St Albans a 'city of sanctuary' for Ukrainian people facing conflict

A vigil for Ukraine in St Albans

A vigil for Ukraine in St Albans - Credit: Liz Needham

St Albans stands ready to become a city of sanctuary for people fleeing conflict in Ukraine, Daisy Cooper MP has said.

At a vigil and demonstration outside St Albans Museum yesterday (Friday, February 25), residents gathered to show solidarity with Ukrainian people impacted by conflict.

It follows the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, February 24.

Daisy Cooper MP at a vigil for Ukraine in St Albans

Daisy Cooper MP at a vigil for Ukraine in St Albans - Credit: Liz Needham

Ms Cooper attended the vigil.

She said: "This week has seen some of the darkest days for our continent since the Second World War and like so many others I'm horrified at the scenes of violence and destruction against a sovereign and democratic nation."

She added: "I know that Ukrainian citizens living right here in St Albans are terrified for their friends and family in their native country.

"Many have and will take up arms, but we must also accept that many will likely become refugees.

"We have a proud history here in St Albans of providing sanctuary and safety to those fleeing war and persecution.

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"I know that our community stands ready to provide that help again."

A vigil for St Albans with demonstrators holding the St Albans and Ukraine flags

"We have a proud history here in St Albans of providing sanctuary and safety to those fleeing war and persecution." - Credit: Liz Needham

Ms Cooper added that her party, the Liberal Democrats, has called for the "most punitive sanctions possible" against Russia.

At the vigil, Sergii Riabenkyi and Roman Sydorenko - two Ukrainian men who live in St Albans - spoke to thank city residents for their support in difficult times.

Liz Needham, who organised the vigil, said: "I feel that it is very important for the Ukrainian people to know that their struggle is recognised worldwide.

"We ordinary people cannot do much to help but we can express our concern and empathy.

"I think if I was in Ukraine and could see support for my country on Facebook, Twitter, or other media my spirits would be lifted.  

"Also, as a trustee of St Albans for Refugees (StAR), I am concerned about the implications for the people of Ukraine."

A vigil for Ukraine in St Albans

A vigil for Ukraine in St Albans - Credit: Liz Needham

Since the outbreak of the conflict, the Ukrainian death toll has reached at least 198 according to the Interfax news agency.

Ukraine's Minister for Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba accused Vladimir Pution of war crimes after "shelling a kindergarten and orphanage" during the invasion.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary and Welwyn Hatfield MP, has banned Russian airlines, including 'flag carrier' Aeroflot, from UK airspace - one of several UK government sanctions against Russia.