Thousands of Britons are preparing to flee Ukraine amid fears Russia will invade within days, the Daily Mirror can reveal.
Many fear being stranded in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev as Russian tanks descend from Belarus and brutally strangle the city.
Most plan either an air evacuation, but if the airport is blitzed they will head west toward Poland to escape the fighting.
They registered with the British Embassy, which has sent half its staff home if Moscow orders an attack.
As they hoard groceries and fill cars with jerry cans, many Brits find themselves in a race against time to escape.
But Ken Stewart, 54, originally from Edinburgh, is facing a particularly nerve-wracking few days as his Ukrainian wife Tetiana, 36, gives birth.
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She is due soon and will be recovering at a private hospital near her three-bedroom rented home 35 miles outside of Kiev, which is in the line of fire.
They live with their three-year-old daughter Yaryna in a small and quiet village called Bucha, northwest of Kiev towards neighboring Belarus.
If Russian tanks attack from Belarus – with already 80,000 Muscovite and Belarusian troops already assembled there – Ken would flee with his family and new baby.
The IT manager and consultant, who moved to Ukraine 15 years ago and married a local woman, says: “Of course it’s worrying as we are about to have our second child.
“The plan is to go to a private hospital nearby and we’ve gone private. My wife is already booked there for a few days.
“But when Russian troops come down from Belarus and encircle Kiev, even though we live outside, we are exactly in the area where they will be.
“Of course, when they roll onto us and into my village, it makes me very angry. i have my life here
“Our plan is to head west if we can, where it’s much safer, with no checkpoints and things like that,
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“Yes, we stocked up on food, but we didn’t overdo it. There are jerry cans in the car so we planned to walk if we had to.
“My wife is going to give birth very soon and I am monitoring the situation, constantly listening to the news and monitoring it on my phone.”
Ken took part in the 2014 Maidan protests and even stood next to someone who was shot dead by suspected police undercover agents, the then feared Berkut.
He says: “I am very involved in Ukraine and I was involved in the Maidan when it happened, as I was here during the revolution.
Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
“Someone actually got shot very close by, yes I was there when people were killed.
“In my view, it was more about independence from Russia than closer ties to Europe.”
There are believed to be up to 6,000 British expats in Ukraine and many feel fiercely loyal to the country.
On Saturday, several hundred will hold a march with other expat groups in Kiev to show their loyalty.
Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
Peter Dickinson, 45, is originally from Amersham in the UK but has lived in Kyiv for the past 20 years where he has built a successful publishing business for several magazines including the English language business Ukraine.
He is also the Ukraine Editor at the US think tank Atlantic Council.
His wife Susanna, 39, is Ukrainian and they have two children, 11-year-old Nina and 14-year-old Elizabeth.
Constantly preparing for the worst, he realizes he may have to make difficult decisions.
Peter says: “My life is here, my family, my business and my home, so these are tough decisions.
“But the priority is the safety of my loved ones.
“We’re talking about possible Armageddon and we just don’t know what could happen.”
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He has prepared by stocking up on food and fuel and even installing a new generator in case there is a supply disruption during a Russian attack and tries to fly out.
“Otherwise, if that weren’t possible, we would drive to the West, but it might not be possible to enter the EU when there’s a refugee crisis.
“We also check safety in the mountains.
“The idea of an invasion seems extreme, but we’re prepared, with candles, torches, a generator and all that.
“We are very lucky because we are just outside of Kiev and have our own water supply.
“Some people have already sent their children out of town for security reasons, to their in-laws, to their grandparents who live in the country.
“We would have to make decisions about what to do with my wife’s family, who also live nearby.
“My number one priority in all of this is my wife and children, but I also don’t want to disrupt their lives if I don’t have to.
“However, if our lives are in danger, then of course we have to flee.
“Ukraine is going through an incredible test.
“Putin understands that he is losing Ukraine and that he cannot reverse this trend. He knows that, so maybe he feels like he has to do something.”
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Co-organizer of Saturday’s march Sean Kelly – a 53-year-old father of two from Oxford who has lived in Kiev for 26 years – said: “I am disgusted by what Putin is doing to our friends in Ukraine and will do everything in mine.” power to support them.
“He painted himself in a corner in such a way that everyone here is expecting an attack.”
Logistics company boss Sean, who lives in Kiev with Ukrainian-born wife Natalia and children Oliver, two, and Elizabeth, seven, added: “I will evacuate my family first by driving them to Odessa in the south and they then take a ferry across the Black Sea to Turkey.
“Many other Brits are planning to take the shorter overland route west to Poland, but I’m sure there will be chaos at that border as bombs fall and flights are halted.
“But as soon as my children are safe, I will return to support the Ukrainians in any way I can.”
Edinburgh-born healthcare company boss Stuart McKenzie, 51, is helping organize the 300-strong flag procession through Kiev on Saturday.
The father of three today finalized plans to evacuate overland once the war began and prepared to pack bags and stock up on groceries and fuel.
But he also plans to stay in Ukraine for as long as possible to support Ukraine’s war effort in any practical way he can.
Stuart – who is married to Ukrainian Lena, 49, and has children Victoria, 20, Robert, 14, and Stuart, 12, and has lived with him in Kiev for 28 years – said: “Victoria is studying in the US, so Is she safe but I’m worried about getting Lena and the boys safe.
“We have been asked to register with the British Embassy here if an evacuation is ordered and there are clearly serious concerns that we are headed for war.
“We have lived in the shadow of Russian aggression for years, but this is different – we are aware that Russian missiles and bombs could fall on Kiev at any moment.”