China’s envoy to Ukraine said Sunday current conditions were too unsafe to evacuate citizens, days after the embassy said it would prepare plans to help people leave after the Russian invasion.

In a lengthy video message on the embassy’s official WeChat account, Chinese ambassador Fan Xianrong sought to dispel rumours he had left Kyiv and reassure Chinese nationals left stranded in the war-torn country.

Fan Xianrong
China’s ambassador to Ukraine Fan Xianrong’s video message dispelling rumours that he had left Kyiv. Photo: Now News, via video screenshot.

“We must wait until it is safe before leaving,” said Fan from his office, seated in front of a Chinese flag and what appeared to be a fold-out camp bed frame.

“As long as safety conditions are met and everyone’s safety is guaranteed, we will make appropriate arrangements.”

The United Nations says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on Thursday, has forced almost 150,000 people to flee to neighbouring countries.

In the weeks before, multiple countries, including the UK, US and Japan, evacuated diplomats and urged citizens to leave as fears of war grew.

China, which has refrained from condemning its close ally Russia throughout the crisis, waited until Thursday before announcing that it would prepare charter flights to evacuate its citizens. 

Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights the same day, citing the high risk from weapons. 

“These past few days, like everyone else, we constantly heard sirens, explosions and gunshots and we repeatedly hid in the basement. These are the kinds of scenes we only previously saw in movies,” said Fan.

A woman walks in front of a destroyed building after a Russian missile attack in the town of Vasylkiv, near Kyiv. Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP.

He also urged Chinese citizens to “not quarrel with locals”, after a number of unverified social media claims of rising hostility towards Chinese citizens from Ukrainians. 

“The Ukrainian people are in a difficult position and are suffering very much,” he said. 

“We must understand their feelings and not provoke them.”

On Saturday, the embassy urged its citizens to “refrain… from displaying signs of identification”, just days after telling those leaving Kyiv to clearly fix a Chinese flag to their vehicles.

China has previously said there were about 6,000 Chinese nationals in Ukraine for work and study. 

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock in a Saturday call that China does not support sanctions and that Russia’s “legitimate security demands should be properly addressed”.

Beijing voted to abstain from a Friday UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which was vetoed by Russia. 

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