- Around 500 Bangladeshis live in Ukraine
- Most of them are involved in small businesses
- Their Income dropped significantly since the war tension spread
- Dhaka advised Bangladeshi nationals to leave the country temporarily
- Many expats said they will not leave Ukraine until a war actually starts
Khaled Hasan Khan, 60, a Bangladeshi citizen who runs a clothing store in Ukraine's capital Kiev, has been suffering severe losses as fears of a Russian invasion have jolted the country's economy over the last few months.
"My sales dropped to 10% compared to the times when there was no such threat of war. People rarely come out of their homes nowadays," Khaled told The Business Standard over phone on Thursday.
Most of the Bangladeshis living in Ukraine are suffering from a financial crisis caused by the tension over fears of war as they do not have sufficient sales or income, said Khaled.
"All migrants, including Bangladeshis, have been in a state of panic since tension related to the growing conflict began to spread in Ukraine. I know around 100 Bangladeshis who run small businesses or work in shops in Kiev. All of them are passing their days in anxiety," said Khaled.
According to unofficial estimates, currently around 500 Bangladeshis are living in Ukraine.
Aside from suffering losses in businesses, the migrants are also suffering due to a depreciation of Ukraine's currency caused by fears of a Russian invasion.
Ukraine's currency hryvnia traded at 28.6 per US dollar on 28 January, close to a record low, reported nbcnews on 4 February.
Foreign investors also have unloaded Ukrainian bonds, sending their interest rates soaring to about 25% and making it nearly impossible for the government or private companies to borrow money on international markets, said Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Stockholm Free World Forum.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy's government had to dip into foreign currency reserves to shore up the hryvnia; and it is now seeking financial support from the US and other governments to prevent further damage, reported nbcnews.
Migrants face bleak prospects
Khaled went to Ukraine to study in 1984. He married a Bangladeshi student there and the couple have been living in Kiev with their two children since 1997, dreaming of a prosperous life. But his dreams, like those of many other migrants there, came to the verge of a breakdown in recent times.
Khaled, a Ukrainian citizen since 2005, said he has been struggling to pay his house rent due to the financial crisis. Corruption is also a big problem there.
Even before the recent crisis erupted, Khaled had been suffering from poor financial conditions since 2008, when economic and political crises hit the country.
Khaled, who has witnessed many socio-political changes in the country before and after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, said, "The people of Ukraine are exploited by Russia from various sides. But the mass people both in Russia and Ukraine do not want war."
Bangladeshi nationals living in Ukraine have been advised to leave the country temporarily due to uncertainties caused by the current situation there, according to a circular issued by the Bangladesh embassy in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, on Tuesday.
Dhaka proffered the advice as international intelligence reports have said Russia is set to invade Ukraine's western part within a few days.
According to the circular, expatriate Bangladeshis residing in Ukraine can return to Bangladesh if they cannot go to another country.
Regarding the migrants' plan about leaving Ukraine, Khaled said he and many other Bangladeshis will not leave the country until a war actually starts.
"If the war starts, most Bangladeshis, including myself, and Indians and Pakistanis will leave the country. But now the possibility of war is low, I think," he said.
However, he was not optimistic about a rapid improvement in the situation. "It will take time to normalise the situation even if no war happens," he added.
Countries in Eastern Europe are making preparations for potentially hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine if the crisis with Russia escalates, with some Polish towns already listing places available and Romania considering refugee camps, Al Jazeera reported on 14 February.
Such a movement of populations happened in 2014 during the invasion of eastern Ukraine by Russia.
On Tuesday, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said it was up to the individuals residing in Ukraine whether or not they wanted to return to Bangladesh.
"Should they (Bangladeshis in Ukraine) decide to return to their homeland, Bangladesh will take all measures, including seeking aid from the nearest countries," he held out the assurance.
Russia has more than 100,000 troops massed near Ukraine, and the United States has warned that an attack could begin in the coming days. Moscow has denied any such plan and accused the West of "hysteria."