Shafaq News/ Paramilitary groups aligned with Russia in the Ukrainian city of Sumy are using foreign nationals, including Iraqis, as human shields, head of the Iraqi community in Russia Haidar al-Shammari revealed on Saturday.
Al-Shammari told Shafaq News Agency, "200 Jordanians, 200 Indians, and 40 Egyptians, all of whom are students, in addition to 40 Iraqis, including ten students, are being detained in Sumy to be used as leverage by Russia."
"All the governments demanded Russia to protect and evacuate their citizens. Our embassy, however, is standing idly," he said, "I demand the Iraqi government to make a move because the Iraqi embassy has failed to make a breakthrough."
Russian media reported that Ukrainian nationalists are plotting to kill nine Iraqi students and pin it on Russia.
According to the official, Ukrainian nationalists are getting ready to stage a propaganda fake involving nine Iraqi students, whom they hold by force in a hostel of the Sumy State University.
"The nationalists are plotting to kill these Iraqi citizens when the Russian army will be establishing control of the university’s territory and to spread fake news foreign citizens professing Islam were killed as a result of a ‘Russian military aggression," the source said.
Earlier on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine was holding more than 6,000 foreign citizens, including students, hostage in Sumy and Kharkov. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Russian army was ready to help with the evacuation of foreign students from Kharkov, but the Ukrainian side impeded the operation. Students from China, India, and a number of other Asian and African countries are stranded in Ukraine.
Chargé d'affaires of the Iraqi embassy in Kyiv, Hussein Abbas, denied these reports later.
"[In fact], the majority of citizens in the region are de facto detaniees due to war," he said in a statement earlier today, "we have established channels with international players to secure a safe corridor for the detainees. We, as an embassy, are sparing no effort in cooperation with the relevant authorities and International Committee of the Red Cross."
Ukrainian universities and institutes have hosted thousands of Iraqi students in the past few years, where education is much more affordable than in Iraq and majors are more plentiful.
The unfolding war has caused great fear and anxiety among Iraqis there, especially students who reportedly reside close to the Russian army's range of fire.
On Feb. 14, the Foreign Ministry addressed the Ukrainian colleges and institutes, stressing the need for them to grant Iraqi students leave of absence due to the deteriorating situation in the country.
On Feb. 22, the Iraqi Embassy in Kyiv advised Iraqis residing in Ukraine to leave the eastern parts of the country or any unsafe areas and move to more stable areas. It also provided a hotline for those wishing to leave Ukraine. Yet these instructions and the hotline were only made known after the airspace was closed.
In addition to the security developments and dangers in Kyiv and other cities, the Iraqis suffer from the lack of liquidity to be able to buy what they need and the suspended cash assistance from their families in Iraq.