THE Scottish Government has issued a message of solidarity to the people of Ukraine ahead of the first anniversary of the Russian invasion.

February 24 marks a year since Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine.

Thousands of Ukrainian refugees have fled to safety in Scotland since then, with Neil Gray, the Europe Minister who also has special responsibility for refugees from Ukraine, telling them the country will be their home “as long as you are here”.

Speaking almost a year on from the start of the conflict, he said the Scottish Government had “repeatedly condemned Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine”.

Gray stated: “We are shocked and appalled at the violence and humanitarian crisis it has caused.

“Our heartfelt condolences go to all Ukrainians who have lost their loved ones.

“We hope for a Ukrainian ­victory, which is the best outcome for Ukraine as well as for longer-term peace and stability in Europe.”

He praised the “incredible strength” shown by Ukrainians, adding that the support the country had received from the international community had been “incredibly heartening to see”.

With Gray noting that the conflict had resulted in the “largest refugee crisis and forced movement of ­people across Europe since the Second World War”, he also praised those in Scotland who have opened their doors to refugees from Ukraine.

And he said: “To the people from Ukraine who are living here, the ­Scottish Government wants you to know that Scotland is your home for as long as you are here and we will continue to stand with you.”

The minister stated: “Since the ­invasion began in February last year, more than 23,000 Ukrainians with a Scottish sponsor have arrived in the UK, representing more than 20% of all UK arrivals.

“More than three-quarters of these arrivals have come through the Super Sponsor Scheme, which has provided a fast and secure route to ­sanctuary, without which many people would otherwise have been unable to travel.

“I’m proud that Scotland has been able to play its part in supporting Ukraine, from people sending donations for humanitarian aid, to families opening their homes to displaced people from Ukraine who have arrived in the country.

“I’m also grateful for the swift and sustained response from partners in local authorities and in third sector groups who have played a significant role in ensuring that a warm ­welcome has been provided to displaced ­people in their time of need.”