First, they fled the Taliban during the collapse of Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed democratic government over the summer – now they’re hiding from the Russian army in the middle of its invasion of Ukraine.
They are Afghan refugees who resettled in Ukraine, and it’s unclear exactly how many of them there are.
In August, Taliban fighters swept across Afghanistan, overwhelming the country’s military before retaking Kabul as the U.S. evacuation was still underway. It led to a massive refugee crisis as people attempted to flee brutal, totalitarian rule.
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Last week, Vladimir Putin’s Russian army invaded Ukraine, crossing into the country from the north, east and south.
Somaia, a 19-year-old who fled Afghanistan last year after President Biden’s chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops and the Taliban’s rapid return to power, is now hunkered down in Kyiv as Russian troops advance on the city of 3 million.
She told WHD News Digital Monday evening that while she could not estimate the number of Afghan refugees facing similar circumstances in Ukraine, she knew of at least four other families from her country who had already made it safely out of the country.
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Hers was still in Kyiv, where Russian and Ukrainian troops were engaged with skirmishes, but she said things were calm at the moment.
She told “America Reports” earlier she had two to three weeks’ supply of food, amid dwindling supermarket supplies.
Her family is spending nights in an underground shelter, then returning to their apartment during daytime, where at times explosions could be heard every minute, she said.
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She described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “much bigger” and “more dangerous war” that’s still escalating.
“What is the benefit of this war?” she asked. “My generation, we are really tired of war – we have spent our whole life in war, and I wish that they would stop.”
As President Biden drew down U.S. troops in Afghanistan last summer, the Taliban swept through the country, reconquering territory amid reports of extremist fighters going door to door to target dissidents, opponents and American allies.
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The Taliban’s return to power also led to a wave of human rights concerns – especially for women – as the fighters pledged to reintroduce sharia law.
Even people who escaped said they had to endure beatings at the hands of the Taliban on their way through checkpoints outside the airport in Kabul. Outside, a suicide bomber killed 13 American service members and dozens of Afghan civilians at a gate to the facility.
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The war in Ukraine led an estimated 500,000 people to feel the country as of Monday afternoon, with lines at the country’s borders resulting in hours-long waits for refugees still inside the country.
Polish U.N. Ambassador Krzysztof Szczerski, whose country is just west of Ukraine, told the General Assembly Monday that Poland had received refugees from 125 countries – including Afghanistan.
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The contributed to this report.