There was an eerie silence in Kyiv this morning as Ukrainians waited in fear for Russian troops to roll through the city in tanks while Americans gathered their belongings to make a last ditch run for their lives after spending the night in subway shelters.
Footage obtained by at dawn shows the silent square, where Ukrainians protested for their freedom in 2014, after another night of war.
There is no damage to the center of the city yet but air missiles rained down on peripheral neighborhoods last night in a terrifying sign that Putin is encroaching on the city.
Ukrainians have been asked to stay and fight. President Volodomyr Zelensky is hiding in a bunker in the city. He told the nation in a video last night that he had learned he was target number one for Russian killing squads – his family is target number two.
There remain some 20,000 Americans in Ukraine who now have to make their own way out by fleeing in cars and buses to surrounding countries Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary or Moldova.
Twenty-three fled the city yesterday with Project Dynamo, a donor-funded organization led by ex US military commander Bryan Stern. He went back into Kyiv this morning to retrieve another group.
One woman in the first group made it to the Romanian border but told FOX News on Friday that she and others were now stuck there, unable to get through unless they bribe police $100 each.
All Americans in Ukraine were warned to leave at the start of February but many ignored the advice from the State Department, convinced Putin’s threats were empty.
Among them is Craig Arend, a former New York Times fashion photographer turned entrepreneur who moved to Kyiv in December last year.
He spoke to last night from the Maidan metro station in Independence Square, where dozens huddled to escape missiles overnight, then again on Friday morning after running for his life to retrieve his belongings from his nearby apartment and wait to be collected by a friend and driven to the Polish border.
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Americans in Ukraine recorded the eerie silence at Independence Square on Friday morning after running from the Maidan metro station – where they spent the night – to their apartments to get their belongings and wait to be rescued by friends or organizations. The State Department said they will not collect anyone
Independence Square in Kyiv at dawn on Friday morning as Russian troops moved through the city. Ukrainian troops are ready to defend the city which defense experts say could fall by the end of the weekend
Craig Arend, left, in the Maidan metro station overnight. He did not hear any airstrikes from the station that is some 200ft underground. Ukrainian police locked the doors to it overnight. Dozens spent the night underground and most were Ukrainian, he said, like this couple, right, who held one another for comfort
Russian armour is now advancing on Kyiv from the north and east, with US intelligence saying the plan is to besiege the city, capture an airport, and fly in paratroopers who would then attack the capital. The aim would be to capture the government and force them to sign a peace treaty handing control of the country back to Russia or a Russian puppet
A body of killed soldier lies on the ground as Ukrainian Army soldiers sit next in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Russia is pressing its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides
Laying down their lives: Ukrainian soldiers ready to defend the city of Kyiv on Friday morning as Russia advances
Russian troops sit atop an armored vehicle in Armyansk, Crimea, on February 25 after invading Ukraine.
The subway doors were locked overnight by Ukrainian police, and opened at dawn after the airstrikes had stopped.
‘It was literally, “run for your life” from when we got out of the subway to the apartment,’ Arend said on Friday morning.
‘What are they going to do to me? If I show them my US passport, am I dead?’
‘We saw trucks I don’t know if it was Russian – it was far away.
‘That’s the big thing on the ground – when are we going to see Russian military on the streets? That’s everyone’s worst fear.
‘What are they going to do to me? If I show them my US passport, am I dead?’
There was only one person walking through the ordinarily-buzzing square this morning, as Russian troops moved in on the city and Ukrainian soldiers lay their lives down on roads, ready to fire at first sign of the enemy.
Last night, Arend explained why he and so many others didn’t heed the warnings to leave when the State Department issued them.
‘We thought it was all being hyped up by the American media. Everyone was a little Chicken Little about it,’ he said.
Arend was out in restaurants and bars on Wednesday night, hours before the first airstrikes. He returned home at around 2am. The first air raid sirens rang a few hours later.
Arend on Friday afternoon in his apartment, left, waiting to be collected by a friend and driven to Poland. The eerily quiet square at 3.30pm on Friday as Russian troops advanced through the city
Inside the Maidan metro station last night where dozens of people, mostly Ukrainian, spent the night and will again tonight
‘This morning was the most shocking day of my entire life. I had a date last night I got home at 2am. I got out the cab this guy walking with roses comes up to me he said “what is this building, I showed him”.
