Nigeria Plans Evacuation of Citizens From Ukraine

Ukrainian military vehicles move past Independence Square in central Kyiv, Feb. 24, 2022, after cities were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery.

Nigerian authorities have announced a special flight operation to evacuate their citizens from Ukraine, following the Russian invasion Thursday.

Thursday's announcement by Nigerian authorities followed distress calls made by Nigerian nationals in Ukraine, including students.

Nigeria's foreign affairs ministry said it "has been reassured by the Nigerian Embassy in Ukraine of the safety of Nigerians in that country," and said measures were "being undertaken to keep them safe and facilitate the evacuation of those who wish to leave."

Tobi Adeyemi, a Nigerian student in Ukraine's capital, said he heard explosions on Thursday.

"Artilleries, bomb blasts and everything," he said. "It affected some civilian buildings ... across Ukraine. The situation now is that they're trying to come into Kyiv. At this point, everybody is stuck in Ukraine."

People are seen outside the cordoned-off area around the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv, Feb. 24, 2022.

There are 4,000 Nigerian students in Ukraine. Airports, train stations and taxis were shut down Thursday. Nigerian authorities promised to airlift residents wanting to leave once the airports reopen.

But Abuja resident Christian Paul, who has a relative who traveled to Ukraine last week, is worried.

"Whenever these powers of the world go to war, they come with their allies," Paul said. "The probability of bringing their allies into this situation is very high and that's why it gives me concern because you don't know how that can turn out. This is the same way World War II started."

Russia assembled nearly 200,000 troops on the borders of Ukraine for the multipronged attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the invasion targeted military installations in Ukraine, but many fear there will be civilian casualties. This week, Nigerian lawmakers raised concern that citizens may be caught in the crossfire.

Abuja resident Paul Enyim fears the consequences will be felt well beyond Ukraine.

"The whole world is going to feel the heat. What is going to be the fate for Africa? How is business going to be?" he asked.

This is the largest land invasion of a country in Europe since the end of World War II.