Appalling racism comes to the fore as Russia invades Ukraine

People waiting on a train platform in Ukraine
Support us and go ad-free

Footage and reports suggest People of Colour trying to flee the Russian assault on Ukraine have been blocked from routes of escape. And some western media outlets have been grotesquely characterising the conflict as exceptional because it’s happening within a ‘civilised’ country.

These are some of the appalling examples of racist actions and rhetoric that have been on display amid the conflict.

“No Blacks”

Videos circulated on social media suggested that People of Colour trying to board trains or get through borders have been struggling to do so. The #AfricansinUkraine hashtag showed some distressing footage:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

There have been reports of South Asian people struggling to escape Ukraine as well:


A father-of-three trying to leave via bus, meanwhile, told the Independent that his family and others were forced to get off at a border crossing. He said he was told “no Blacks” and commented:

In all of my years as an activist, I have never seen anything like this. When I look into the eyes of those who are turning us away, I see bloodshot racism; they want to save themselves and they are losing their humanity in the process.

Moreover, Insider reported that there are thousands of African students in the country, many of whom are receiving little help to leave from their respective embassies. Medical student Korrine Sky also told the outlet that travelling to potential exit points within the country has proved difficult for some, saying:

Some people have gone to get buses, but they’re not allowing Black people basically onto the buses. They’re prioritizing Ukrainians. That’s what they say

On Twitter, Sky described her and others’ efforts to leave Ukraine in detail. She said that during their long drives to border crossings, they encountered lots of police and military who regularly asked to see people’s documentation. At the border crossing into Romania, she said “local Ukrainians” were aggressive and trying to obstruct their journey onwards:

Sky said the military ultimately turned them away:


Racism isn’t only apparent in the treatment of People of Colour trying to flee Ukraine, though. It’s also all over TV screens and in written reporting on the conflict.

Repeatedly, news reports have suggested there’s some kind of exceptionalism in the situation because white, western people are the victims. An ITV News reporter, for example, spoke about the “unthinkable” happening to Ukranians. She stressed that “this is not a developing, third world nation; this is Europe”:

CBS News made a similar comparison, with the added emphasis that Ukraine is “relatively civilised” compared to nations such as Iraq or Afghanistan:

The CBS News correspondent, Charlie D’Agata, has since apologised.

The Telegraph, meanwhile, gave a platform to the UK peer Daniel Hannan to write about the conflict as an “attack on civilisation itself”. His article began with the words: “They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking”.

These commentators don’t seem to care that Iraq is widely known as the cradle of civilisation, as it’s where the first elaborate urban centres appeared.

An NBC News correspondent also asserted that Poland is welcoming many people fleeing Ukraine because they “are Christians, they’re white” and “not refugees from Syria”:

And French media in particular seems to be having a field day:

The BBC, meanwhile, failed to call out Ukraine’s ex-deputy prosecutor general David Sakvarelidze when he talked about how emotional it was to see “European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed”:

It’s always the time

As one social media commentator highlighted, some are arguing that now ‘isn’t the time’ to raise the issue of racism:

But we must confront racism wherever, and whenever, it appears. And racism is very evident in the accounts from People of Colour about what they’re experiencing in Ukraine. It’s also apparent in the assertions being made in western outlets.

They’ve characterised the conflict as exceptional because of where, and to whom, it’s happening. And this fuels a narrative that it’s somehow less devastating or consequential when war strikes elsewhere, namely in poorer countries with majority populations of People of Colour.

Featured image via screengrab / Twitter

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. So the neo Nazi Ukrainians are acting like neo Nazi’s?
      Who’d a thunk it?
      So while the MSM are trying to involve us in a war against the Russians, are we only now learning that the swastika flying Ukrainians are racist?
      George Galloway has been telling us that for months.

    2. It is hardly a surprise that both Ukrainian fascists and the Eurocentric corporate media are treating non-white people as inferior. They have a history.

      There is also the hypocrisy of the USA and UK pointing the finger at Putin and Russia – although the invasion is to be utterly condemned – while at the same time those two governments are assisting Saudi Arabia in bombing the poor in Yemen with so far around 377,000 dead since 2015. Yemeni clearly matter less than white Europeans.

    3. Just like the racism in the media… Blanket news coverage for the white people being invaded but not even a small mention of the starving and dyng people in Yemen… Where are the sanctions on Saudi? Or Israel systematic murder and forced apartheid of Palestine… Why is the media not giving us blanket coverage of that? Why is no one sanctioning Israel? It seems very obvious that if your skin is white then you matter, of its brown you don’t matter!

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.