Mothers and young children have been waving farewell to their loved ones they are forced to leave behind as 100,000 people flee Ukraine amid the chaos caused by Russia’s invasion.
The UN Refugee Agency said 100,000 people have so far been forced to flee their homes with thousands leaving the country.
UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said: ‘We believe that some 100,000 people must have already left their homes and may be displaced inside the country, and several thousand have crossed international borders.’
Heart-rending pictures show women holding their babies and kissing their partners goodbye before boarding a bus out of Kiev on Thursday.
One father, 28-year-old Vlad, could be seen handing his two-year-old son to mother Tatiana, 26, as she departed the capital city that has been hit by airstrikes and swarmed by enemy forces.
The images come as terrified Ukrainians are left scrambling for fuel, queuing for hours outside cash machines and piling into trains and cars in an attempt to flee.
Petrol stations started rationing the amount each driver could buy while huge lines formed outside ATMs across the country despite bombs dropping.
Meanwhile Uber’s service was down across the nine cities it operated in but Bolt and Uklon services remained live to taxi people away from the war.
Citizens started panic buying earlier on Thursday as banks, shops and gas stations started to empty when locals learned of the overnight invasion.
Traffic was gridlocked on the main roads out of the capital despite calls for people to stay at home – with some bursting into tears as they made it to safety over the border with Poland.
But the city centres were ghost towns as martial law was imposed, apart from some cars whizzing past on their way out and tanks, military figures and some citizens who have taken up arms.
Russian troops swept into Ukraine in early morning raids on Thursday as President Vladimir Putin gave the green light for his forces to launch a ‘special military operation’.
He warned other countries any attempt to interfere would lead to ‘consequences you have never seen’ but was met with international condemnation, sanctions and was compared to Adolf Hitler by some.
Vlad, a 28-year-old father hands his son Danya, two, to his mother Tatiana, 26, as they say goodbye before she leaves Kiev, at a bus station, Ukraine, on Thursday
A couple kiss goodbye before the woman boards a bus out of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. The images come as terrified Ukrainians are left scrambling for fuel, queuing for hours outside cash machines and piling into trains and cars to flee
A woman holds her baby inside a bus as they leave Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday amid the chaos caused by Russia’s invasion
A woman holds her baby as she gets on a bus leaving Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. Traffic was gridlocked on the main roads out of the capital despite calls for people to stay at home
Locals queue at an ATM in Lviv, Ukraine, as they desperately empty their accounts as the Rusisan invasion kicked off this morning
Desperate Ukrainians stand outside a local shop as they try to buy groceries as the crisis bites the country. Pictured: Kiev
Across the 332-mile long Polish frontier, Warsaw has said it will open nine reception centres to welcome civilians fleeing the Russian advance.
Poland’s interior minister Mariusz Kaminski said: ‘There will certainly be a wave of refugees arriving in our country.’
He added that Poland would take in ‘as many as there will be at our borders’.
The centres would offer arrival meals and medical care, and a place to rest and receive information.
The head of the Polish border guard, Tomasz Praga, said Thursday there had been an ‘increase’ in the number of people seeking to cross the Poland-Ukraine border in both directions, but added the situation was stable.
Around 29,000 people had crossed the border in both directions over the past 24 hours, including 15,000 coming to Poland, Praga said earlier Thursday.
Groups of refugees have been crossing the frontier between Ukraine and Poland following Russian invasion
Poland is establishing nine centres for refugees along its 332-mile frontier with Ukraine as civilians flee westward
These people are walking across the Dorohusk border crossing into Poland just hours after the Russian invasion began
At the Dorohusk border crossing in eastern Poland, AFP journalists saw cars with Ukrainian flags on their dashboards entering the EU country.
One woman with a young child in the passenger seat drove by with one hand on the steering wheel and the other wiping away tears from her face.
Next to a small shop, people with plastic bags stood waiting for transport back to Ukraine, saying they wanted to return to support their families.
The UN warned Thursday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would have ‘devastating’ humanitarian consequences and urged neighbouring countries to keep borders open to those fleeing the violence.
Filippo Grandi, head of the UN’s refugee agency said: ‘We are gravely concerned about the fast-deteriorating situation and ongoing military action in Ukraine.’
