Concerns Russian people in Rochdale facing harassment over Ukraine crisis

Russian people living in Rochdale are facing harassment and ‘abuse’ due to the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine, a senior councilor has warned. Councillor Andy Kelly, who leads the borough’s Lib Dem group, raised concerns that those with Russian lineage were being unjustly targeted because of anger with Vladimir Putin’s regime.

At the latest full council meeting, members unanimously backed a motion urging ‘solidarity’ with Ukraine and stressing the authority’s ‘willingness’ to settle Ukrainian refugees in the borough. They also called on the Prime Minister to make ‘all efforts’ to welcome those affected by military action, without the need for a visa.

Coun Kelly urged people not to let their horror over the war in Ukraine affect how they behave towards innocent Russian citizens. He told the meeting: “I have had contact from Russian citizens that live in the borough to say they need protection – for lack of a better word – because they are getting abuse in the street [and] the kids are getting abuse in schools because they are from Russian stock.”

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Coun Kelly said the borough was dealing with the war on ‘multiple levels’ – from its impact on the existing Ukrainian community to those he hoped would soon be welcomed under the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme. And while he joined other councilors in expressing ‘support’ and ‘respect’ for Ukrainian sovereignty and freedom, he also cautioned against prejudice.

“But also let us not forget the Russian citizens who live in the borough,” he added.

Councilor Andy Kelly,

His comments were very much in line with council leader Neil Emmott’s motion. While pleading to ‘stand with’ the borough’s Ukrainian community ‘in these unsettling times’ it also sent a message of support to those of Russian heritage.

It reads: “Whilst we profoundly condemn the actions of the Russian President we know this is Putin’s war and that Russophobia has no place in the borough.”

Addressing the meeting, Coun Emmott said it was important to remember responsibility lay with the Russian president. “We have all seen the images in the last few weeks [of] what has taken place in Ukraine – a complete and utter illegal invasion of the UK by Russia – or, to be more precise, Vladimir Putin,” he said.

“Let’s be clear about this, there are millions of people in Russia itself who are massively opposed to this silly war. They have been out protesting against this war all the time. “Many of them have been arrested and many held and beaten up by the security forces in Russia. I think some people have even been arrested and sent to prison for it.”

The motion also had the ‘full support’ of the Conservatives. Group leader Coun Ashley Dearnely said: “On issues such as this we do work together for the good of everyone in the borough. We fully support the Ukrainian community here in Rochdale.”

The motion also calls for the Russian ambassador in the UK to requests his government ‘withdraw troops from Ukraine immediately’.

Rochdale council met at Number One Riverside on Wednesday night (April 6).

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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