A COUNCILLOR who lived in Ukraine for eight years says he is constantly awaiting news from his friends and family who remain in the country.

Alistair McNair, councillor for Patcham and Hollingbury, said he and his Ukrainian wife Tetiana, have been in frequent contact with his mother-in-law Tamara, who lives in Kyiv, since the Russian invasion.

Thousands of Ukrainians are fleeing war at home by crossing the borders into countries to the west in search of safety as Russia pounded their capital and other cities with airstrikes for a second day.

The Argus: Ukrainian soldiers take positions in KyivUkrainian soldiers take positions in Kyiv

Cllr McNair said his mother-in-law and many of his friends have been taking cover in bomb shelters or in underground stations.

He said: “I feel totally on edge and very frazzled. I’m constantly looking at the news for updates because it’s changing so fast.

“The troops are in residential areas where my wife has friends living. We have friends all over the city and you are wondering what they’re doing.

“My wife’s been phoning them frequently, but everyone’s sheltering and wondering what’s going to happen next.

The Argus:

“The Ukrainians are fighting hard, but we are waiting for what the Russians will do next.

“It’s impossible for us to understand. It’s like France invading us and fighting. It’s inconceivable.

Cllr McNair moved to Ukraine in 2001 to teach English language at the London School of English in Kyiv.

He met his wife Tatiana at the university and the pair married in Ukraine before moving back to the UK, but they return to visit frequently.

“I was in Kyiv last summer and it’s booming”, Cllr McNair said.

“Cafes everywhere and the shopping centres are beautiful. The country is really a great place to visit.

“Free, democratic, and just lovely, especially in the summer.”

Tensions over the Ukraine-Russia crisis had been simmering for months before the invasion, leading Cllr McNair to get a British visa for Tatiana’s mother to allow her to leave the country.

However, he said she is determined to remain in her home country.

He said: “It has been a big shock because I think we expected an invasion in the East of Ukraine.

“There’s been fighting there since 2014, but it is a long way from Kyiv.

“We got my mother-in-law a British visa so she could come here, but she doesn’t want to. She wants to stay, completely understandably, in Kyiv with her friends and family.

“But we wonder if she will be able to escape later when Russia take over.

“She has her house and garden and is worried about that. She lives very close to one of the airports the Russians are taking over.

“There is just a constant buzzing of helicopters and fighters’ jets. They haven’t slept very much at all.”

Cllr McNair said he welcomes the sanctions placed on Russia by the government and Prime Minister Boris Johnson and added that the messages of solidarity from across Europe have been welcome in Ukraine.

He said: “I’m sure the people of Brighton and Hove are thinking about Ukraine, and Ukraine appreciates that and hope they come out the other side.

“Ukraine has been through a lot of tough times that we just can’t imagine in the UK, so they’re a tough people, just like the Russians are, but they’ll get through it but it will take a long time I think.”

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