People stand in line outside a grocery store in Kiev, Ukraine, as Russian troops entered the country early on Thursday morning
Residents queue at an ATM in Lviv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine
Cars line up at a gas station in Kiev, Ukraine, on Thursday morning as Russian troops entered the country
Desperate locals queue well out of the store at a bank in the Ukrainian city of Lviv in the west of the country on Thursday morning
People and children walk at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine
A man looks at his phone while a woman holds her child in her arms as she sits at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine
People walk at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine
Huge queues formed leaving Kiev on Thursday morning as locals fled west and away from the looming Russian forces
Vehicles line up next to a gas station in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, on Thursday morning as they tried to escape the city
Inhabitants of Kyiv leave the city following pre-offensive missile strikes of the Russian armed forces
People wait at the Ukranian side of the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine
The invasion quickly sparked fuel rationing as Ukrainian petrol stations began restricting the amount sold to customers in any one transaction.
Authorities said they had to prioritise petrol and diesel for civil and military forces as well as critical infrastructure services.
Uber, which has operated in Ukraine since 2016, also stopped working, with the Kiev office saying in a statement: ‘Currently, travel with Uber in this region is not available.’
The app also showed no trips were available in Lviv, Kharkiv and Odesa, with the latter two facing down Russian forces since overnight.
Interfax-Ukraine was told: ‘Due to growing geopolitical tensions and recent events, we have decided to temporarily suspend the program.
‘The security of all application users is our top priority. We continue to monitor the circumstances and hope that this is a temporary situation.’
Meanwhile locals in Kiev, Lviv and Mariupol formed huge queues stretching out of goods stores despite the threat from enemy artillery overhead.
Pictures and videos from today showed horrendous queuing for groceries, fuel and money as desperate Ukrainians headed to stores amid mass panic buying across the country.
Buyers flocked to grab goods while they still can in Kiev, Lviv and Mariupol as Russian forces loomed in the east of the country.
Hundreds stood outside the facilities as they waited to empty them of stock with some embracing each other as they ready themselves for the enclosing conflict.
Others slowly streamed out of the cities on the gridlocked roads as they headed west and away from the Russian bombs and forces.
From the early hours the main road out of Kiev in the direction of the border with Poland was blocked up with a huge traffic jam while the other side of the road was almost empty.
Some cars were spotted turning off the street to try their luck at a different way out of the capital as vehicles remained at a stand still.
Civil defence sirens wailed on the grey and drizzly morning but the city’s main street Khreshchatyk was a mixture of anxiety and normalcy.
The hotel where many journalists stayed ordered an evacuation within 30 minutes. Upon checkout, the desk clerk asked: ‘Did you have anything from the mini-bar?’
Guests hurriedly loaded their hastily packed luggage into cars, while passers-by walked dogs and occasionally waved at acquaintances. Some had been awakened by the sound of explosions on the city’s fringes.
Ukrainians fleeing a Russian invasion have started trickling into Poland, with dozens arriving at the normally quiet Medyka crossing on Thursday, some carrying luggage and accompanied by children.
Officials in European Union countries bordering Ukraine, including Romania and Slovakia, said there was no big influx of refugees for now, but local media and witnesses said foot traffic was increasing.
Alexander Bazhanov fled his home in eastern Ukraine with his wife and young child, taking only what they could carry and walking the final part of their journey into Poland.
The 34-year-old technical manager from Mariupol, 113 km (70 miles) from Donetsk, decided to cross into Poland when he learned the war had started from a colleague.
‘I don’t have any feelings other than that I am very scared,’ Bazhanov said at the pedestrian border crossing, about 400 km from Warsaw. ‘I will visit my father in Spain but I don’t have any money and I don’t know how I will do that.’
Russian forces invaded Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday after President Vladimir Putin authorised what he called a special military operation in the east.
Kharkiv train station: hundreds of people are queuing to buy tickets and flee eastern Ukraine
Ukrainians fleeing a Russian invasion have started trickling into Poland, with dozens arriving at the normally quiet Medyka crossing on Thursday, some carrying luggage and accompanied by children
Guests hurriedly loaded their hastily packed luggage into cars, while passers-by walked dogs and occasionally waved at acquaintances. Some had been awakened by the sound of explosions on the city’s fringes. Pictured: An ATM in Donetsk
People wait in line to use a bank machine on Thursday morning in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, amid the invasion from Russia
Girls hold their mobile phone as they take refuge in a metro station in Kiev this morning
Central European nations that share a border with Ukraine have for weeks braced for an expected flood of refugees searching for sanctuary within the European Union.
The Medyka crossing is largely used by people going shopping across the border or travelling for work. Lines to enter the town grew in the morning. Some people said they feared Russia could push far into Ukraine.
‘Everybody thought western Ukraine was safe because it was close to EU and NATO nations,’ said Maria Palys, 44, who was travelling with her family and that of her brother. ‘It seems like it is not the right protection.’
Russia has demanded an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and Putin repeated his position that Ukrainian membership of the U.S.-led military alliance would be unacceptable.
