China envoy to Ukraine postpones evacuation of citizens

China’s envoy to Ukraine said on Sunday that the current situation was too unsafe to evacuate civilians, adding that the embassy said it would work out a plan to help people leave after the Russian invasion.

In a lengthy video message on the embassy’s official WeChat account, Chinese Ambassador Fan Jianrong sought to dispel rumors that he had left Kiev and reassure Chinese citizens stranded in the war-torn country.

“We should wait until it’s safe before we leave,” said Fan from his office, sitting in front of a Chinese flag and what appears to be a fold-out camp bed frame.

“As long as the security conditions are met and everyone’s safety is guaranteed, we will make appropriate arrangements.”

The United Nations says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on Thursday, has forced some 150,000 people to flee to neighboring countries.

Weeks ago, several countries, including the UK, US and Japan, evacuated diplomats and urged citizens to leave as fears of war grew.

China, which has avoided condemning its close ally Russia throughout the crisis, waited until Thursday before announcing that it would prepare charter flights to evacuate its citizens.

Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights the same day, citing a high risk from weapons.

Fan said, “These last few days, like everyone else, we constantly heard sirens, explosions and gunfire and we hid in the basement over and over again. These are the kind of scenes we’ve only seen in movies before. ”

After several unverified social media claims of growing hostility towards Chinese citizens from Ukrainians, he also urged Chinese citizens to “not quarrel with the locals”.

“The Ukrainian people are in a difficult situation and are suffering greatly,” he said.

“We should understand their feelings and not provoke them.”

On Saturday, the embassy urged its citizens to “abstain from displaying identification signs”, just days after those leaving Kiev were explicitly asked to put a Chinese flag on their vehicles.

China previously said there were about 6,000 Chinese nationals in Ukraine to work and study.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his German counterpart Annalena Barbock on Saturday that China does not support sanctions and that Russia’s “legitimate security demands must be properly addressed”.

Beijing on Friday voted to abstain from a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which was vetoed by Russia.

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