Edinburgh expat living in Ukraine expresses concern amid growing tensions with Russia

Stuart McKenzie, who has lived in the country for 30 years, told BBC Breakfast: “With young children in the country, I’ve got to take their safety as a priority so we’re definitely looking at how to get them out as soon as possible

“So many people are trying to leave at the same time and there won’t be flights, the roads will be blocked, are you going to be able to get fuel for your car? Is there going to be cash in the banking machines?

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“There could be so many things happening, so much chaos happening”.

This handout picture taken and released by the press-service of General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine shows Ukrainian servicemen making 200-kilometres day-night-day march as part of combat training in Chernihiv region on February 12, 2022. Via Getty

He added: “Day to day, people are trying to get on with their lives, however, every day it seems that there’s more and more threats and we hear as soon as next week we could have Russian troops in the country.

“These things can go out of control very fast so we’ve got to be on the right side of the chaos, because to think of a border with a million cars and panic happening would be disastrous”.

According to reports in The Daily Record, McKenzie, the stepson of late showbiz legend Jimmy Logan, has helped organize the International Unity March for Ukraine through the center of the eastern European country’s capital which will take place this afternoon according to reports.

Speaking to the Mail he said: “The aim of the march is to show the people of Ukraine that the rest of the world stands behind them in the face of this further Russian aggression.

“We have the support of Kiev’s elder Vitali Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

“We have staged marches in the past when there have been previous threats from Russia, including the invasion of Crimea.” Stuart believes if the Russians invade, the Ukrainians will fight them.

He added: “They don’t want this interference from Russia but everything that president Vladimir Putin has done to them they have managed to overcome.

“This is a peaceful nation – a non-threatening nation that is continually being attacked.

“Putin doesn’t want a successful democratic government on his doorstep as people in Russia will want the same.

“We’ve had tanks on the border in the past but this is bigger than anything we have seen.

“The stakes for Putin are much higher this time.

“His aim is to destabilize Ukraine by any means possible. The message from expats like myself is that we won’t allow this to happen.

“We will do anything that we can to help the people of Ukraine.”

Britons are being urged to flee Ukraine immediately because Russia has amassed the firepower to attack “at no notice”, as diplomatic efforts to avert war continue.

Nato allies were ordering citizens to leave while fears grew that Russian President Vladimir Putin could order an invasion in the coming days.

UK nationals, thought to number in the low thousands, are being told by the Foreign Office to “leave now while commercial means are still available”.

Armed forces minister James Heappey said with the Kremlin having amassed weaponry and an estimated 130,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, Russia could attack “very, very quickly”.

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Unlike when the Taliban seized Kabul, Mr Heappey stressed that the RAF would not be carrying out evacuations in the event of war in Ukraine, which is not a Nato member.

“We are now confident that the artillery systems, the missile systems and the combat air are all in place that would allow Russia to launch – at no notice – an attack on Ukraine,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“And on that basis I think it is our responsibility to share with UK citizens our view that they should leave the country immediately while commercial means are still available.

“There will be a big difference between what they may have seen on their TV screens in Afghanistan over the summer and what may happen over the next week or so and that is that the Royal Air Force will not be in a position to go in and to fly people out so they need to leave now by commercial means or drive out of Ukraine into a neighboring country.”

British ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons was remaining with a “core team” in Kyiv, but some embassy staff and their families were being withdrawn.

Former cabinet minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind has said he is “sceptical” that Russia will launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

He told Times Radio: “I look at Putin not as a wild fanatic; he’s not an Adolf Hitler about to launch all-out war just for the sheer nastiness of it.

“He’s a cool, calculating politician who resents the fact that Ukraine is independent; he would like to regain control, either physical control or political control of that country.

He described suggestions that there should be a Nato division inside Ukraine as “very unwise”.

He said: “There can’t be a Nato division in Ukraine; Ukraine’s not a member of Nato and you cannot send troops to that country without being involved in what could turn out to be a full-scale war. That is not going to happen”.

Asked about earlier comments by Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the Defense Select Committee, who called for such a division, Sir Malcolm said: “If he means a combat division, I think that’s very, very unwise.

“If he’s talking about people who might help train some Ukrainians, that’s happened before in various countries around the world.”

Sir Malcolm also said Nato had taken “a very important decision” in providing defensive equipment for Ukraine, enabling Ukrainians “to have a better chance when they do fight back” and sending a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin “that the cost of invasion will be very strong”.


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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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