PLEA FOR UKRAINE: ‘They need medical aid, military aid, humanitarian aid of all kinds.’

By Bill Heaney
Dumbarton-born Susan Pym and her husband Hugh, pictured right, the BBC Health Editor in London, attended worship at Our Lady of Pochiav and St Andrew (the patron saint of both Scotland and Ukraine) in Edinburgh on Sunday morning.
Susan, who is a prominent elder of St Andrew’s Church of Scotland in Knightsbridge and is a familiar face at Riverside Parish Church in Dumbarton on visits home to her friends and family, said: “We wanted to show solidarity with the Scottish Ukraine people and we were warmly welcomed.”
The Rev Father Vasyl Kren conducted the service in both languages with especially moving prayers for Ukraine people killed in the last few days.
Susan added: “Several people spoke afterwards sharing information on how best to offer support.
“The Ukraine people are begging for Russia to no longer be given access to Swift Banking and for Nato to protect their airspace.
“They need medical aid, military aid, humanitarian aid of all kinds.
“I thought of my own congregation in London and tried to imagine individual members who I know, having to get to their feet and movingly, tearfully request support for their loved ones back home.”
Crowds gather outside Our Lady of Pochiav and St Andrew Ukrainian church on Sunday.

Scotland stands ready to offer “refuge and sanctuary” for Ukrainians fleeing from the Russian invasion, ministers have said.

The Scottish government said it would play its part if a resettlement programme to bring Ukraine nationals to the UK is launched.

Scotland’s councils have also said they would “open our arms” to those in need.

Refugee agencies fear millions of Ukrainians could try to escape the country as Russia’s war intensifies.

However, the LibDems maintain Ukrainian refugees deserve far better than spin and confusion from the Government.

Responding to the Government’s announcement on additional Ukrainian refugees being offered refuge in the UK, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:  “People across the UK are urging the Government to stand with Ukrainians and offer them sanctuary. Yet all Priti Patel has done is repeated the Prime Minister’s vague and very limited announcement yesterday.

“Ukrainians are fleeing for their lives. They deserve far better than just more spin and confusion from our Government.

“The Home Secretary should come back to Parliament urgently to announce a full refugee scheme to resettle Ukrainians in the UK. She should also withdraw her Anti-Refugee Bill that would criminalise Ukrainians and other refugees who come here seeking asylum.

“Our country has a proud history of offering sanctuary to people in need. The Government must not abandon Ukrainians in their hour of need.”

Meanwhile crowds gathered in Glasgow’s George Square and at Holyrood in Edinburgh to protest about the Russian invasion.

There has been cross-party condemnation of the Russian military action at Holyrood and demonstrations have been held outside the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh.

Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Angus Robertson has written to the Russian ambassador to the UK condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which he said has “no conceivable justification”.

In the letter to Ambassador Kelin, Mr Robertson called for an immediate end to the conflict and demanded that all Russian troops withdraw from Ukraine immediately.

Asylum is reserved to the UK parliament and the Home Office has said its immediate priority was British nationals and their families caught up in the Ukrainian conflict.

But it said it would work with international partners on issues including migration as the situation develops.

Alexei Achkasov and his daughter
Alexei Achkason is trying to secure safe passage for 10-year-old Alisa, who is in Ukraine.

When the Russian attack on Ukraine began early on Thursday morning, Alexei Achkasov received a text from his 10-year-old daughter, Alisa.

“Daddy, I’m really scared,” she wrote. “I don’t know what to do because we can hear explosions. What do I do?”

Alisa was at home in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border. Her father, a Ukrainian-British national, was in Carnoustie, Angus.

“Obviously when a 10-year-old is asking you such questions, well that’s it, you can’t sleep after that,” he told BBC Scotland.

Ukrainians in Romania
People fleeing to Romania are welcomed with food and drink provided by volunteers.

Charities have urged the UK to welcome thousands of refugees from Ukraine, matching the effort made after the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

The UK should play a leading role in providing sanctuary, according to Save the Children and Amnesty International, among others.

