demonstration outside the Russian embassy in Lisbon
The demonstration outside the Russian embassy in Lisbon last night

Ukrainians want to turn Russian embassy in Lisbon into refugee centre

Community in Portugal supports Ukraine’s bid to expel Russia from UN Security Council

Ukrainians living in Portugal have launched a petition asking the Portuguese government to turn the Russian embassy into a refugee hosting space – and put pressure on the use of frozen Russian assets to pay for the damages of war.

“We have created a petition for the Portuguese government to turn the Russian embassy into a reception centre for Ukrainian refugees,” Pavlo Sadokha, representative of the Association of Ukrainians in Portugal, told Lusa.

The community, which held a demonstration outside the Russian embassy yesterday evening, also seeks to question the Portuguese government about the Russian embassy as Russia “inherited” the space that was the Soviet Union’s, without ever having disclosed “the conditions of that transfer of the space”, said Sadokha.

“We understand that Russia’s place on the UN Security Council was never legally confirmed after the fall of the Soviet Union, which was the country at the foundation of the United Nations,” Sadokha explains.

“Despite this, Russia has the right of veto” in the Security Council, which is something the Ukraine government is seeking to challenge.

Pavlo Sadokha represents the 56,000 Ukrainians currently living in Portugal on temporary residence permits, having fled the war in their country.

He told Lusa that his community’s petition will be delivered to the government, and will also ask for Russia to be made “to start paying for the war” through the confiscation of Russian assets. 

The idea – supported not so long ago by European Commission leader Ursula von der Leyen – is that they can be used for the  reconstruction of Ukraine’s devastated territory and infrastructures.

But this is actually a ‘moot point’ nationally, in as much as Portugal’s government (certainly up till now) has been ‘sitting on the fence’ with regard to frozen Russian assets.

Alongside these wider aspirations, Pavlo Sadokha said the Ukrainian community in Portugal also hopes to strengthen fundraising to buy electric generators to send back to Ukraine.

“We already have about 10 generators that we will take to Ukraine next year”, he told Lusa, “but many more are needed,” as Russia continues to attack the country’s energy supply system.

Sadokha did not hold back in his interview. He told the State news agency that he considers Russia’s actions to constitute genocide, as “surviving in Ukraine without heating in winter is impossible”.