Alexei Mikhailichenko trapped in Ukraine nightmare as Rangers hero gives harrowing account of unfolding horror

Terrified Alexei Mikhailichenko admits football is the last thing on his mind after witnessing the first horrors of Vladimir Putin’s vile invasion of his beloved Ukraine.

But the former Rangers star reckons the very least the game’s global powers could do to signal their disgust at the rogue Moscow regime would be to implement sanctions of their own and boot Russia out of international action.

Mikhailichenko should be planning his return to Glasgow in his role as vice-president of Ukrainian FA ahead of next month’s World Cup play-off clash at Hampden.

Instead, like millions of his compatriots, the only thoughts he has to consider is what will become of his homeland now that Russian troops have mounted their illegal offensive.

As it dawned on the 58-year-old that Putin was not bluffing on his intention to invade, Mikhailichenko gathered his family together at their home in Kiev.

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The nightmare fear became a disturbing reality at 6am yesterday morning as the first air-raid sirens blared in through the windows.

It was not long before the bombs and shells started to drop, with the sound of fighter jets crashing out of the sky only adding to the torment and anguish for the huddled Mikhailichenko clan.

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“We’re in Kiev and we’re as safe as we can be at the moment,” the former Gers ace told RecordSport down a crackly phone line from the Ukrainian capital.

“The family is all together here at our house. My son Alexei is here with his girlfriend, his aunts and uncles and all the pets.

“We were woken up this morning by air raid sirens going off at 6am. That was a bit alarming as you can imagine.

“We’re just waiting to see what happens next. The situation outside is not good.

“There are sirens blaring, helicopters flying overhead. There’s constant fighting very close to Kiev.

“We can hear it all. We heard a plane getting shot down near us. It’s awful.

“When the sirens first went off in the morning we heard blasts from our anti-aircraft guns.

“My son did his studies in London and says it feels like we’re living through a live history class.

“Obviously, I feel tense. To live with such a neighbor is difficult.

Traffic builds on the streets of Kyiv
Traffic builds on the streets of Kyiv

“It’s not just that Putin is crazy, it’s the fact a whole country is crazy and has been brainwashed into believing it needs a dictator and a tsar.

“They appear to be happy about other people suffering such sorrow.

“There’s been so much talk about an invasion but nobody thought it could really happen to this extent.

“We always thought Putin was crazy but never believed he could go through with this.

“But then again, we never thought what happened in Crimea would take place.

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“It was only on Wednesday night that we realized he might actually go through with it and invade.”

Highways across Kiev were yesterday left in gridlock as the city’s desperate citizens made hurried plans to flee before Putin’s forces launched another flurry of missiles.

But for now, the stunned former Ibrox playmaker – a hero of Gers’ nine-in-a-row push – admits he’s going to remain holed up at home while he works out his family’s next step.

“For now we don’t have a plan,” he admitted.

“We have residence in the UK but we have some other things to consider.

“For example, we have three dogs and the UK doesn’t accept Ukrainian pet passports so it’s little things like that we must consider.

“It’s a bit too soon to say what our plans are for now.

“To be honest, we’re still in a state of shock at what is happening.

“I’m getting messages from all over the world, including Glasgow of course.

“Even my son, he went to school in Scotland and he’s had messages from people he went to primary school with back in 1995.”

Mikhailichenko was one of the biggest names in world football when he joined Gers from Italians Sampdoria in 1991 – just three years after finishing fourth in the annual Ballon d’Or voting.

An Olympic champion with the Soviet Union, he would add five Scottish league titles, a Scottish Cup and two League Cups to his glittering haul of accolades before returning back east to a newly independent Ukraine which emerged after the fall of communism.

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Now he splits his time between his gig at the Ukrainian FA with his role as sporting director at his boyhood club Dynamo Kiev.

Mikhailichenko was looking forward to reuniting with old friends next month at Hampden but those plans are now in tatters.

He said: “I’m the vice-president of the Ukrainian Football Federation. For now we’ve stopped the league.

“We’re in a state of war. Martial law has been enacted, so we’re not allowed to have any mass gatherings or sporting events.

“Of course I had looked forward to returning to Glasgow next month for the play-off match with Scotland.

“But I don’t know what will happen with the game at Hampden.

“I’m not sure how Uefa will even respond to all of this.

“To be honest, football is the last thing on anyone’s mind right now.”

FIFA and UEFA will, however, have to come up with a plan on how to deal with this act of Russian barbarity.

It appears inevitable that St Petersburg will be stripped of the honor of hosting this year’s Champions League final.

But Mikhailichenko wants the game’s governing body to go much, much further.

He said: “Uefa should not stop at moving the Champions League final from St Petersburg, they should throw Russia’s teams out too.

“That goes for all sports and cultural organisations. The world should forget about Russia.

“They should become a pariah state.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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