China has begun withdrawing its citizens from Ukraine, according to official media, over fears for their safety as a result of Beijing’s partner Russia’s invasion, as well as allegations of ensuing animosity from irate Ukrainians.
According to the state-run Global Times newspaper, 600 Chinese students were evacuated from Kyiv and the southern port city of Odessa on Monday, citing the Chinese embassy in Kiev.
According to the report, they traveled by bus to neighboring Moldova under the protection of an embassy escort and local police, and the six-hour ride was “secure and easy.”
A further 1,000 Chinese people are expected to depart Ukraine on Tuesday for Poland and Slovakia, both of which are European Union member states, according to the article.
China has walked a diplomatic tightrope in the crisis, balancing its oft-stated stance on state sovereignty with a reluctance to criticize its close friend Russia.
While countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan evacuated diplomats and advised civilians to flee in the weeks leading up to the invasion, China did not announce its plans to evacuate its citizens until Thursday.
However, the flights have failed to arrive, and Ukraine has already closed its airspace, prompting the Chinese envoy to deny fleeing Kyiv and emphasize the need of “waiting until it is safe” to depart in a Sunday video message.
Around 6,000 Chinese people are estimated to be working and studying in Ukraine.
Its embassy in Kyiv initially advised people wanting to leave to clearly display a Chinese flag on their vehicles, but altered tack after unsubstantiated social media accusations of increased hatred toward Chinese citizens by Ukrainians.
According to a statement released by the embassy on Monday, two additional EU countries, Hungary and Romania, will assist Chinese nationals fleeing Ukraine.