DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates has temporarily suspended a visa waiver for Ukrainian citizens, Kyiv’s embassy in the Gulf Arab state said, at a time thousands of people are fleeing war in Ukraine.
The UAE decision went into effect on Tuesday, the embassy said in a notice to citizens on its Facebook page, without providing a reason. Emirati authorities did not respond to a request for comment.
Ukranian Anna Goncharnco, speaking to Reuters in Dubai where she is on holiday, slammed the decision at a time the “whole world is helping”. She lives in the Netherlands, but her daughter lives in Kyiv with her father.
“I find it actually a crime from this country (UAE) if they don’t let Ukrainians enter the country right now and require a visa. How they should get a visa at this moment, it’s impossible,” she said, tearing up outside the Ukraine pavilion at the Dubai Expo world fair.
More than 650,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring European states since Russia’s invasion. The European Union has said it is preparing for millions of refugees.
The UAE, which has adopted a neutral stance in the conflict and called for a ceasefire and diplomacy, said on Wednesday it would provide aid assistance to civilians in Ukraine worth $5 million, state media reported.
Inna and her daughter Sonia, also visiting Dubai for the world fair, are worried about their family and friends in the Black Sea port city of Odessa.
“It is so terrible, so sad. We are nervous for our friends, for our family because they are there and can’t leave the country,” said Inna, who declined to give her last name.
Sonia wants to go home.
“This year I was supposed to graduate from class, now I don’t know what will happen tomorrow…Please stop the war in our country, it is so scary,” she said, speaking in English.
(Reporting by Abdel Hadi Ramahi and Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by Alex Richardson)