Ukrainians living in England have compared Vladimir Putin to Hitler with protests outside Downing Street and a vigil in Manchester following Russia’s invasion of their country.
The desperate protesters told of bomb attacks, explosions and panic among their terrified relatives back home after Kremlin tanks rolled across the border and air strikes rained down on key cities.
In London, Dr Yevhen Hunyak, 48, who has lived in the UK for 10 years, slammed Putin as ‘the new Hitler in Europe’ and a ‘b*****d with evil intentions’, over the invasion of Ukraine.
British-born A Level student Sasha Saliy, 17, broke down in tears as she told of her fears for the country. She said she heard sirens in the background when she phoned her mother, who is still in Ukraine.
She was one of several people at the march in central London yesterday evening who were reduced to tears as they told of their concern for their homeland.
They urged Britain to do more to arm their country, but many were relieved the West had acted on their threat to impose sanctions on Putin’s rogue regime in the event soldiers marched on its neighbour.
However, they also warned that Putin’s dream of a quick military victory would not come to pass and insisted that Ukrainian soldiers would dig in and defend the country.
In Manchester today, hundreds of young Ukrainians turned out for a vigil in St Peter’s Square, including Manchester City’s Ukrainian international footballer Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Protester Ivan Alekseichuk, 33, drew a Hitler moustache on a picture of Putin as he marched
British-born A Level student Sasha Saliy, 17, broke down in tears as she told of her fears for her country
Dr Yevhen Hunyak, 48, who has lived in the UK for 10 years, slammed Putin as ‘the new Hitler in Europe’ and a ‘b*****d with evil intentions’
Chants against Putin rang out as passers-by joined the crowd and car horns were hooted by nearby drivers in support.
At least two of about 400 attendees were Russians, protesting over Putin’s military assault on Ukraine urban centres and military bases.
The vigil was organised by Ukraine-born Arthur Wellington, 29, who now lives in Cadishead.
He said: ‘I appealed for support on Facebook today and the response has been fantastic, not just from the people of Ukrainian origin, but also Mancunians.
‘We want the powers in the West to ‘grow a pair’ and inflict punitive sanctions.’
Olga Rolfe, 55, has a Ukrainian father and Russian mother. She’s lived in Manchester for 15 years and is the deputy manager of a nursing home in Stockport.
‘I want people to know that Russian people are not like Putin, and Putin is not Russia,’ she said.
‘No one in Russia wants war. The problem in Russia is that people don’t know what’s going on because of Putin’s manipulation of the media.’
Speaking at the London protest, Dr Hunyak said: ‘What has happened in Ukraine is unprecedented. What Putin has done is unthinkable. Putin is the new Hitler in Europe. That is why the West needs to do more to arm Ukraine.
‘The UK and US need to do something like Lend-Lease [a US scheme that gave Britain weapons and money when the country was still fighting Germany without the military support of the Allies]. They need to revive it.
‘It would make a dramatic difference. We have enough soldiers but we don’t have enough ships or aircraft and that is where a new Lend-Lease would make a real difference.
‘Britain is the Queen of the Seas and if Britain gave us some power to defend ourselves that would be a huge help.
‘The UK and the US must bear some responsibility because after the Soviet empire fell we had to give up our nuclear weapons.
‘I do worry about a Third World War but if all democracies came to the aid of Ukraine a war will not happen.
Lesya Bourne, who is from Ukraine and lives in Gateshead, shared her fears for family
Retail manager Iryna Ostapiv, 28, who has family in Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine and came to Britain in 2011, was also worried about the escalating crisis
Two men draped in a Ukrainian flag stand outside the gates of Downing Street this morning
‘My parents, grandparents and older son are still in the country and they are shocked because they did not expect it to happen. They are now in absolute shock. The Russians have been bombarding the whole country, not just the east or south.
‘Putin wants control of the whole country because of what he thinks is historic ‘unfairness’. The b***ard has evil intentions. Putin has no chance in the medium or long-term of achieving what he wants. Our soldiers are strong and this is our land. He has no chance.’
Sasha added: ‘I have family and friends in Ukraine and my parents moved to Britain from Ukraine in the 1990s. I have been on the phone with them and heard sirens in the background.
‘I cannot bear the fact that I cannot see them and the whole country is in terror. I am worried sick.
‘The West needs to give Ukraine all the support they can. We are fighting back but they can give us a lot more than they have done.
‘It is horrid. I can’t bear it. I just can’t explain how painful it is seeing my family in that situation.
‘I wish I could do more to help them. My family are giving them money and resources but I wish I could do more.’
Other Ukrainians living across the UK also shared their fears.
Lesya Bourne, 51, moved to Gateshead from her home in Ukraine in 2004 to live with her British husband, with whom she now has two teenage children.
She said: ‘It’s a very difficult time. It’s maybe even more scary being here because we don’t know what’s going on, we just have to see it on the news.. No one knows what will come next.
