A Scots expat will lead a march in Kiev today to protest against the threatened Russian invasion.
Businessman Stuart McKenzie, 51, who is the stepson of late showbiz legend Jimmy Logan, has lived in Ukraine for almost 30 years.
He 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.
Several thousand expats from about 50 countries, including Britain, Australia and India, are expected to gather and show their support for the Ukrainian people.
They fear the country will be invaded following the build-up of tens of thousands of Russian troops on the country’s borders in the last few weeks.
Russia has repeatedly denied it is planning an attack and says the military personnel are only there for drills.
Stuart 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.”
Stuart estimates there are 100,000 foreign nationals in Ukraine, of which 200 are British and 50 Scottish.
He said: “The people of Kiev are always delighted and reassured when they see the flags of different countries supporting them.
“I saw a Ukrainian had made a ‘God Save The Queen’ banner the other day as I drove through Kiev.”
Edinburgh-born Stuart emigrated from Helensburgh, Argyll, in 1994 to make a new life in Ukraine following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
When he first moved to Kiev, he imported Scottish products such as whisky, oatcakes and shortbread.
He built up a hotel, nightclub and restaurant empire but then sold it. Stuart now runs a healthcare and natural products business and sells his goods around the world.
A short time after moving to Ukraine, he met and married his wife Elena, 49.
They have three children – Victoria, 20, Robert, 15, and Stuart, 12 – who were all educated at the international school in Kiev. The family try to get back to Scotland at least twice a year.
Stuart admits that he is concerned for the safety of his family and accepts he may have to leave Ukraine if war breaks out.
He said airlines are already canceling flights to and from Kiev.
Stuart added: “The question is do we leave right now or wait for the Russians to attack? It is a real conundrum. We are all hoping the politicians find a diplomatic solution.
“If I don’t see anything positive happening, I may leave for a couple of weeks with my wife and the kids. I don’t want to put them in any danger and it won’t affect my ability to work and run my business.
“One thing is certain – if the Russians invade, they will face a big fight from the Ukrainian people.”
Stuart helped to set up the Kiev Lions Club – an English-speaking business organization which brings together Ukrainians and foreign nationals. They have raised funds for local hospitals and children’s homes.
Stuart also runs the annual Kiev Burns Supper, which has raised thousands for charity.
His stepdad – entertainer and director Logan – performed at many events in Kiev. He died in 2001.
Stuart added: “It is a wonderful city and the people are so friendly and welcoming.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.