At least 200 Zimbabwean students are stranded in Ukraine after flights were grounded as Russia began a military offensive this week.
The students have sent a plea to the Zimbabwe government to be evacuated.
Faith Vundla, a third-year medical student in Odessa, a port city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, said Russian bombs started falling on the city at around 4 AM on Thursday.
She had booked a flight to Zimbabwe for Friday, but that can no longer happen after the airspace over Ukraine were closed to civilian aircraft.
Vundla estimates that 30 Zimbabwean students are in Odessa, with dozens more at universities around Ukraine including the capital, Kyiv, which has also come under attack.
Vundla said she was among the students that had joined a WhatsApp group created by the embassy. The students also have a separate WhatsApp group, she said, which has close to 200 people. Vundla told ZimLive:
The embassy has advised us to get to Poland from where we can be evacuated. The trouble is that to get into Poland you need a Schengen visa which most of us don’t have.
The other issue is that travel inside Ukraine itself has become very difficult, it’s more practical to go to a country closest to you and for us here in Odessa, that country is Moldova. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution around it I’m afraid and we desperately need our government to help us.
Vundla said she and her friends planned to gather in one place as they await directions from the Zimbabwe government.
Russian forces invaded Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday. Missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities.
In a televised declaration of war in the early hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had ordered “a special military operation” to protect people, including Russian citizens, subjected to “genocide” in Ukraine, an accusation western countries called absurd propaganda.