As the threat of war mounts, Britons vow to stay in Ukraine

Published by The Daily Mail (13th February, 2022)

Defiant Britons insist they are staying in Ukraine – despite airlines starting to stop flights, diplomats pulling out of the country and the Foreign Office issuing urgent advice to leave ‘while commercial means are still available’.

Lecturer Charlie Gilkeson is one of those staying put. 

The 68-year-old Yorkshireman says that despite finding himself in ‘a possible war’ he feels it would be wiser to remain.

Although his two children want him to fly to the UK, he has opted to stay in a flat he is renovating with his wife, whom he met in Russia – not least because he fears chaos on the roads and railways if everyone flees at once. 

‘I think it is safer here,’ he says. 

However, he admits that he is worried by the rhetoric from Western leaders.  ‘Putin is looking for an excuse to attack and if they are not careful, they will provide him with that excuse,’ he says.

Despite the British embassy’s advice to leave Ukraine as soon as possible, several Britons have used social media to declare their determination to remain.

‘Call me foolish if you like, but I’ll stay here in solidarity with my Ukrainian friends,’ wrote David Mann.

And Chris Bainbridge, in the city of Rivne, about 190 miles from Kyiv, said on Facebook: ‘I’m British and I will be staying. Ukraine and its people have been wonderful to me and it’s time to repay that kindness by showing solidarity and not running away.’

However, there was a mixed response yesterday from other Britons watching the Wales- Scotland rugby international in O’Brien’s Irish Pub in Kiev.

Richard Brady, the director of a legal training firm who is originally from London, said that he would probably leave for Turkey as he feared the internet might be severed if Russia invades. 

‘I’m still a bit 50-50,’ admitted the 70-year-old, who has lived in Ukraine for 17 years.

His friend Aaron Crouch, an Australian accountant, said he was staying in the country for business reasons. The 48-year-old – who experienced a Russian invasion when he worked in Georgia in 2008 – said: ‘I didn’t leave until they started bombing by the capital.’

Meanwhile, Anton Valinote, 37, a graphic designer from America, is leaving reluctantly today.

As he took farewell photos outside the 1,000-year-old St Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, he said: ‘My family are really stressing – but I’m not really worried. I don’t think anything is going to happen.’ 

He believes that Western governments had no choice but to order the evacuations. ‘Better to err on the side of caution, especially after Afghanistan,’ he added.

But one Briton from Nottingham and based in the Ukrainian capital said that many people would find it difficult to drop everything at a moment’s notice: ‘It’s not exactly easy when we have family here.’ 

Businessman Stuart McKenzie told the BBC he was worried that roads could be closed and flights grounded: ‘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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