The chief personnel officer (CPO) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been in touch with Vincentian students in Russia, amidst Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, speaking on local radio from Qatar, where he is on official business, said on Friday that there are seven or eight Vincentian students in Russia.
“… and she (CPO) has gotten in touch with the person who is the point person and everyone is in order,” Gonsalves said.
“There is no problem with them, certainly not at the moment. We have a link, a chain of communication and I advised her to issue a statement in that regard so that the families’ minds and other Vincentians’ minds could be put at ease.”
Russian troops bore down on Ukraine’s capital Friday, with explosions and gunfire sounding in the city as the invasion of a democratic country fueled fears of wider war in Europe and triggered new international efforts to make Moscow stop, the Associated Press reported on Friday.
The AP said that with reports of hundreds of casualties from the warfare — including shelling that sliced through a Kyiv apartment building and pummeled bridges and schools — there also were growing signs that Russia may be seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s government.
It would be his boldest effort yet to redraw the world map and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence, the report said.
Gonsalves spoke about the implications of the conflict on commodity prices, including wheat products and energy.
“We have a lot of social safety net issues [that we are] addressing and then the world doesn’t wait on us. Nature doesn’t wait on us. We see the challenges in climate change. We see the issues in public health globally and now we see what has happened with Russia and Ukraine and the price of fuel is going up.”
He said that Russia and Ukraine produce close to half of the world’s wheat.
“So you know what that means for the prices for flour, for instance, and oil, energy, the price will go up.”
Gonsalves said he has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but would not disclose, at least not as yet, the content of the letter.
“I am pretty sure that he probably would have received it by now. I just want to indicate that. And we are doing work, diplomatic work otherwise. I was just in touch with our ambassador to the United Nations so even [though] I am on the road, telecommunications help to do the work and I have my permanent secretary with me. So it’s like my office here is Doha.”
Asked if he plans to make a statement on the Moscow- Kyiv conflict when he returns to Kingstown this weekend, Gonsalves noted that CARICOM, the regional bloc of which SVG is a member, has issued a statement.
“CARICOM has made a statement and we are part of CARICOM and we are doing what we have to do at the UN and I have written a letter to President Putin,” Gonsalves said, reiterating that he had written to Putin.
“… each person will seek to make their best approach in all the circumstances. So I have to use my best judgement in all the circumstances. You know how I function… Our diplomatic personnel are working… But I don’t have to conduct all of the diplomacy in public,” Gonsalves said.
In a statement on Thursday, CARICOM said it “strongly condemns the military attacks and invasion of Ukraine by The Russian Federation and calls for the immediate and complete withdrawal of the military presence and cessation of any further actions that may intensify the current perilous situation in that country.”
CARICOM further said Russia’s recognition of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk “represents a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine”.
The statement continued:
“The hostilities against Ukraine go counter to the principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference in the internal affairs of another sovereign state and the prohibition on the threat or use of force, and the peaceful resolution of disputes, which are the bedrock of this Community.
“CARICOM maintains that the principles of universal respect and adherence to these norms and principles of international law are fundamental to the maintenance of the international system and global peace and security.
“CARICOM calls on all parties involved to urgently embark on intensified diplomatic dialogue to immediately de-escalate hostilities and work towards a sustainable peace.”
A number of heads of government within CARICOM have issued separate statements condemning Russia aggression.