A Russian businessman who renounced his citizenship and moved his family to Ukraine after Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea has stepped in to pay the hotel bills of refugees let down by Home Office visa delays.
Peter Chernyshov, who headed Kyivstar, Ukraine’s biggest mobile phone company, contacted two British families on Sunday after reading that they were having to pay for hotels in Poland for Ukrainian refugees whose applications to join them in the UK had been delayed.
Mr Chernyshov, currently in Lviv in Ukraine, wired each of them £500 within hours of reading the story in The Telegraph, saying he wanted to help the pair – both NHS workers – because he could afford it when they might not be able to.
He has also applied through the Homes For Ukraine scheme for his wife Lisa and youngest daughter Sima to come to Edinburgh, where he previously lived and worked as a senior executive with Carlsberg and Scottish and Newcastle brewers.
«I felt for them,» said Mr Chernyshov. «The UK Government is not doing what it promised, and as a result the families have ended up paying for hotels. I found them on Facebook and I wrote back to both of them to say I would pay.»
Lauren Corbishley, an NHS mental health nurse, has so far spent £1,000 on hotel bills for Yuliia Meshchierriakova, her partner Glib and daughter, Maryna, 17, who fled Kharkiv when the war began. «I am so very grateful to him,» she said.
Sarah Ockelton, an NHS dietetics assistant practitioner whose sponsored Ukrainian refugee, Nataliya Nikolaienko, had faced being made homeless in Poland when her free accommodation ends on Tuesday, said: «What a kind man. I am in shock. It is fantastic news.»
Mr Chernyshov, from Yekaterinburg, in the Urals said he and his family had taken Ukrainian citizenship after Putin invaded Crimea in 2014. He had first come to Ukraine on a contract with Carlsberg in 2006.
He said the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began in February, was «absolutely unprovoked» and irrational, adding; «It’s like a war of two cultures – brutal mediaeval versus modern democratic and European.
«And from the Ukraine side it’s now a great patriotic war where everybody’s taking part. I have not yet seen anybody over the age of 15 who is not somehow participating in the war effort.»
Mr Chernyshov is helping five Ukrainian families to link up with British sponsors in Edinburgh, where he still has a house, under Homes For Ukraine. He was also closely involved in bringing 52 children from orphanages in Dnipro to temporary homes in Scotland.
His son, Kirill, studied at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh before graduating from Cornell University. His oldest daughter, Kate, studied at Fettes College in Edinburgh.
He said he believed that while it was right to carry out security checks on host families, he believed checks on refugee families and children could be done after arrival.
«Most of those families are in Poland in very difficult conditions and they are scared,» he added. «It’s standard bureaucratic problem when the nobody wants to take personal responsibility.»