FOR Duncan Spinner, Ukraine was his home. It still is. The former soldier had been working in the country for years on a special monitoring mission in the rebel-held Donbas region before moving to Lviv.

Employed by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the veteran worked in the city to "leverage women of power into opportunities for dialogue to try to reduce the conflict". It was just as he was set to leave for the private sector in the west when an attack on Ukraine was imminent.

The Monday before Russia invaded, the Royal Air Force airlifted Spinner along with his two-year-old daughter out of the country.

But not all were as lucky as the Pitlochry-born veteran, who served in the army for 17 years, with hundreds of his colleagues still in need of an escape route - and millions of Ukrainians still desperate to flee from the missiles and airstrikes falling from the sky in a war they did not want.

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The former Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders soldier plans to head back to Lviv when it’s safe, but for now he is focusing his efforts on getting those in Ukraine to safety.

Spinner said: “I was flown out with my two-year-old daughter by the Royal Air Force.

“They did a brilliant job but we have about 800 local staff and their families all over the shop. Now I'm working to coordinate moving them from different parts of Ukraine to Lviv and into Europe and onwards.”

Asked if he was worried, he replied: “This is my 12th war."

He continued: “What I was worried about were the people who were around me who haven't experienced this, who were just going about their business thinking it wasn't going to happen.

"I remember my daughter's babysitter, Tatiana. She's a widow and her 17-and-a-half-year-old daughter is three months pregnant. She was due to get married this week to her boyfriend.

The National:

Duncan Spinner gave a speech at an event by local Aberfeldy businesses seeking to help Ukrainian refugees

"When I got the news we were leaving in six hours time I phoned Tatiana. So she came in and said goodbye to my daughter and she looked me in the eye and said 'there isn't going to be a war is there?'

"And I said 'I'm really sorry, Tatiana, but there is going to be a war'. And she said 'but it will be okay because the Americans are coming'. 

“And I said ‘no, they're not’. And it f***ing broke her and it broke me because these people were expecting us to stand with them and not behind them. And we understand that if we started with them, now we're risking, you know, a much greater configuration. But we need to stand with them now.

"By helping them in any way we can. And it's shameful that we're not doing that by accepting these people into our country with open arms.”

Asked if he will stay in Scotland, Spinner said: “Well, my home is in western Ukraine. I'm in Scotland but once I've sorted out support and accommodation for my daughter, then I'll be heading back. Not to fight, I'm not joining the Legion. I'm too old and fat to do that. But to keep doing what I'm doing at the moment.”

The National:

More than 2 million people have fled Ukraine

The focus now for Spinner is on finding the approximately 800 local staff and their families who we have to get out of the country somewhere safe to live.

He explains: “We have a system of safe houses across Europe, and to my utter shame we don't have anywhere to bring them to in the UK. And it's just utterly appalling for a number of different reasons. It's appalling both for my friends who are endangered and are terrified and fleeing for their lives.

“And it's also appalling for the UK because that talent knows that it's difficult to get to UK, and so they're going to go elsewhere."

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Spinner said he "completely understood" the Home Office’s position on security and biometric data but said: "We have to open the door."

He went on: "And we have to find a way of processing this as quickly as possible.

"So I've got colleagues and friends who are already in Prague, in Dublin, in Copenhagen, in Sweden, in Munich, and other towns in Germany, that we have managed to get them there. And they are already settled, being looked after by the local community, and have a sense of safety and are welcomed.

“They don't have that sense about the United Kingdom. So, as a country, our reputation is going to suffer as well. We took in so many waves of refugees in the past in the war in the 1920s and 30s and it just seems abhorrent, I think, that we just can't turn on our humanity and allow these people in now.”