Protestors outside the Russian Embassy in west London, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Anti-Russia protests have taken place in cities across the UK following the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Protesters urged Britain to do more to arm their country, but many were relieved the West had acted on their threat to impose sanctions on Putin’s rogue regime in the event soldiers marched on its neighbour
‘I have my parents, my sisters, all my family in Ukraine, my parents are elderly and they find it difficult to move, so they’ll just have to stay in the house if anything happens.
‘We don’t want this, there should be no families’ lives destroyed, but they are in danger.
‘Until the last moment I didn’t believe this would happen, I woke up this morning to a phone call from my friend saying ‘have you seen the news – it’s started’. I ran downstairs and my first thought was ‘how is my family, how will they manage?’
On Thursday, the mother-of-two met up with a group of fellow North East-based Ukrainians.
‘Some have family in the East of Ukraine where a lot of the fighting is, some have family in Kyiv – and many have family in Russia,’ she said.
‘It’s a worry for everyone, everywhere, it doesn’t matter if you’re Russian, Ukrainian or whatever, naturally we all want peace. What I want people in the UK to understand is that Ukraine needs support and understanding, there are lots of ways to help and I very much appreciate what people are doing to help Ukraine, it is very much needed.
‘We need support and help for Ukraine, payers for us and for the aggressor, may he go in the right direction and end this.’
Alina Gallacher-Gazhur, who lives in Berwick, agreed that the UK and other European countries needed to send more support to Ukraine, calling for more military support including the provision of extra weapons to help her home country match Russia’s strength.
She fears that if Russia is not quickly defeated in Ukraine, more invasions could follow.
She said: ‘It’s not just a scary time for Ukrainians, it’s scary for everyone in the world. I think people in Europe don’t understand that [Russian president] Putin doesn’t just want to occupy Ukraine, it will be Poland, it will be Moldova, he will keep going. Europe needs to do more to help Ukraine.
‘I am getting calls from Ukraine every second, all of my family is there and I have friends in every city sending me information and what they are telling me is terrible.’
Ukrainian expats met up in Leeds on Thursday to raise money for their compatriots as missiles, explosions and military action reigned down across the eastern European country.
Families met in the Leeds Ukrainian Community Centre in Chapeltown, raising £237 between them to send over as humanitarian aid relief.
This comes after the centre previously raised £10,000, towards medicine, according to community leaders.
Viacheslav Semeniuk, 39, who has lived in Leeds for seven years, told his fellow Ukrainians to ‘not sit on your butts’ and ‘to show solidarity’.
He attended with his wife, Olga, and their eight-year-old daughter Arina.
Ukrainian soldiers are pictured forming up across a highway in Kyiv as they prepare to defend the city from Russian attackers, with gunfire and explosions heard in the centre of the capital
Natali Sevriukova, a resident of Kyiv, is pictured weeping on the streets of Kyiv after a Russian rocket strike destroyed the apartment block where she lives overnight
The Semeniuks have lots of family in Ukraine; parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews.
There was an explosion close to Viacheslav’s mother’s house which ‘shook the building’.
Viacheslav said: ‘Since the morning today, everyone feels confused and helpless about the situation. We can’t do much, maybe send some money.
‘We are worried for our family’s lives.’
Iuliia Leonova, 41, and her husband Sergii Shramko, 40, attended with their child.
They are from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, where much of the conflict has occurred.
Iuliia spoke of how her mother and sister were not even safe enough to stay under their own roof and have had to evacuate into a shelter to stay overnight.
Iuliia said: ‘I’ve been crying all day.’
Sergi, who works as a security analyst, said: ‘She feels helpless, it’s the only thing we can do. That and getting the information.’
The couple, who have lived in Leeds for seven years, added that while their family sleep in a shelter back home in Ukraine, they’ll hardly be able to sleep a wink.
Oleksandra and Victor Shymygol, 55, are worried about their daughter, 28, who lives in Ukraine with her fiancé.
Victor, a handyman, said: ‘I could not sleep all day from about 5am.’
Oleksandra, an advocacy worker, said: ‘We couldn’t believe something like this could happen. We were really shocked.’
Russians living in the UK have also hit out at the invasion from their country.
Karina, who is from Moscow but has lived in London for the last 18 years, told MailOnline: ‘It’s just got completely out of hand. It’s the normal problems between the East and West but this has got appalling this time.
‘I still have family in Moscow and I’m really worried. I just hope that common sense prevails despite a slim chance it will happen.
‘Russians living here are just so disappointed and sad it’s come to this. There is a sense of shock.
‘Despite the known differences between the two countries, this was the worst thing that could have happened.
‘There are mixed emotions as we’re worried how it will play out and whether we’ll be able to visit family and friends.’
Another Russian citizen living in the UK told MailOnline: ‘And just like that, my sh**hole country has reversed decades of peacemaking in a single day.
‘Kids are being shot and yet some people are so far brainwashed that they laugh. The motherf***er just isolated and destroyed our economy for the next 50 years.
‘And yet he just announced ”we’re going to remain part of the world economy”. Russia is about to be as economically redundant as Tumblr.’