‘Ready to open our arms’

A Scottish government spokeswoman said the UK government has not made it aware of any plans for Ukraine-specific refugee resettlement.

She added: “Scotland stands ready to offer refuge and sanctuary.

“If a resettlement programme is announced, or Ukraine nationals are accepted as part of existing programmes, the Scottish government will work to support our local authorities and services to enable them to offer places and support refugees arriving.”

Alison Evison, president of the local government umbrella body Cosla, has written to Russia’s UK ambassador to condemn the invasion.

She said: “The inevitable suffering being, and yet to be, caused to local communities across Ukraine by the Russian military invasion cannot be ignored.

“We in Scottish local government stand ready to open our arms to those in Ukraine and help them in whatever way we can.”

Meanwhile, among those protesting in Glasgow was Yevegn Chub, a Ukrainian citizen who has been living in Glasgow for seven years, and has family and friends who live near Kyiv.

He said: “It is a horror, I am constantly trying to connect with my family and friends to try and catch up with the news.  I have not slept well at all.

“So far so good, they have electricity, mobile connection and they have food. But they should have started the sanctions months ago – now the sanctions are nothing for Putin.”

Yevegn Chub
Ukranian Yevegn Chub says more needs to be done to help his home country.

Mark McGuinness, who has lived and worked in Ukraine, was also at the protest and described the country as having a “very passionate and intelligent” society.  He said: “I think it’s an absolute tragedy what is unfolding there.

“It’s surreal, I’m old enough to remember the Gulf War and The Falkland’s War, I never thought I would see an atrocity like this

“It is not just Ukrainians, it is Russians losing their lives too. I think we can do more but we have definitely missed the boat.”

George Square protest

Crowds chanted “please help Ukraine” and “slava Ukraini” (glory to Ukraine).

A megaphone was passed around demonstrators, with some sharing personal stories about relatives currently hiding in basements in Kyiv.

Marjan Pokhyly, originally from Kyiv and now living in Edinburgh, said he was worried about his grandmother in Ukraine.  He said: “On her house there was a mark for artillery strike.

“I don’t know if the mark has been rubbed off, but there were people dressed in regular clothes and they were walking around marking for artillery to strike.”

‘Hiding in the basement’

Vlada Kren, who is from Ukraine, said her friends and relatives of her husband, Vasyl Kren, who is a Ukrainian priest in the Leith area of the city, are still in parts of the country that are being heavily targeted.

She added: “A lot of my friends here have parents in the worst of Ukraine, in the middle of Ukraine, and they have parents hiding in the basement, and they are crying because they are helpless that they can’t help.” 

Sean Cusick recalls waking at 04:45 to the “sound of thunder” and the walls around him shaking.

The space industry consultant from Glasgow is in Kharkiv, Ukraine – about 24 miles (40km) from the eastern border – where Russian armed forces have launched air strikes on all surrounding airports.

Throughout Thursday morning, Sean has listened to hundreds of explosions, which he says keep getting closer.

He is currently stranded with his wife Chloe – a Ukrainian national – and his two-year-old stepson.

“I’m getting exceedingly more terrified,” he said. “Last night between 20:00 and 04:00 there were no flights from Kharkiv airport, suggesting there was going to be an attack.

“There’s reports of Russian tanks within the city limits now – it’s hard to verify anything that’s happening.”

The couple have been attempting to leave Ukraine for the UK since November when they got married, but have been hit with several financial and bureaucratic hurdles.

Chloe had been living in China for 10 years previously, and her passport and ID were therefore invalid when she returned home – a problem that was further complicated by her name change.

Meanwhile Sean, who is living from pay cheque to pay cheque on freelance work, says they no longer have enough money for rent or food, and are relying on the support of family.

He said: “There’s no way we can even travel without some financial support to get to Poland – we would hopefully be able to get to the UK from there.

“[My wife] was supposed to get her national ID today but obviously that’s been put on the back-burner for now.

