VALENCIA has shown its support for Ukraine on the anniversary of the invasion of the country by Russia.
The city’s mayor, Joan Ribó, led a minute’s silence on Friday morning (24 February) outside the main door of the City Hall building in solidarity with the Ukrainian population and the people displaced by the war. Meanwhile, regional president, Ximo Puig, announced a summit to coordinate cooperation and begin talking about reconstruction in Ukraine.
Call for peace from Valencia
Representatives of professional and civic organisations joined members of Valencia City Council at the cross-party act of solidarity and denunciation. Ribo said that since the start of the conflict Valencia has welcomed Ukrainian refugees with open arms, stressing his “firm commitment to peace”, adding that “Valencia City Council is committed to helping and caring for people who have come to the city fleeing from war. We are one of the cities, if not the first, that has helped and is helping the most people”.
“But this is the moment to demand that we work to achieve peace. The solution is not to continue the war, the solution is to work for peace; and the way to achieve it is always to seek minimum agreements to bring about a ceasefire.”
Ribó also pointed out the difficult situation of the millions of displaced people. According to official figures, on the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, the conflict has already left a total of 18,955 civilian victims and more than eight million displaced people. “We cannot continue much longer in this situation; we must emphasise that war produces deaths, it produces a lot of pain and destruction, and this is something intolerable that we must stop”, concluded the mayor.
Valencia City Council has taken in more than 3,500 Ukrainian people, and has attended to more than 10,000 during the first year since the Russian invasion.
Since the beginning of the war, 412 children from Ukraine have been enrolled in schools in the city.
Talk of reconstruction
At a meeting on Friday with representatives of the Ukrainian community in Valencia, Ximo Puig, announced plans for a summit to coordinate humanitarian aid and cooperation to begin the reconstruction of Ukraine, in which all the entities representing Ukrainian people in the Valencian Region will participate, as well as the Regional Government, the Valencian Federation of Municipalities and Provinces, town councils, representatives of the Church and NGOs involved in aid to Ukraine.
Puig made the announcement after meeting with the Consul of Ukraine, Pablo Gil; the President of the Federation of Associations of Ukrainians in Spain and President of the Association of Ukrainians in the Valencian Community, Mykhaylo Petrunyak Kmetyuk, and representatives of other associations on the occasion of the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine.
Puig explained that “all entities that can cooperate in providing the maximum possible resources to maintain humanitarian aid and commercial capacity, both from within the Valencian Region and from outside, and also to begin the reconstruction of the country” will be called upon.
During his speech, he reiterated Valencian society’s “resounding condemnation” of the war in Ukraine provoked by Putin, who he said “is responsible for so much death, pain and despair.” But Puig also sent a message to the more than 40,000 people from Ukraine currently living in the Valencia Region, saying that “while they are among us they will have opportunities and a life project”.
He added that he was proud that Valencia is the Spanish region that has taken in the most refugees from Ukraine, as well as “a whole population that has opened its arms”, and pointed out that it is precisely in circumstances such as those currently being experienced that “the weight and value of humanity” can be appreciated.
Puig tweeted a photo of a Ukrainian child who, a year ago, gave him a cuddly toy after fleeing her country, and yesterday attended the meeting where Puig returned the gesture. However, in the comments on Twitter he has been criticised for using a child for a publicity stunt in this way. Some also complained that aid promised to Ukrainian refugees had yet to arrive while others pointed out that around the world there are many refugees of different colour and race who also need help.