Hull teacher flees Ukraine with young family as bombs fall on hometown

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An East Yorkshire man living in Ukraine is fleeing the country with his family after Russia suddenly invaded on Thursday.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy imposed martial law after Russia invaded the country in the early hours of the morning.

It came into effect from 5:30 a.m. Thursday and will be in place for a period of 30 days initially.

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Russia has launched an invasion of Ukraine following escalating tensions in recent weeks and months over Ukraine’s relationship with NATO and Western powers.

The move was condemned by world leaders, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Graham Jones, from Willerby, worked in the country for 12 years as a teacher. He is married to Ukrainian Margaryta and they have a six-year-old daughter, Mia.



Willerby man Graham Jones flees his home in Ukraine with his family

Speaking to Look North on Wednesday night, Graham said he had no immediate plans to leave, describing the mood as “calm” and that he “felt safe”.

However, that changed drastically overnight when Russia suddenly launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Living in Odessa, Graham and his family were far from the Donbass region where Russian troops were massed.

However, reports emerged on Thursday of 18 civilians killed in Odessa following a missile attack.



Graham Jones, a Willerby man, flees his home in Ukraine with his wife Margaryta and daughter Mia, 6
Graham Jones, a Willerby man, flees his home in Ukraine with his wife Margaryta and daughter Mia, 6

Now Mr Jones has told Hull Live he has now left and is considering returning to the UK.

Speaking Thursday just hours after the start of the invasion, he said: “We are on our way to Moldova in a minibus. The shelling started on the outskirts this morning, so we thought it best to get out while we could.

Life in Odessa went on at first, but the situation worsens hour by hour with reports that deadly missile attacks have killed civilians and dozens of soldiers.

Describing life in the port city shortly before leaving, Graham said: ‘There is a shock but oddly life seemed normal. The center of Odessa was pretty normal with people walking dogs and drinking coffee at coffee stalls.”



Graham Jones, a Willerby man, flees his home in Ukraine with his wife Margaryta and daughter Mia, 6
Graham Jones, a Willerby man, flees his home in Ukraine with his wife Margaryta and daughter Mia, 6

While relaxed Wednesday talking to Look North, Graham admits his mood has changed.

“I’m feeling nervous and I will be until we cross the border,” he said, “but everyone is in good spirits.

“I think the plan is to return to the UK. But while my daughter has a UK passport my wife will need a visa so we need to sort that out first.

“It was hard to suddenly leave our house, but at least we have somewhere to go, which a lot of people here don’t.”

Russian forces launched a military assault on neighboring Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday, crossing its borders and shelling targets near major cities.



Willerby man Graham Jones flees his home in Ukraine.  Pictured are his wife Margaryta and daughter Mia, 6
Willerby man Graham Jones flees his home in Ukraine. Pictured are his wife Margaryta and daughter Mia, 6

In a pre-dawn televised statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia had no plans to occupy Ukraine and demanded that its military lay down their arms.

Moments later, attacks were reported against Ukrainian military targets.

Ukraine said “Putin has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.”

Mr. Zelensky announced martial law throughout Ukraine, severed all diplomatic relations with Russia and declared that weapons would be distributed to anyone who wanted them.

Watch: footage of the bombing of the Ukrainian city of Dnipro


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Russian forces invaded Ukraine from several directions, including from the separatist regions of Donbass in the east, Belarus in the north and occupied Crimea in the south.

Much of the fighting seems to be centered around the east.

Residents of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, say apartment buildings rattled from the constant explosions as the Ukrainian military and Russian forces exchanged shellfire.

But clashes have also taken place around the capital Kiev to the north and the Black Sea port cities of Odessa and Mariupol to the south.

Russian airstrikes were carried out on Ukrainian military bases and airports, and heavy fighting was reported around a key airport near Kiev.

Boris Johnson addressed the country on Thursday with a response to the invasion and said Putin’s aggression “must end in failure”.

He said: “It is because we have been so alarmed over recent months by Russian intimidation that the UK has become one of the first countries in Europe to send defensive weapons to help Ukrainians.

“Other allies have now done the same and we will do everything we can in the days ahead.



People stand around a structure damaged by a rocket on February 24, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
People stand around a structure damaged by a rocket on February 24, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

“Today, together with our allies, we will agree to a massive set of economic sanctions designed in time to stifle the Russian economy. And to that end, we must also collectively end dependence on the Russian oil and gas that for too long has given Putin his grip on Western politics.

“Our mission is clear. Diplomatically, politically, economically and ultimately militarily, this hideous and barbaric enterprise of Vladimir Putin must end in failure.

Mr Johnson concluded by saying: “I say to the British people, and to all who have heard Putin’s threats against those who support Ukraine, we will, of course, do everything to keep our country safe.”



Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv on February 24, 2022 as Russia's invasion of Ukraine began
Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv on February 24, 2022 as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began

A senior general has also warned that Britain could be drawn into a direct conflict with Russia over the situation in Ukraine.

General Sir Richard Shirreff has warned that Britain could soon be at war with Russia.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the retired army officer said any incursion into NATO territory would lead to Britain’s direct involvement in the conflict.

Sir Richard said it was “quite plausible” that Russian President Vladimir Putin could aim to revive the Soviet Union, adding that if Russia “stepped aside” into NATO territory, any the alliance would be at war.

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