Embarrassment: allegedly pro-Putin association aiding the acceptance of Ukrainian refugees in Portugal
In the Municipality of Setúbal, a city on the outskirts of Lisbon, Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war, and being welcomed in Portugal, were being attended to by Russian citizens, who spoke Russian with them and asked the women where their husbands were located. The refugees mentioned “fear” as all the documents were copied by these Russian citizens. One of these Russian citizens was Igor Khashin, former President of the House of Russia and of the Council for the Coordination of Russian Compatriots. These associations have a dangerously close relationship with the Russian Embassy and so, the Kremlin, so it is clear to all that the refugees’ personal information was being put in danger by the municipality, which has denied these accusations and guarantees total secrecy in the handling of the refugees’ data.
Yet there is another layer to this scandal, the fact that the Municipality of Setúbal is chaired by the CDU (Unitary Democratic Coalition – Coligação Democrática Unitária), a coalition between the Ecologist Party–”The Greens” and the Portuguese Communist Party. Why is that important to the story? It is important because the PCP has an opposing “view” on the Ukraine war in relation to all the other Portuguese political parties. The PCP hasn’t yet called the Ukraine war an ‘invasion’, and affirms that NATO is equally responsible for the conflict as Putin. The party further states that the ‘Russo-Maydan’ popular revolution was a “coup” taken part in by the “most reactionary sectors of Ukrainian society”, along with other false and/or controversial statements.
The party has received backlash from all Portuguese political parties, and is facing heavy criticism from the Ukrainian community in Portugal regarding its position. The party has responded to the criticism by accusing the critics of pure “anti-communism” and “fascist hate”.
Searches have occurred in the Municipality of Setúbal, the Helpline for Refugees LIMAR (Linha de Apoio a Refugiados), and the Emigrants of the East Association, by the Judiciary Police, to investigate an eventual personal data breach.
This scandal stains the Portuguese image on the international scene and is another example of the incompetence of Portuguese authorities regarding the Ukrainian community in the country. In March 2020, Ihor Homeniuk, a Ukrainian immigrant, died at the Humberto Delgado Airport in Lisbon. Ihor died after being continually assaulted by three officers from the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF–Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras). The three men were sentenced to nine years in prison in December 2021, being charged with a “crime of offense to qualified serious physical integrity”.