Published: Sat, February 22, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Dozens protest in Ukraine over China virus evacuees

Dozens protest in Ukraine over China virus evacuees

Kiev flew 45 Ukrainians and 27 foreign nationals from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, to Kharkiv on Thursday.

Chaos broke out in several places Thursday after a "fake news" email claiming to be from Ukraine's health ministry falsely stated that there were five cases of coronavirus in the country - the same day a plane carrying evacuees from China arrived amid the deadly epidemic, BuzzFeed News reported. Anxiety and suspicion among people in the central Ukrainian village of Novi Sanzhary, over the prospect of potential carriers of the new coronavirus heading their way, soon boiled over into violent protests.

"We are not talking about infected people, we are talking about healthy people", Avakov told the protesters.

"Those people who today threw stones at the evacuees ... and law enforcement officers, injured nine police officers, one of them has serious injuries, we will make a decision on their punishment", Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said.

Buses carrying evacuees from coronavirus-hit China drive to a medical facility in the settlement of Novi Sanzhary on February 20, 2020.

The Prime Minister of Ukraine Alexey Goncharuk went to Novye Sanzhary, and said that the government's operational headquarters would be placed there.

Ukraine's health ministry has said none of the passengers was sick.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy intervened and reported the protests showed "not the very best facet of our character".

"In the next two weeks it will probably be the most guarded facility in the country", Mr Zelensky said.

"But there is another danger that I would like to mention".

Ukrainian Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska said late last night that she would join the evacuees in quarantine to stay with them "in the same building, in the same conditions" in an attempt to assuage fears of contagion. "The danger of forgetting that we are all human and we are all Ukrainian", he said.

Reuters reports rioters objected to the housing of the passengers, suggesting they instead be kept at Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear explosion, which remains the most disastrous nuclear accident on record.

Many Ukrainians took to social media to say that they were ashamed of their compatriots' behaviour.

Several dozen demonstrators blocked roads near a local hospital in the town of Vynnyky in western Ukraine after rumours spread the site could hold some of the evacuees.

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