Ukrainian people back at work but ‘not naive to seriousness of the situation’

Stuart McKenzie said residents are ‘certainly trying’ to keep things as normal as possible despite the fears that Russia might invade.

16 February 2022

Ukrainians have gone back to work, but are “not naive to the fact of how serious the situation is”, according to a British man living in the nation.

Stuart McKenzie, who is from Scotland originally but moved to Ukraine for the business opportunities in 1994, said residents are “certainly trying” to keep things as normal as possible despite the fears that Russia might invade the nation.

Russia’s defence ministry has claimed troops are returning to base following the conclusion of military exercises, with units crossing out of Crimea on Wednesday.

Ukraine Tensions
Vendors wait for customers at their fruit market stall in Kyiv, Ukraine (Emilio Morenatti/AP/Press Association Images)

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Russia would be judged by its actions, but he had not seen “evidence of withdrawal”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia did not want another war, and was open to further dialogue with the US and its Nato allies.

Mr McKenzie gave an insight into what life is like currently for those living on the ground in Kyiv.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We’re back at work. We’re keeping the economy working. Yes, we’re used to it.

“We’re not naive to the fact of how serious the situation is. But if we panicked every time something like this has happened, it would ruin the economy even more and that’s exactly what Putin wants.

Ukraine Tensions
Members of National Guard of Ukraine look out of the window as they ride in a bus through the city of Kyiv (Emilio Morenatti/AP/Press Association Images)

“So Ukraine’s standing strong, keeping the day-to-day goings-on as normal. We’re having a Unity Day today to celebrate Ukraine and to keep the country together. And that’s what it did in the Orange Revolution, it brought the country together for one goal. Neighbours, enemies, friends, everybody came together to protect their country.”

He added: “We want peace, we want to be left alone in Ukraine, to go about its own business and to have the future it desires… but we don’t believe it’s finished.”

Petro Rewko, who is chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, said he was “deeply concerned and worried” about his cousins who are living in the country, and about what will happen next.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It seems on the ground that Ukraine is quite calm and life is normal. But I think deep down Ukrainian people are worried. This is a far bigger escalation of potential war than it was eight years ago when Russia invaded Ukraine-annexed Crimea and took the Eastern Donbas region.”

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile has said the alliance had not seen any evidence of a Russian withdrawal.

Arriving at the meeting of the alliance’s defence ministers in Brussels, he said: “So far we have not seen any de-escalation on the ground – on the contrary, it appears that Russia continues the military build-up.”

He added that “we have not seen any withdrawal of Russian forces”, and “that contradicts the message of diplomatic efforts” from Moscow.

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