IT was business as usual for Russia’s war machine in Ukraine yesterday. Once again, the Kremlin’s onslaught against Ukraine’s civilian population and infrastructure was brought to bear as explosions rocked the capital Kyiv.

In the skies above the city another early morning wave of Iranian supplied drones sent people into shelters and metro stations for cover.

That other bitter enemy, winter, is also now making its presence felt as sub-zero temperatures grip much of Ukraine.

Most of us here in Scotland and across much of the UK these past few days have experienced what extreme cold feels like. That though is where the comparison with Ukraine stops.

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Ever since October 10, eight waves of Russian drone and missile attacks have killed civilians and destroyed or damaged houses, power stations and other infrastructure needed to keep millions of Ukrainians safe from winter.

As Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy grimly summed it up the other day, generators are now “as necessary in Ukraine as armoured vehicles and bulletproof vests”.

Robbed of victory on the battlefield by dogged Ukrainian resistance, Zelenskyy’s (below) Russian counterpart president Vladimir Putin is now hell-bent on trying to cause a humanitarian catastrophe right in the middle of Europe.

The National: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the city of Izium, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Our letter writer is not in support of the war - what is your view?

“The aim of Putin is to create a refugee crisis and to put even more pressure on us,” was how Ylva Johansson, the EU’s migration commissioner, summed up the Kremlin’s strategy.

For its part, of course, Moscow continues to claim its attacks do not target civilians, even if many of the strikes Russia conducts on non-military targets constitute war crimes according to global human rights groups.

Just imagine what’s it like right now in Ukraine – imagine just for a moment having to endure the bitter cold of the last few days, often without electricity, heating or clean water.

Currently, Ukraine is a country where some people never know from one day to the next what their fate might be. A place where children curl up at night in sleeping bags in metro stations and underground car parks to avoid being blown up in their own beds at home. A place, too, where surgical operations are often carried out by torchlight and people roam the streets looking for places to charge their mobile phones to keep in touch with loved ones.

Imagine also being a Ukrainian with no end in sight to this war instigated by Russia that has caused such suffering and already killed tens of thousands and left 7.8 million Ukrainian refugees scattered throughout Europe.

Is it any wonder that as winter closes and Russia sustains its bombardment of power and water facilities that many more Ukrainians will have no choice but to flee their country as refugees?

Another question immediately follows on from this of course, one demanding an answer as to whether Europe will open its doors as it has done before to a previous influx of Ukrainians seeking sanctuary.

Encouraged by the EU’s unprecedented use of a 20-year-old but never previously used power to grant “temporary protection” to refugees fleeing a conflict, Ukrainians were instantly granted the right to move freely within the EU, the right to work and some income support.

That more Ukrainian refugees will be on their way to Europe as winter deepens the crisis in their country is in little doubt.

The National: Russia Ukraine War

Speaking just a few days ago, Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council who had just returned from a trip in Ukraine earlier this month, said that no one knows exactly how many but that there will be hundreds and thousands more leaving Ukraine.

“The horrific and unlawful bombing of civilian infrastructure makes life unliveable in too many places,” warned Egeland, adding that some Ukrainian refugees who had returned to their country this summer were now “giving up” and heading the other way.

That very term “unliveable” should of course be the starting point from which our continuing response should be formulated to the intensifying plight of those Ukrainians coming our way.

But almost 10 months on from the Russian invasion, there is now, in some humanitarian quarters, real concern that the open-door policy and welcome previously given might be replaced by fatigue as many Europeans face pressures through rising inflation, the cost of living crisis and cuts in government budgets.

Britain’s own response to date, when it comes to Ukrainian refugees, has been chequered, to say the least. Some 106,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the UK and about 51,000 people who came did so under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

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Launched last March, the scheme allowed Ukrainians who were fleeing the war to come to the UK if a sponsor agreed to provide accommodation for at least six months.

Analysis suggests almost half of those who arrived under the scheme have now reached the end of their sponsorship.

In many parts of the UK, some councils have increased the £350-a-month payment sponsors have received to encourage more households to keep housing Ukrainians.

This, though, is not a national policy and already some Ukrainians have effectively been made homeless either because sponsorships have broken down, or because they have been in the UK for more than six months and don’t have anywhere else to go.

The bottom line here is that there is huge uncertainty for the future of the Homes for Ukraine policy as both local councils and campaigners scramble to find ways to bring in new hosts or keep existing ones.

What a disaster in the making it is were this not to be resolved quickly – not least given fears of a renewed Ukrainian exodus in the coming weeks and months.

Looming right now is perhaps the most difficult moment for Ukrainians so far in their resistance to the Russian fascism that seeks to destroy or occupy their country.

Scotland like the rest of the UK and Europe must continue to offer sanctuary to those Ukrainians and others seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.

We must not look the other way, difficult as things here at home might be.