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

A Scottish man living in Ukraine has said he is concerned about “chaos” as he tries to get his family out of the country quickly amid growing concerns that Russia could launch an invasion.

Stuart McKenzie, who has lived in the country for 30 years, said he was worried a mass exodus of people from the country would lead to panicked scenes on the border.

The 51-year-old businessman from Edinburgh 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.

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“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?

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

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

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”.

Western governments, including the UK, have told their citizens to leave as soon as possible amid fears Russia could invade in the coming days.

According to reports in The Daily Record, Mr McKenzie, the stepson of late showbiz legend Jimmy Logan, helped organise the International Unity March for Ukraine through the centre of the eastern European country’s capital on Saturday afternoon.

Speaking to the Mail, Mr McKenzie 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 mayor 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.”

Mr McKenzie said he believed if the Russians invaded, the Ukrainians would fight them.

He said: “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 destabilise 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 Mr Putin could order an invasion in 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 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 neighbouring 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 was “sceptical” that Russia would 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.

Sir Malcolm described suggestions 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”.

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 Mr Putin “that the cost of invasion will be very strong”.