Briton stuck in Ukraine after visiting girlfriend describes terrifying 23 hour escape

Ukraine: Liz Truss addresses economic cost following invasion

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Jez Myers, 44, from Manchester, and his Ukrainian partner, Maria, were forced to flee Kyiv after Russia launched a full scale invasion of Europe’s second largest country on Thursday. The couple had feared Maria’s job as a journalist could have led to her being targeted by Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regime.

They spent a few days with a friend in the city of Lviv, 335 miles (540km) to the west of Kyiv and about 43 miles (70km) away from Ukraine’s border with Poland.

Jez told the Manchester Evening News the friend offered to drive them to the border with what ought to have been a one hour journey taking six hours because of the traffic as men dropped off their wives and children.

He explained: “We eventually found a back road to get there. As we approached the border we had to be checked as Ukrainian men between the age of 18 and 60 can’t leave.

“They weren’t supposed to let anyone through but when the officer saw my passport he said he would make an exception because of what the British have done to help.”

Jez described being met by crowds of about 10,000 people all trying to cross the border into Poland but with only one pedestrian crossing it took the couple a staggering 23 hours.

He said: “There was no form of queue, no food, no drink, no toilets or medical assistance and they allow about one person through a minute. The temperature was -4C.

“We saw arguing and shouting and fighting. We saw people faint and we heard rumours that one person had died. I was being crushed. It was horrific.”

He said neither he nor Maria were able to sit or lie down for fear of losing their spot.

After their journey from hell, Jez described the emotional moment they made it into Poland.

He said: “When we got to Poland it brought me to tears. There were 200 volunteers with drinks, food and clothes. There were members of the public saying they would give us a lift to wherever we needed to go.

“The community in Poland has been phenomenal.”

Jez and Maria have been staying in a flat in Krakow until they can secure a visa which would allow her to live in Britain.

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However, the rest of Maria’s family are still in Ukraine where Britain has said Vladimir Putin may be prepared to use “the most unsavoury means” to secure victory.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said any use of nuclear or chemical weapons would represent an “extremely serious escalation” of the conflict which could see Russian leaders brought before the International Criminal Court.

The warning came after the Commons Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said that in the “worst-case scenario” Mr Putin could deploy low yield tactical nuclear weapons if his forces failed to make a breakthrough as the Russian advance on Kyiv appears bogged down by Ukrainian resistance.

People fleeing the conflict in Ukraine poured into central Europe on Sunday with queues at border crossings stretching back for miles on the fourth day of the Russian invasion which has pushed almost 400,000 to seek safety abroad.

Men of conscription age are prevented from leaving Ukraine so it is mainly women and children arriving at the border in eastern Poland, Slovakia and Hungary as well as in northern and northeastern Romania.

The UN’s refugee agency, citing data provided by national authorities, said on Sunday that some 368,000 people have fled abroad from the fighting.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss declined to say how many refugees from Ukraine the UK will accept, but insisted the Government is urgently looking into what more it can do.

The Government has faced intense criticism over its failure so far to relax visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals.

Ms Truss said Britain has always welcomed refugees fleeing war, but did not say how soon the country will welcome people from Ukraine or how many will be accepted.

She told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme with Sophie Raworth: “It is a desperate situation. We’re working with the United Nations, we’re working with the Red Cross, to keep humanitarian corridors open.

“We’ve put support into the neighbouring countries like Slovakia and Poland to help with the refugee crisis.

“And of course Britain has always welcomed refugees fleeing from war and we’re urgently looking at what more we can do to facilitate that, but ultimately what we need to make sure is that we protect Ukraine as a sovereign democracy.

“Ultimately, the people of Ukraine want to live in Ukraine.”

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