Thousands of Crimeans seek refuge from Russian rule

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More than 3,500 people from Crimea have left the peninsula to escape Russian rule, according to the Ukrainian authorities in Kyiv.

People began leaving Crimea after Russian troops invaded a month ago and the exodus accelerated after the referendum.

Dozens of families have come to a reception centre in the capital.

Ilvina, a Crimean Tatar who like others did not want to be identified, came with her husband and two small children.

“We came here because it was really scary to stay in Crimea. There were Russian troops. We packed all essential items: baby clothes, documents, we bought tickets. It was scary leaving Simferopol. I thought we wouldn’t make it, I was afraid the Russians would stop the train. I’d heard there were incidents when people had their passports torn and luggage searched at railway stations,” she told euronews.

Some have praised the warm welcome they have received in Kyiv and western Ukraine. Volunteers have donated food and other items. The new arrivals leave behind properties, belongings and, often, other family members.

Olga, a Ukrainian woman who did not want to take Russian citizenship, left with her husband and three children.

“We have tense relations with our relatives now. My father strongly supports Russia… We’ve clashed for the first time in my life. Before, we used to find compromises, he never yelled at me. Now it has become really bad. All our uncles and aunts turned their backs on us. It’s very hard,” she said.

The authorities in Kyiv have opened a centre for the Crimeans to process their registration requests and seek assistance and medical care.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says the rest of the country can accommodate 23,000 from the peninsula.

Several talk of wanting to return one day – but for now the focus is on settling into their new lives.

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