“We also have some dogs and a cat – they’re part of our family, we don’t want to leave them behind. They’re just defenceless creatures that we have responsibility for.”

Ukraine has declared a month-long state of emergency as Russia said it had carried out air strikes on Ukraine’s military infrastructure and border guard units – but said it had not targeted populated areas.

Russian military vehicles are reported to have breached Ukraine’s border in the north, south and east of the country, including from Belarus.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a “massive package of economic sanctions” would be targeted at the Russian economy over the “hideous” invasion.

The Scottish Parliament will debate a motion of solidarity with the Ukrainian people later on Thursday, and all party leaders voiced condemnation of Russia’s actions prior to the weekly First Minister’s Questions.

Sean, meanwhile, is focused on setting up a safe life for his family and has launched a crowdfunding page for travel expenses and childcare.

In the five years they have known each other, he and his wife have spent precious little time in each other’s company.

Sean Cusick
Stuck — Sean Cusick and wife Chloe met five years ago

They were separated for two years as Chloe was unable to leave China during the Covid pandemic, but finally reunited in October – which was the first time Sean was able to meet his stepson.

He says it is difficult to find out what is happening in his area due to the spread of misinformation – and describes the UK Home Office as “unhelpful”.

Local authorities have told them a siren will sound if there is imminent danger, letting them know when they can go to a bomb shelter.

Sean said: “Even though I’m scared witless, I’m not in any current danger that I’m aware of – but that can change in a matter of seconds.”

He was forced to cut his interview with the BBC short and go indoors as he heard the sound of a nearby tank.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003

Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich says he is “giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation the stewardship and care” of the club.

Abramovich, who will remain the club’s owner, has made the move amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision was made on the eve of Chelsea’s Carabao Cup final match against Liverpool at Wembley when they were beaten by 11 penaties to ten on Sunday.

“I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart,” Abramovich said in a statement.

“I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.

“I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the club, players, staff, and fans.”

Following Abramovich’s statement which did not reference the invasion of Ukraine, Chelsea released another statement on Sunday which said the situation was “horrific and devastating”.

“Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace,” said the west London club.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said it was “seeking urgent clarification” on what Abramovich’s statement on Saturday means for the running of the club.

It is not known yet if Abramovich will be sanctioned as part of the UK government’s measures against Russia.

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BBC Sport understands Chelsea are not for sale, and the £1.5bn loan their owner gave to the club is not being called in.

Abramovich is one of Russia’s richest people and is believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He added: “During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC [the club was founded by Dumbarton men in London], I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities.”

The Chelsea Foundation runs the club’s community and education departments as well as other charitable activities. Its chairman is US lawyer Bruce Buck, who is also chairman of the club as a whole.

The foundation’s other trustees are Chelsea women’s team manager Emma Hayes, the club’s director of finance Paul Ramos, British Olympic Association chair Sir Hugh Robertson, Fare (Football Against Racism in Europe) chief Piara Powar and lawyer John Devine.

During Abramovich’s time at Chelsea, the club have won the Champions League twice, both the Premier League and FA Cup five times, the Europa League twice and the League Cup three times.

In August 2021, they won the Uefa Super Cup and they recently won their first Club World Cup, meaning the Blues have won every possible trophy under Abramovich’s ownership.

Earlier in the week, Labour’s Chris Bryant told MPs he had a leaked Home Office document that suggested Abramovich should not be able to base himself in the UK.

Downing Street would not be drawn on the claims about Abramovich made in the House of Commons.

In a tweet on Sunday, Bryant wrote: “Unless and until he condemns the criminal invasion of Ukraine I will continue to call for the UK to sanction him and seize/freeze assets.”

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss said on Sunday she had a “hit list” of Russian oligarchs who will face sanctions, but would not say if Abramovich was on it.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel had said on Friday there were “so many uncertainties around the situation of our club” following Russia’s invasion of a neighbouring country.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said it was “ready to work with the trustees of the Chelsea Foundation in order to ensure the long-term interests of the club and supporters”. It added: “We stand with the people of Ukraine.”

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