Ukrainians in Scotland look on nervously from afar amid Russia tension

Members of Scotland's Ukrainian community say they are worried for friends and relatives in their homeland.

Ukrainians in Scotland look on nervously from afar amid Russia tension STV News

At the latest meeting of the Ukrainian Club in Edinburgh there’s only one topic of conversation.

The threat of war in their homeland is at the forefront of everyone’s mind as the prospect of a Russian incursion looms.

Russian troops have been stationed at the countries’ shared border and intense diplomatic activity has failed to ease tensions.

It is a worrying situation for Ukrainians in Scotland who still have friends and relatives at home.

Linda Allison, chairperson of the Ukrainian community in Edinburgh, said: “We’re very concerned, most of us still have family living in Ukraine and naturally they are very, very concerned.

“You have to remember that Ukraine has been at war for eight years, so the Ukrainian people are used to the situation but they are prepared to do almost anything they need to do should the situation become worse.

“You’re talking about 60-year-old women saying they’ll step up to defend their country should they need to.”

Ms Allison says Ukrainians in Scotland are willing to do anything they can to help – such as sending materials to troops on the frontline.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been urged to “de-escalate” the military build-up on Ukraine’s border as the international community steps up retaliation threats in the event of an invasion.

Moscow has amassed a huge arsenal within striking distance of Ukraine and has built up tens of thousands of troops on the border.

While it has denied planning an attack there’s a growing international view an invasion could happen very soon.

Petro Kormylo, a member of Edinburgh’s Ukrainian community, told STV News: “The situation is really tense.

“The Ukrainian diaspora here in Scotland, we’re all very techno-competent, so we’re all following literally hour-by-hour developments – not just across Ukraine where our families are – but also international geopolitics.

“A great amount of sharing is going on among us about up-to-date developments. Our generation of Ukrainians are very patriotic. We are the children of political refugees, we are not economic migrants, as some Ukrainians are in Scotland.

“We are from a different political culture and we were brought up by our parents to be very conscious of real Ukrainian history – not the mythology that Mr Putin is trying to promote.”

UK minister Chris Philp said Moscow should “get to the table” to resolve the tension peacefully as he warned of “very serious” sanctions should Russian troops make an incursion into neighbouring territory.

Ukrainian soldiers patrolling their borders do so knowing there’s a real risk of being overwhelmed.

Ivan Babuscsak, who moved to Scotland six years ago, believes an escalating conflict feels inevitable.

He said: “I’m starting every day reading the news to see what has happened and almost every hour I’m checking what’s happening.

“I’m reading and watching all analysis about what is going on because I have so many friends and family in Ukraine and I’m very, very worried about the situation.”

It is a concern shared by Stuart McKenzie, a businessman originally from Helensburgh, and his Ukrainian wife Elena, who is currently in Kyiv.

Mr McKenzie has worked and lived in the Ukrainian capital for a quarter of a century but is currently in the UK on a business trip.

“This is the first time I’ve been back in the UK for two-and-a-half years because I’ve got a business conference and Sod’s law I come here and this is all kicking off in Ukraine, so I’m going back in a couple of days’ time.

“Thankfully, Elena has got a good hold, she’s quite calm about it, albeit concerned. Ukraine is used to a lot of pressure from Russia and the revolutions that it’s had and the rhetoric Russia has.

“I don’t think anybody really knows – that’s the problem.”

Elena added: “We registered our kids with the British embassy and I knew that if anything happened, at least my children would be able to leave Ukraine.”

For now people in the Ukrainian capital – and those watching from afar – take each day as it comes desperately hoping their country can avoid a descent into full-scale war.

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