Scottish dad in Ukraine frantically packs and flees with his young family as tensions in Russia rise


Stuart McKenzie and his family frantically packed their bags last night for a desperate 10-hour road trip to escape Ukraine.

They bagged as much as they could and filled the car with war with Russia only days away.

Most of what they own will remain in their home in the capital Kiev when Scott, 51, his Ukrainian wife Lena, 49, and their two sons leave this morning for safety in Poland.

It came as tense talks last night between US President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin ended with the US warning that they “will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs” if a invasion continues.

Stuart McKenzie with his wife Elena

The crisis deepened yesterday when it emerged that US intelligence agencies believed the Kremlin could order strikes on Kiev with an invasion as early as Wednesday.

And British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey warned that Russia was in a position to attack “very, very quickly”, with around 130,000 troops on the Ukrainian border.

Stuart told the Sunday Mail: “It’s a crazy situation that we have to leave our own home because of threats from another country.

“We’re packing right now. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of an evacuation chaos. Hope we didn’t leave it too late.

Many of the 6,000 Britons living in Ukraine are thought to have already fled the country while some stayed, stocking up on food and fuel in case war broke out.

They are responding to a dramatic call from the UK Foreign Office asking all UK passport holders to evacuate immediately amid fears of war with Russia.

The family will take refuge in Poland
The family will take refuge in Poland

And the British have been warned not to expect military help to escape Ukraine if war breaks out.

Last Sunday, Stuart led a march of fellow expats in Kiev to protest Russian military action.

But as tensions escalated this week, he decided the country was now too dangerous for his family.

The international school where the sons, Robert, 15, and Stuart, 12, attend has closed after their teachers were told to leave.

Stuart said he was not only concerned for his family’s safety, but also that he might not be able to access cash from ATMs or fuel once hostilities broke out.

He added: “The threat has increased a few levels in the last 24 hours for sure.

“When our embassy told us to leave, we really had no choice. I will be much happier once at the border.

“Our only hope is that it ends quickly and then we can go back to Kyiv and go home.”

Stuart faces a six-hour drive to the Ukrainian-Polish border, then another four hours to Krakow.

Since his wife Lena does not have an up-to-date UK visa, he has decided to stay in Europe.

Edinburgh-born Stuart emigrated from Helensburgh, Argyll in 1994 and initially worked importing Scottish goods like whiskey, oatmeal cakes and shortbread.

He now runs a health care and natural products business and sells his products worldwide.

His factory and business are also near Krakow and he plans to stay in a hotel for the next few weeks until the situation becomes clearer.

Stuart, who is the stepson of late showbiz legend Jimmy Logan, will be joined in the convoy by other family members and some of his Kyiv aides.

He said all of their vehicles are equipped with food, water and fuel canisters.

He added that it could be chaos if they decided to leave at the same time and feared their number could reach one million if they were joined by fleeing Ukrainians.

Last night’s White House account of the crisis call between Biden and Putin warned that an attack would ‘diminish Russia’s position’ as the West pinned its hopes on diplomacy to avert war.

They reportedly spoke for about an hour after French President Emmanuel Macron also shared a call with Putin over fears of an imminent attack.

The White House said: “President Biden has made it clear that should Russia undertake another invasion of Ukraine, the United States, along with our allies and partners, will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia.

“President Biden reiterated that a new Russian invasion of Ukraine would cause widespread human suffering and diminish Russia’s position.”

Biden told the Russian leader that the United States and its allies were ready to engage in diplomacy but were “prepared for other scenarios as well,” the White House said.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she raised her “serious concerns” that Russia “could launch a new military aggression against Ukraine in the coming days” during a call yesterday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We agree that Russia will face massive consequences for any invasion, including severe sanctions,” she said.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said an invasion could come “at any time”, while US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said an attack before the end of the Olympics in winter on February 20 was a “credible prospect”.

Western leaders have threatened Moscow with a set of damaging sanctions in the event of another incursion on Ukrainian soil.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO and allies in the defense alliance have said they will not join in the fighting in Ukraine, but have boosted forces in neighboring countries and are threatening widespread sanctions.

Although the Kremlin insists it is not planning an invasion, US intelligence suggests that Russia may be fabricating a “false flag” pretext to attack.

Russia annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine eight years ago after becoming unhappy with the former Soviet state’s plans to move closer to the West.

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 people marched in Kyiv yesterday defying Russia and waving banners vowing ‘Ukraine will resist’.

Traffic in the city came to a halt as the anti-war rally meandered from Shevchenko Park to historic Maidan Square, the birthplace of the 2014 revolution.

Protesters of all ages draped in yellow and blue Ukrainian flags chanted “Ukraine, united, will never be defeated” and a banner described Russian leader Putin as a “mass murderer” and a “war criminal”.

Another simply said “#sayNOtoPutin”.

Leading the march, Illia Kononov of the Surrender Resistance Movement said: “So many people have come to show their support for Ukraine and tell the world that we don’t want war, but if it comes , we will fight back.

“We would also like to thank all the countries like the United Kingdom who supported us morally and gave us weapons to deter the Russians.

“I personally don’t think Putin will invade, but if he does, he should know that Ukraine will fight to the last man and woman.”

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