‘They can destroy our homes, our schools, our hospitals and our churches but they cannot destroy our desire for freedom’.

Those are the words of Ivan Danyliuk, a resident of the besieged city of Kyiv, who has thanked the community of Bury for their support and compassion following the Russian invasion last month.

His message was read out in a hushed council chamber by the leader of Bury Council, Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, who is a friend of Mr Danyliuk.

The message was read as plans to welcome Ukrainian refugees to Bury are being made after an ‘incredible response’ from the borough’s residents to the crisis.

The meeting of the full council heard action had begun, including attempting to secure housing for those fleeing the war.

The council unanimously backed an emergency motion expressing solidarity with Ukraine and its people.

Cllr O’Brien explained the measures being put in place by the authority for any refugees arriving in Bury.

He said: “We’ve got two big tasks ahead of us as a council to support refugees.

“One is the direct provision of public services. We will have to find housing which will not be easy.

“We struggled but did manage to find a quite significant amount of housing for Afghan refugees but that was not easy and that maxxed out a lot of our provision.

“We will scour around for housing provision.

“As a lot of the refugees who will likely end up in this country are women and children there is also a need for places at school.

“We are not blessed with lots of spare school places but there are places where children could be accommodated.

“The other side of the challenge is less about direct provision and more about what we can co-ordinate in the community.

“We have a huge amount of support from right across the community, it’s inspiring.

“I think the council is best placed to pull all that support together.

“A lot of that work will be around social activities, leisure and emotional support, also involving the health service.

“We need to do this work now as we can’t rely on a breakthrough in peace negotiations, this could be for several years.

“We need to plan now so that when people do arrive in Bury whether that’s through direct council provision or community sponsorship we will be ready as a community.”

Cllr O’Brien said this work would be done by Bury Council in a cross-party way.

Speaking in support of the emergency motion, Conservative leader, Cllr Nick Jones, said: “Local government will have a vital role in helping with the UK’s response.

“The Conservative group and all this council stands with the Ukrainian people.

“We are in awe of the determination, bravery and fierce spirit of the Ukrainian people.

“Across the six townships of Bury there has been and incredible response.”

Cllr O’Brien read out the email from Mr Danyliuk in full.

He said: “I told Ivan we would be discussing the issue tonight and that we had shown our solidarity with Ukraine. I asked him if he had anything to share.”

Ivan’s e-mail, said: “Thank-you everybody for your support and to your compatriots for helping Ukrainians.

“A month ago Ukraine was a peaceful country and it’s citizens had plans and dreams which on February 24 were torn apart by Russian tanks and were bombed by Russian aircraft.

“We woke up to the bombing of our cities.

“At 4.40am the first strikes arrived in Kyiv and the Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian border.

“The invaders have come to destroy our Ukrainian statehood and liberty and values and therefore our future.

“European cities are being bombed. Right now we are surrounded.

“In Mariupol more than 2,500 civilians have been killed.

“The Russian invaders have bombed a maternity hospital in the 21st century. It is a crime against humanity.

“They are bombing our homes, our schools, our hospitals, our churches.

“They can destroy our homes, schools, our hospitals, our churches but they cannot destroy our desire for freedom.

“It’s a hard time but we have to defend Ukraine, we have to protect our statehood, our freedom, the most precious thing we have.

“We are fighting and I believe we will win.”