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AU decries reports of ill treatment as Africans try to flee Ukraine

Refugees fleeing from Ukraine arrive at Nyugati station, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Budapest, Hungary, February 28, 2022. [Reuters]

The African Union (AU) said on Monday that it was disturbed by reports that African citizens in Ukraine are being refused the right to cross borders to safety as they try to flee the conflict in Ukraine.

Thousands of African and other foreign nationals, particularly students, have been scrambling to leave Ukraine following Russia's invasion. 

But as hundreds of thousands throng Ukraine's borders, overwhelming authorities in neighbouring countries, reports have emerged that Africans are being treated differently and sometimes prevented from leaving.

Several have shared videos and testimonies on social media, denouncing discrimination at train stations and border posts. Reuters has not been able to authenticate the videos.

"Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach of international law," AU Chair, Senegal's President Macky Sall, and Moussa Faki Mahamat head of AU Commission said in a joint statement.

The statement added that all people have the right to cross international borders during the conflict, and should enjoy the same rights to cross to safety from the conflict in Ukraine, notwithstanding their nationality or racial identity.

This comes even as Moscow faced increasing isolation on Tuesday as President Vladimir Putin showed no sign of stopping an invasion of Ukraine, where fierce fighting and Russian bombardment have killed dozens and sparked a refugee crisis.

Russia's invasion, launched last week, appears not to have achieved the decisive early gains that Putin would have hoped for.

The Russian leader faces mounting diplomatic isolation for launching the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two, and the systemic impact of Western sanctions led to a near 30 per cent collapse in the rouble on Monday before central bank intervention rescued the currency from its lows.

Ceasefire talks held Monday failed to reach a breakthrough and negotiators have not said when a new round would take place.

The United States and its allies have imposed sanctions on Russia's central bank, its top businesses, oligarchs and officials, including Putin himself, and barred some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system.

NATO ally Turkey delivered another blow to Moscow on Monday by warning warring countries not to send warships through its Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits that separate the Black Sea from the Mediterranean, effectively bottling up Russia's Black Sea Fleet.