Up to a terrified million people were preparing to flee Ukraine yesterday in a desperate run to the Polish border.
The refugees included thousands of Britons who had defied earlier calls to evacuate.
It is feared that the last figure escapes Russia’s all-out offensive could reach five million if deranged President Vladimir Putin continues to push westward.
Residents of the capital Kyiv have awakened by massive air raids and, by dawn, roads and trains more than 400 miles west to Poland were flooded.
Around 6,000 UK citizens were in Ukraine when the British Ambassador to the country, Melinda Simmons, urge them to evacuate for their own safety earlier this month.
But most of those who are said to have stayed – wrongly believe that Putin would never order an all-out attack.
EU member PolandOn the western border of Ukraine, yesterday drafted a plan to deal with a million refugees.
European leaders fear Putin’s invasion could trigger the worst refugee crisis since World War Two.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser pledged “major assistance” to Poland “in the event of major refugee movements”.
British magazine publisher Peter Dickinson, 45, who lives in Kyiv with his wife Susanna, 39, and children Elizabeth, 14, and Nina, 11, were woken up at 5am.
The whole family, including Susanna’s Ukrainian parents, were on the road within 15 minutes of air strikes hitting the capital.
But those left behind face battles at gas stations with rationed fuel and queues for hours at ATMs as families desperately try to get cash before finding shelter. The main roads out of the capital were congested as many tried to make their way to Poland.
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Buckinghamshire-born Peter – who settled in Kyiv after working for the British Council 20 years ago – told The Sun: “I’d never heard a bomb before but it was loud enough to wake us and me know it’s time to go.
“After such a wake-up call, there was no way we could stay. We prepared some things, packed and stocked up on some fuel for the journey and departure. ”
Peter hastily packed his things into his BMW before dawn and with his family, followed by him and his wife.
He added: “My girls were obviously quite scared and kept asking us what was going on and why we had to leave Kyiv so quickly.
“They don’t really appreciate that we are all victims of a tyrant who seems to have completely lost his mind and has no respect for human life.
“Vladimir Putin is the most dangerous man on the planet – this is Hitlerian madness – and my priority right now is to get my family as far away from his forces as possible.
“A lot of Brits like me stayed because they never really believed it was going to happen – but Putin pushed the button. It is sick. “
Ambassador of the United Kingdom, Ms. Simmons and the core of the diplomatic staff moved 340 miles west to Lviv near the Polish border last week when intelligence warned of an attack.
But explosions were also reported on the outskirts of Lviv.
Edinburgh-born healthcare boss Stuart McKenzie, 51, organized a flag procession with 200 expats through Kyiv in support of locals after defying advice to leave.
Vladimir Putin is the most dangerous man on the planet – this is Hitlerian madness – and my priority right now is to keep my family as far away from his forces as possible.
Peter Dickinson, 45 years old
But the father finally decided to run away yesterday as bombs fell across the country.
Father of three Stuart – who is married to Lena, 49, from Ukraine – said: “The situation became so severe that we decided to leave at 4:30 am – and heard the first explosions of life. war as we depart.
“I stayed up and watched Putin’s speech – and we hit the road as soon as we heard it because he was clearly planning something even bigger than our worst fears.
“Luckily, I had jerry cans of fuel in my car and ended up packing and hitting the flat road in 15 minutes.
“We are now near the Polish border west of Kyiv but God knows what kind of chaos awaits us there.
“Thousands of refugees are heading west and I dread the thought of what awaits us.
“But anything better than Kyiv at the mercy of Russian Army. ”
Stuart also predicted mayhem across Ukraine as garages ran out of fuel after desperate residents fought to flee during an eight-hour trip to Poland.
He told The Sun: “We’ve made our way through the lines of cars at the gas stations and it’s clear that supplies will soon run out and people here will be trapped in a war zone. .
Thousands of refugees are heading West and I dread to think what awaits us. But anything better than Kyiv at the mercy of the Russian army.
Stuart McKenzie, 51 years old
“I still can’t believe this is actually happening.”
Business magnate Richard Spinks, 55, from Kent, has lived in Ukraine for more than 20 years and brought his two sons back to his family in the UK two weeks ago.
But he returned to his home in Lviv to stay with his wife Tetyana, 45. “I don’t want to try to drive to the Polish border and end up as the target in a giant queue, but that’s what we’re going to have to do,” he said. “
Marine engineer David Martin, 59, who moved to Lviv from Cornwall six years ago and lives there with his Ukrainian wife, said: “Every bank had 50 people lined up outside and some had no cash left.
“No one believes Putin will do this. We thought he would probably take more of the Donetsk region but he bombed Kyiv, home to 3 million people, on the first day. “
David went to the UK Embassy in Lviv yesterday to try to get a visa for his wife but claims he has been told they cannot help him.
He added: “We will have to go to Poland. I don’t leave my partner. It is not an option. “
Sean Cusick, from Glasgow, heard bombs being dropped near his home in Kharkiv, near the Russian border. He is currently stuck with his Ukrainian wife Chloe and his two-year-old stepchild. “I was terrified,” he said.
Brit Martin, 65, who lives in the Black Sea city of Odesa with his wife and stepdaughter, is said to have been woken up by the massive explosions.
“I felt the earth shake,” he said. We know this is very serious.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/4767350/brits-flee-ukraine-russia/ Thousands of Britons flock to Ukraine border as 1 million flee Russian invasion