As many British families plan to flee Ukraine amid fears Russia will invade others have vowed to stay in the country they now call home – and even fight for the cause.
The Foreign Office has appealed for all British passport holders to evacuate the country immediately amid fears of war with Russia.
Yesterday the crisis escalated as it arose American intelligence agencies believe the Kremlin may order strikes on Kyiv and an invasion could happen as soon as Wednesday.
And Brits were warned not to expect military help to escape Ukraine if war breaks out.
It is believed many of the 6,000 living in Ukraine have already fled the country while some have stayed, stocking up on food and fuel.
But some Brits are defying the advice and intend to help the Ukrainians in their hour of need.
Brit businessman Stuart McKenzie said: “My plan will be to get my kids to safety then come back to help the Ukrainians in any way I can.
“That may mean organizing or working with them but it might also mean picking up a gun. I am prepared to do that because it’s the Russians who are the aggressors.”
Sean Kelly, a 53-year-old dad of two, has lived in Kyiv for 26 years – half his life. He said: “I am disgusted by what Putin is doing to our friends in Ukraine and will do everything in my power to support them.
“He has painted himself into a corner to the point where everyone is expecting an attack at any moment.
“If that happens I would be willing to take up arms and fight for Ukraine. I would do anything I can to help them.”
Logistics firm boss Sean lives with Ukrainian-born wife Natalia and children Oliver, two and Elizabeth, seven.
He added: “I will evacuate my family first by driving them to Odessa in the south then put them on a ferry across the Black Sea to Turkey.
Lots of Brits are planning to take the shorter overland route west to Poland, but I am sure there will be chaos at that border if bombs start falling.”
Business magazine publisher Peter Dickinson, 45, wife Susanna, 29, and their daughters Nina, 11, and Elizabeth, 14, are preparing to go.
AFP via Getty Images)
Buckinghamshire-born Peter, who settled in Kyiv 20 years ago, said: “The evacuation advice has sparked a lot of concern, but few of the Brits I have spoken to are going anywhere just yet.
“Many, like me, have made their lives here and it would not be just leaving a place where we live – it would be leaving our homes and livelihoods.
“The embassy would not be asking us to get out unless they hadn’t seen compelling evidence that something very bad is about to happen – and that’s what concerns us.
“We might get the children home to stay with my parents in the UK or take a week or two break somewhere – but we will not be dashing to the airport just yet. If bombs start falling on Kyiv I may well regret my decision but that’s a risk Putin is making us all take.”
Ken Stewart, 54, originally from Edinburgh and his Ukrainian wife, Tania, 36, cannot leave the country as their newborn baby Douglas does not have a passport.
Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
Douglas, weighing 9lb, was born in hospital by caesarean on Monday.
He and Tania are still in a hospital outside of Kyiv.
Ken, who is waiting at the couple’s home 50 miles west, along with their three-year-old daughter, Yaryna, told the Sunday People : “Tania is still recovering in hospital.
Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
“Our plan was to leave but we are in a difficult situation since we do not yet have Douglas’ birth certificate.
“That can take one or two weeks – and that’s without there being a war – so who knows how long that will take.
“I am waiting until they come home and then I think we may leave and head west, where Tania has relatives.
Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
“So I will stay here for a day or so and see what happens and then try and get away just to be safe.
“This is a bizarre situation. It’s strange because they have been telegraphing an invasion for such a long time. Who does that?”
Another couple also faces a worrying wait for their surrogate-born baby’s travel documents.
Londoners Ben Garratt, 40, and his wife, Alice, moved to Kyiv in December where their son was born.
Ben said: “If we take the advice at face value, it means the UK and also the US government are worried that Russian action is imminent – that makes us want to get out.”
But he added: “We’re essentially stuck until we can get the required British paperwork to allow our son to leave. It’s frustrating because we’re being told by the UK Government to leave, and don’t have the document we need.”
Ben is due to have an interview with the passport office this Wednesday.
Many choosing to stay put are trusting the instincts of their local friends over the Government back home.
Peter Cribley, 33, who lives in Kyiv, said: “Personally, I’m staying put, but I have taken a planned trip further west.
“It seems no one knows what will happen next, least of all the Kremlin, so the danger is in the lack of certainty.”
The communications consultant, originally from Liverpool, added: “I volunteer with a charity for veterans of the war in Donbas, they seem calm and prepared. My attitude tends to reflect theirs.”
Junior Defense Minister James Heappey said: “British nationals should leave Ukraine immediately by any means possible.”
He warned there was now no possibility of a military evacuation as intelligence says Kyiv could be blitzed.
There are thought to be a few thousand Brits still in Ukraine.