Great exodus from Kiev: NICK KREVEN joins thousands of refugees fleeing Putin's bombs

Great exodus from Kiev: NICK KREVEN joins thousands of refugees fleeing Putin’s bombs

This is a desperate exodus from Kiev. Cars bumper to bumper slowly move forward as terrified refugees fleeing Putin’s bombs gather their belongings and head to safety in the West.

Cars loaded to the brim with huge suitcases precariously tied to roofs, and every conceivable place occupied by family values.

One woman was stuck in a car, sitting with her cat in a travel box while her husband was driving.

I joined the great escape this morning after security advisers told me and the rest of the British media that it was time to leave.

Earlier, my dream was interrupted at 3:30 am by air raid sirens, followed by thunderous explosions and the sound of gunshots in the distance, which echoed chillingly throughout the capital, as well as the grim realization that the Russian army was on the threshold and that this could entail those who choose to stay.

We faced a stark choice: take the risk in Kiev with the potential for heavy fighting, civil unrest, and possible food shortages, or move to a safer location. And thousands of its citizens also chose the latter, turning into a hopeless flight from Russian conquest.

We hurriedly packed up after a month in the Ukrainian capital and headed west, just as the Russians were invading from the opposite direction from the east in their ferocious quest to capture Kiev.

Nick Craven is on his way with thousands of refugees fleeing Putin's bombs in search of safety in the West.

Nick Craven is on his way with thousands of refugees fleeing Putin’s bombs in search of safety in the West.

The UN estimates that up to five million Ukrainians could flee their homes, and if the scenes in Kiev fix anything, it will be a pathetic race to get out.

The UN estimates that up to five million Ukrainians could flee their homes, and if the scenes in Kiev fix anything, it will be a pathetic race to get out.

The Ukrainian army has set up checkpoints along the 540-kilometer road to Lviv, turning an already long journey into a grueling marathon due to huge queues on the roads.

The Ukrainian army has set up checkpoints along the 540-kilometer road to Lviv, turning an already long journey into a grueling marathon due to huge queues on the roads.

In a mustard-colored car marked

In a mustard-colored car marked “press” and “TV” in the hope that it will not be attacked by Putin’s soldiers, our convoy of five cars, which also includes other journalists, is heading to Lvov, near the Polish border.

When we left our hotel in the city center, the streets around Maidan Square, which is in the heart of Kiev, were deserted, except for a column of Ukrainian armored cars.

When we left our hotel in the city center, the streets around Maidan Square, which is in the heart of Kiev, were deserted, except for a column of Ukrainian armored cars.

In a mustard-colored car marked “press” and “TV” in the hope that it will not be attacked by Putin’s soldiers, our convoy of five cars, which also includes other journalists, is heading to Lvov, near the Polish border. .

But it quickly became apparent that it would be a torturous journey fraught with danger.

When we left our hotel in the city center, the streets around Maidan Square, which is in the heart of Kiev, were deserted, except for a column of Ukrainian armored cars.

On the main highway, we ran into thousands of people on the side of the road, fleeing in cars or on foot, carrying what they could from the Russian onslaught that hit their beloved city.

The UN estimates that up to five million Ukrainians could leave their homes, and if the Kiev scenes fix anything, it will be a pathetic race to get out.

Hundreds stood by the roadside, laden with their meager possessions, desperately trying to catch a car heading west. Families with young children, the elderly, young people, and even a few men in military uniform all shared the same goal: to run.

After more than an hour of driving, our progress was alarmingly slow, with only a mile or two covered in a virtual cul-de-sac. The distant sounds of air raid sirens and automatic gunfire continued to reverberate in the background, only adding to the growing tension of the hordes moving out of the city at a snail’s pace.

An enterprising young man raced through traffic on an electric scooter, although who knows how far his battery will take him?

The distant sounds of air raid sirens and automatic gunfire continued to reverberate in the background, only adding to the growing tension of the hordes moving out of the city at a snail's pace.

The distant sounds of air raid sirens and automatic gunfire continued to reverberate in the background, only adding to the growing tension of the hordes moving out of the city at a snail’s pace.

On the flyover we saw groups of soldiers waiting to meet the enemy at the gate.

On the flyover we saw groups of soldiers waiting to meet the enemy at the gate.

Vehicles are loaded to the brim with huge suitcases precariously tied to rooftops, and every conceivable space is occupied by family heirlooms.

Vehicles are loaded to the brim with huge suitcases precariously tied to rooftops, and every conceivable space is occupied by family heirlooms.

We faced a stark choice: take the risk in Kiev with the potential for heavy fighting, civil unrest, and possible food shortages, or move to a safer location.  And thousands of its citizens also chose the latter, turning into a hopeless flight from the Russian conquest.

We faced a stark choice: take the risk in Kiev with the potential for heavy fighting, civil unrest, and possible food shortages, or move to a safer location. And thousands of its citizens also chose the latter, turning into a hopeless flight from the Russian conquest.

On the opposite side of the two-way road to the east, from where the Russians are advancing, there was almost no traffic, except for small convoys of military equipment.

On the hard shoulder of our road we heard the strange rhythmic rumble of an approaching car that turned out to be a punctured army truck on wheels. The windshield was shattered and the body panels riddled with bullet holes.

On the flyover we saw groups of soldiers waiting to meet the enemy at the gate. One had an RPG, but there was no sign of another weapon capable of stopping the advancing Russian armored vehicles.

The Ukrainian army has set up checkpoints along the 540-kilometer road to Lviv, turning an already long journey into a grueling marathon due to huge queues on the roads.

After nearly two hours on the road, we had barely made it four miles—and were still out of sight of the checkpoint we were crawling towards.

Our safety advisers instructed us before we started our journey to always stay close to the car in front. After passing the first checkpoint, we assessed whether and when any of our five vehicles needed to be refueled, which would have been another headache.

Each of us sits in bulky body armor in a car with helmets within reach, as we hear not so far the massive pops of airstrikes.

But we were very fortunate to have former British military advisers who could handle any challenge we faced next.

For ordinary Ukrainians in cars around us, leaving their homes with what they can carry, their future is far more uncertain.

Chaotic scenes have already been reported at Polish border crossings far ahead of us as millions of people struggle to leave their homeland, perhaps forever.

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