just tough for everyone.”

Another source of stress was hearing about more and more people in Ukraine becoming casualties.

“Friends of friends have been killed.”

It seemed every day someone closer to him was a victim. He worried about his friends.

He said when he heard about the killing of Ukrainian civilians, he felt shock, anger, and sadness.

“You sit here and think: It could have been us.”

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