Mayor of war-torn Ukrainian city gets standing ovation as he is welcomed to Banbury
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A reception was held in the town hall to welcome Vadym Boichenko, the mayor of Mariupol, a city that has been under Russian military control since May of last year.
The mayor thanked the town for welcoming refugees who had come to England to flee the conflict and acknowledged the assistance provided by Banbury residents to Ukrainians affected by the conflict.
Banbury’s High Steward, Sir Tony Baldry, was among the welcome committee and described the Russian invasion as one of the worst-ever war crimes.
He said: "95 per cent of the city’s infrastructure has been damaged by large-scale Russian bombardment, including apartment blocks, schools, and a busy maternity hospital."
Mr Boichenko, who has been mayor since 2015 but lives in exile from Mariupol after being forced out of his city, said: "I expect to return home by the end of the year."
The Ukrainian mayor, who said he would spend two days in Banbury, spoke at length about the situation in Ukraine and received a standing ovation from the audience.
Mr Boichenko was invited by town mayor Cllr Fiaz Ahmed, who said: "Banbury Town Council pledged last year to welcome and provide support to those who escape the conflict in Ukraine by lawfully resettling in Banbury. This visit is a result of that commitment."
More than 100 refugees have settled in Banbury since the conflict began, and the UK Help for Ukraine charity has grown into one of the largest humanitarian aid collection and delivery projects in the country.