‘Then he said he was a soldier for Ukraine. ‘I said, “do you think Russia is really going to invade Kyiv and he said, “yes”.
Christina Kubecka, who is at the Romanian border, says the only way to cross through is by bribing police $100 per person
‘I was in disbelief. Literally an hour later the air sirens are going off.’
The subway was cold, uncomfortable and packed with mostly Ukrainian people who Arend feared had nowhere else to go. Many were alone, while those in couples huddled for warmth and consolation.
He and his friends chose not to run at the first sign of conflict in fear that they would run out of gas on the road. There is a dwindling supply of gas and snaking lines of cars at every station.
None of his American friends there are surprised or emotional about being left behind by the State Department, he said.
‘I was neutral. Honestly, I don’t trust the government. Part of why I stayed was that Biden’s approval rating is at a record low and inflation is at an all-time high. He wouldn’t be the firs President to go to war to improve or distract from his approval rating.
‘Among my friends in the ground – there isn’t really a sense of abandonment. It’s more panic. It’s just a perpetual state of confusion and uncertainty and not knowing what to do next. People are fatigued, frustrated and angry. They’re angry at Putin. There is 100 percent a feeling of ‘the guy has lost his mind.’ He is a sociopath.
‘This was unexpected – especially in Kyiv. Can you imagine? I was on a date drinking and eating a few hours ago and overnight it changed,’ he said.
Among people in the group of evacuees are American-Ukrainian business men and women and their families. None of them thought Putin would ever actually invade, and were stunned to wake up to airstrikes this morning
American evacuees being rescued from Ukraine today on buses arranged by Project Dynamo, a volunteer group set up by ex Army Lieutenant Bryan Stern. Among the group were three kids who smiled from the backseat of the bus as Russian fighter jets flew overhead
An Ukrainian military medic approaches the bodies of Russian servicemen wearing a Ukrainian army uniforms lying beside and inside a vehicle after they were shot during a skirmish in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv
Ukrainian soldiers take position next to a highway a bridge during an exchange of gunfire inside the city of Kyiv
Soldiers tasked with defending Kyiv from advancing Russian troops take up positions underneath a highway into the city
Ukrainian soldiers take up positions in downtown Kyiv as the prepare to defend the capital from Russian attackers
President Joe Biden condemned Vladimir Putin for his invasion of the Ukraine and announced a series of new sanctions on Russian financial insitutitions that he said will have a ‘severe’ effect on that nation’s economy
It is unclear where exactly the Russian troops are in Kyiv but fighting was reported in the early hours of the morning in the Obolon district – around six miles from the center of the city.
The Russian troops are thought to have arrived from the north-west, having pushed down from Chernobyl which was captured late yesterday.
More Russian troops and armor are advancing on the capital from Konotop, in the east, having bypassed the city of Chernihiv where they ran into heavy Ukrainian resistance.
Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said today will be the war’s ‘hardest day’.
Once Kyiv is surrounded, US intelligence believes the plan will be for Russian special forces to move in and seize an airport – likely Sikorsky or Boryspil – which would then be used to fly in a much larger force of up to 10,000 paratroopers who would assault the capital.
The job of the paratroopers would be to enter the city, find Zelensky, his ministers, and parliamentarians, before forcing them to sign a peace deal handing control of the country back to Russia or a Moscow-backed puppet regime – effectively ending the war without Putin’s ground forces needing to complete the difficult and bloody task of seizing and occupying the whole country.
Meanwhile President Joe Biden has been criticized after he stated outright that ‘no one’ expected sanctions that were imposed on Russia ‘to prevent the invasion’ of Ukraine.
He made the candid remarks during Thursday afternoon’s press conference over the situation in Eastern Europe.
Reporters were quick to take the president to task over what appeared to be a changing stance on whether sanctions, economic or otherwise, were effective in any way.
‘No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening,’ Biden said in what was a complete reversal to what he had said previously.
‘This could take time and we have to show resolve, so he knows what’s coming and so the people of Russia know what he’s brought on them, this is what this is all about.’