As Ukraine stands on the brink of a Russian invasion, its wealthiest people are queuing up on the tarmac to escape on private and charter jets.
At least 20 chartered flights left Kiev on Sunday, more than at any other time in the last six years, according to Ukraine’s Pravda.
In the last two weeks, while an estimated 130,000 Russian troops have massed at the border, flights out of Ukraine have been chartered by Ukraine’s two richest oligarchs – Rinat Akhmetov, an energy tycoon worth £5.6 billion, who owns a portfolio of some of Europe’s most expensive properties, and Victor Pinchuk, who made his money through steel and the media, and is worth £1.85 billion.
Billionaire Igor Abramovich, a senior figure in a pro-Russian party called “Opposition Platform — for Life”, is reported to have chartered a plane for party members and their families to Vienna, with 50 people on board.
The UK and several other countries including the US have advised their citizens to leave Ukraine and have also started evacuating embassy staff.
On Monday, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said he would not be evacuating his family. He ordered the oligarchs and businessmen who have flown out of the country in the last two weeks to return within 24 hours and to think about their workers.
Other top Ukrainian businessmen reported to have charted flights include Andrei Stavnitser, Boris Kolesnikov, Vadim Nesterenko, Vadym Novinsky, Vadym Stolar, and Vasyl Khmelnytsky.
Some have denied fleeing. Stavnitser, a shipping magnate, said he was on a business trip and Kolesnikov, a businessman and former deputy prime minister, said on Facebook that his plane had flown to Prague for maintenance, and that he had remained in Ukraine.