Firemen pick their way through the rubble of a destroyed apartment in Kyiv, as President Zelensky said the Russian military is now targeting civilian areas
Russian armour is now advancing on Kyiv from the north and east, with US intelligence saying the plan is to besiege the city, capture an airport, and fly in paratroopers who would then attack the capital. The aim would be to capture the government and force them to sign a peace treaty handing control of the country back to Russia or a Russian puppet
Asked what he would say to Putin, he added: ‘You brought war back to Europe, that’s your legacy.’
At the Downing Street demonstration, many said they had not been too worried about the potential for a full-scale invasion until yesterday when Putin’s war machine launched in the Donbas region, from the disputed Crimea peninsula in the south and from Russian-back Belarus to the north.
Protestors voiced their worry that nearby smaller Baltic countries such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are all NATO members, could be next to fall foul of the megalomaniac’s expansionist ambitions.
Most demonstrators, who numbered around 1,000, were Ukrainian but they were joined by Georgians, Lithuanians, Poles and Brits.
Ukrainian, British and Georgian flags were seen among the crowd and placards with ‘hands off Ukraine’ were waved.
Cries of ‘UK supports Ukraine’ were chanted at the march and demonstrators cheered when the list of sanctions against Russia that were announced earlier today were read out.
Three small groups of Russian protestors, all in their 20s or 30s, were approached for comment on the unfolding situation but none would speak out for fear of reprisals.
Protester Ivan Alekseichuk, 33, drew a Hitler moustache on a picture of Putin as he marched.
The software engineer, who has family near the Crimean border, but has been living in the UK for six years said: ”I am here to support my country, peace, democracy and stability.
‘This is not just an attack on Ukraine, it is an attack on everyone’s values and freedom. We are determined to resist Putin.
‘We are hoping every democracy steps in to help us and stands firm. We know that diplomacy with Putin doesn’t work.
‘I am from Southern Ukraine near the border with Crimea. Until today my parents were quite calm. I was urging them to do things like stockpile some food and water. They were saying ‘it will be OK’.
‘My wife’s parents live in Kyiv and they called her this morning in tears. They realised things had got really bad. They did not know what to do and were paralysed with fear.
‘This morning they heard a loud explosion. They don’t have any bomb shelters or anywhere to hide.
‘My parents live near Crimea but today they did not see any Russian soldiers. I worry that tomorrow the soldiers will come.
‘The world needs to be absolutely united in standing by Ukraine. I really hope the World will provide a United response.
‘I trust our military to do a great job fighting the Russians. They are professional and effective.’
Maria Adams, 67, from Lewisham in south east London, is the child of Ukrainians who arrived in Britain at the end of the Second World War.
She said: ‘My parents have already suffered and it is just so sad to see the current generation of Ukrainians who are suffering from Putin’s aggression.
‘Ukraine has a right to exist and be able to defend itself. It has not threatened any country or started any war.
‘It beggars belief that we have found ourselves in this position.
‘I have family and friends over there who are terrified. They don’t want a war, they just want to have a normal life.
‘They are not soldiers, they are just young men and women but if they have to fight, they will. They are living their life in the shadow of a monster.
‘Many Russian people do not want this war either, particularly young people, but they are trapped in a totalitarian state.’
Retail manager Iryna Ostapiv, 28, who has family in Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine and came to Britain in 2011, was also worried about the escalating crisis.
She said: ‘I am really concerned for my family back home. We are here to beg for help, not to ask but to beg.
‘This morning my aunt woke up and the nearby airport had been bombed. She only lives a few metres from it.
‘Only yesterday I thought the war would start in the east but never thought I would see Putin attack the west of the country so quickly.
‘I have never been so worried. My grandmother has had to stock up on medicines and essentials this morning. I can only pray to God and hope things get better.
‘What the UK has done to Russian banks and oligarchs has given me hope, but I wish there was more support. I wish there was military support but I accept there won’t be.
‘Putin didn’t expect us to fight back but we have. In 2014 there was no army. I am actually surprised our troops are still fighting, I thought they would just give up but they are prepared to put their souls down for the country.
‘I am thankful to the British government for being helpful and standing with us.’
Vsevolod Tpymbeliuk, 26, a builder who moved to the UK three years ago and has family near Kyiv who he is worried about his homeland as Putin’s invasion force targets the Ukrainian capital and other eastern cities.
He said: ‘We are trying to show the world this cannot happen.
‘We want to become part of the EU and NATO. Putin sees democracy in Ukraine and sees it as a threat to his rule.
‘The majority of Russians, particularly young people, do not want war. They want what we have got.
‘I spoke to my family yesterday. They are worried about the situation. Tanks have not arrived yet but they are worried.’
His friend Bogdan Khkanovskyi, 30, added: ‘If Putin is not stopped in Ukraine he will go after Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania next, and then Poland. He wants to recreate the old USSR.
‘Putin lives in his own world, he is completely in his own bubble.’