Russia-Ukraine crisis: Dubai resident in Kyiv woke up to sound of explosions

Ukrainian expats fear for their loves ones as Russia launches full scale invasion


Mazhar Farooqui

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Published: Thu 24 Feb 2022, 2:22 PM

Last updated: Wed 18 Jan 2023, 4:16 PM

Sofya Shamuzzi woke up at 4.30am to the sound of her city under attack. “One by one, 11 explosions shattered the silence of the morning. It was scary, very scary,” said the Dubai-based businesswoman as she recounted her experience from a hotel room in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, where military command centres were hit by missiles in a pre-dawn attack by Russian forces on Thursday.

Shamuzzi, who’s visiting her home-country for work, told Khaleej Times she was still half-asleep when she called the hotel reception to enquire what was happening.

“They told me that Russia has launched a full-scale invasion on Ukraine,” she said.

“My worst fears had come true. I quickly packed up and tried to leave the city but l roads were blocked with bumper-to-bumper traffic. There is no petrol at fuel stations and there are long queues outside ATMs. So, I came back to the hotel. It’s safe here. I spoke to my family in Dubai. They are understandably worried about me. Ukraine has closed its airspace to civilian flights so I don't know how long I will be stuck here," said Shamuzzi, who runs Casa Shamuzzi, a Dubai-based furniture company with manufacturing facilities across Asia.


Ukrainian expats in the UAE said they fear for their loved ones after Russian shelling left several dead and wounded.

Anna Vitiebska, who hails from Dinipro, located in volatile Eastern Ukraine, said she’s worried about her family back home.

“War clouds had been looming over our country for a while but some part of me still believed they would dissipate and everything would be fine,” said the Dubai-based project manager, who last visited Ukraine in October last year. “My mum is in Dubai but my father, sisters, brother and grandmother all live in Dinipro where military facilities were targeted. So yes, we are extremely worried. I just spoke to my father. Thankfully, they are safe,” said Anna, who’s been living in Dubai for the past nine years.

Entrepreneur Natali Budzei said she’s struggling to contact her mother who lives in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine -- the flashpoint for the escalating crisis between Moscow and Kyiv.

“The telephone and internet connections are poor, so it’s not like I can reach her anytime,” said Budzei.

“The last time I spoke to mom she said she could hear non-stop bombing somewhere close by. My father is in Kyiv, which has also come under attack. The airports are closed which means no one can leave the country, meanwhile our president has declared martial law. That’s really scary,” she said.

Another Ukrainian expat, Alona Ilieva, said she’s been on the edge since news of the Russian first broke.

The marketing executive's family lives in Odesa, a port city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine.

“I am praying for my loved ones. It’s a dangerous situation and it could get far worse,” said Ilieva who has been living in Dubai for the past 10 years.

At least eight people have been killed and nine were wounded by the Russian shelling, an advisor to the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs said.


The border guard said separately Russian military columns have crossed Ukrainian border into Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions.

Police in Ukraine have said they are distributing weapons to veterans.

Russia's Defence Ministry however claimed that its air campaign against Ukraine was not targeting cities and did not pose a threat to civilians.

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