How are people in the Midlands supporting Ukrainians following Russia's invasion?

By ITV News Central Production Journalist Charlie Horner

People, organisations and charities across the Midlands are coming together to provide aid, funding and support to those in Ukraine, following the Russian invasion.

  • Donating money or items to charity

Donating to non-profitable charities such as The Red Cross and Unicef will help with their work on the ground.

There are also numerous local charities taking donations.

One charity in Nottingham spoke to ITV News Central as they prepare to leave for the Moldova / Ukraine Border to help youngsters fleeing from the war.

Staff and volunteers from Operation Orphan will be heading out with supplies such as clothing, blankets, sanitary products and medical equipment donated by the public.

"My main duty and my call in life, there are two main things that we say as a household me and my wife. Number one is to love people the best way we can and the second thing is to help people where we can," explains charity volunteer and church pastor Jordan Lawrence Graham.

He continues: "So if we can love people the best way we can and we can help to support in a time when they're in crisis and they're in great need and we can support them the best way we can then absolutely we'll put ourselves on the frontline to do that."

"By any means necessary we'll help them" he adds.

The group also aims to stop the trafficking of orphans and vulnerable children, which is too often a horrific consequence of conflict.

The charity's Managing Director says it is vital children are kept safe.

Oakland International says it hopes to fund up to fifty trucks full of supplies to the Eastern border of Poland and hopefully into Ukraine. Credit: ITV News Central

"They are vulnerable to traffickers, they are preyed upon. In all the countries we've operated in we've seen this activity taking place," explains Bradley Moore.

"The quicker we can get in to identify them with social services. Get them connected to social services. Connected into a safe place they are not going to then end up in a very dark world."

In Warwickshire, the supply chain company Oakland International says it is prepared to fund up to 50 trucks and drivers to take essential food items to those in need.

Donations such as food, drink, educational resources and clothing were loaded onto trucks today (2 March) as they prepare to travel to the Eastern border of Poland and into Ukraine if they can get through.

Many organisations have also set up donation pages or organised events to raise money.

Cov Kozaks' gig was originally designed to celebrate the removal of Covid restrictions and the band's new music releases. Credit: ITV News Central

A fundraiser concert was held by the Ukrainian band Cov Kozaks at the Coventry Ukrainian Community hall last weekend, raising more than £4,000 for the cause.

The gig was originally organised to celebrate the lifting of covid restrictions.

The group say they were looking forward to their first performance back together but following the events in Ukraine, it was even more significant.

Musician Alex Kosmirak told ITV News Central: "It's really distressing looking on Instagram at the moment and seeing quite a lot of the artists we know out in Ukraine, one of them posted yesterday saying we should have been releasing our latest album and if you want to listen to it here's the link below.

"But it was just a photo of them in army gear, these are guys who're used to performing internationally to hundreds of thousands of people live and now they're just there defending their country and defending their homeland."

The band says it hopes to hold more gigs in the near future to support and raise funds for those in need.

  • Joining peace protests or vigils to show support

Vigils, peaceful protests and gatherings have been taking place across the region.

Wolverhampton City Council stood in solidarity with the people of Ukraine on Wednesday (2 March) by raising the country's flag and playing its national anthem.

Members of the Ukrainian community in the city gathered in the rain as the flag was raised outside the Civic Centre. The mayor was also in there and said the city will welcome any refugees with open arms.

Around one thousand people turned up to a vigil in Birmingham city centre on Monday (28 February) to show support and there will be a vigil held in Coventry on Wednesday (2 March) evening.

  • Supporting local journalism in Ukraine

The Kyiv Independent, Expres and Sevodyna are all examples of Ukrainian newspapers and journalists who are reporting from the ground and keeping the world updated and have been well received across the UK.

  • Midlands MPs taking action

Several Midlands MPs are campaigning for refugees to be allowed into the UK without any restrictions.

The MP for Birmingham Hall Green Labour, Tahir Ali, took to Twitter to say "our government refuses to waive the visa restrictions for those fleeing the war. This is inhumane and must change immediately."

"Solidarity with Ukraine is being expressed around the world, including Russia where people face arrest for protesting this unjust war" added the MP.

Boris Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday (2 March) morning and spoke of his "disgust" at Russia's invasion, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The PM also said he told Mr Zelenskyy that the UK would "do everything we can to accelerate our transfer of... the weapons", adding: "We are certainly determined to do everything we can to help Ukrainians fleeing the theatre of conflict."

  • What else is being done in the Midlands to support Ukraine?

Vehicle manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which has its headquarters based in Coventry, has suspended sales to Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

The firm announced it made the decision due to the "wellbeing" of its workforce and those "within our extended network".

Meanwhile, Compare the Market, which is owned by BGL Group based in Peterborough, has taken the decision to remove its 'Compare the meerkat' adverts - which feature the Russian meerkat Aleksandr Orlov and his loyal companion Sergei - to remain "sensitive to the current situation".