Putin said he had authorised military action after Russia had been left with no choice but to defend itself against what he said were threats from modern Ukraine, a democratic state of 44 million people.
News of the invasion spurred Olga Pavlusik and her boyfriend Bohdan Begey to rush to the border, leaving their dog at home in their town in western Ukraine. They have no destination in mind. ‘Anywhere safe will be fine,’ she told Reuters. (Reporting by Alan Charlish, Bryan Woolston Kacper Pempel and Leon Malherb, Writing by Michael Kahn, Editing by Janet Lawrence)
The mayor of Boryspil, the suburb where the capital’s main airport lies, said some of the explosions were due to the shooting down of drones of unidentified origin.
‘I’m not scared at the moment, maybe I’ll be scared later,’ said Maxim Prudskoi, a resident standing on Khreshchatyk.
In Mariupol, the Azov Sea port city that many fear will be the first major target because of its strategic importance and valuable heavy industry, there were similar scenes of fear.
People waited at bus stops, seemingly on their way to work, while others hastened to their cars to leave the city that is only about 10 miles from the front line with the Donetsk People’s Republic.
As the morning progressed in Kiev, alarm rose, with long lines of cars at petrol stations and others heading away from the city.
The city’s extensive subway system was declared free for all users and scores of people huddled with luggage in corridors, appearing uncertain where to travel to but comforted by the protection of being underground.
People embrace outside a metro station in Kiev this morning after Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday
Residents were seen traveling to work even as air raid sirens were heard
Cars head towards the exit of the city after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine
A woman wipes her eyes as she sits on the floor of a metro station in Kiev this morning with a suitcase and cat carrier
A young boy walks through a metro station in Kiev with a cat carrier after air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kiev this morning
Ukrainians this morning burst into tears as they escaped the Russians and flocked over the border into Poland, but were scathing of ‘evil’ Putin who they feel masterminded the ruin of their country.
One woman told Sky News: ‘Our Ukraine heritage and to see this happening to the country is just devastating. I just can’t believe someone would be so evil.’
A man said: ‘I’m just trying to make something good for my family nad hoping that we will be safe.’ One woman added: ‘Russia needs to pay all the economic consequences.’
They left behind ghost towns as the city centres and squares – which were usually teaming with commuters in the mornings – were empty.
Kiev’s main square had few cars, vans and lorries whizzing past and even fewer pedestrians out as St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery’s rang out a lonely tone.
The main presence on the streets were Ukrainian military forces as the President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law. Some defiant Ukrainians answered his call to arms by clearing out gun shops in Kiev.
One reservist told the Today programme he was ‘prepared to die’ to protect his fellow countrymen from ‘Russian occupation’, raising the prospect of brutal close-quarters street fighting that could see many civilians killed.
At a gun shop in Kiev, a manager buying cartridges said he will use his Soviet-era weapon which he bought in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea to protect ‘my family, my house, my country’ from ‘Putin’s guys’.
A woman whose husband was buying a revolver said she would use the gun if confronted by Russian troops, added: ‘It’s not the only weapon we’ve got, we’re just buying a new one to add to the stocks.’
The shop owner, who sells Kalashnikovs, said: ‘In the gun shop, we are now very busy. There are very many people who want to buy guns and there are many people who want to buy cartridges.
‘We have cartridges, but not many, not enough. Every day, many many cartridges have been bought. We have (been really full).’
Employees work at the gun counter of a tactical equipment shop in Kiev on February 23, 2022
Reservist Anton Lytvyn packs his equipment at his house in Kiev after he was called up to active duty on February 23, 2022
An employee at the gun counter of a tactical equipment shop in Kiev on February 23, 2022
Some cars were seen driving to the city’s exits after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine
It came as Russian troops launched their wide-ranging attack on Ukraine as Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries not to intervene.
Ukraine’s leadership said at least 40 people had been killed as of Thursday morning in what it called a ‘full-scale war’ targeting the country from the east, north and south.
In response, Nato envoys agreed to beef up air, land and air forces on the alliance’s eastern flank near Ukraine and Russia.
Ukrainian border guards released footage of what they said were Russian military vehicles moving in, and big explosions were heard in Kiev, Kharkiv in the east and Odesa in the west.
As the Russian military claimed to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defences in a matter of hours, Ukrainians fled some cities and European authorities declared Ukrainian air space an active conflict zone.
World leaders condemned the start of a long-anticipated invasion with far-reaching consequences, as global financial markets plunged and oil prices soared.
Russia’s actions could cause massive casualties, topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government and upend geopolitics and Europe’s post-Cold War security balance.
Ukrainian President Zelensky cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law, saying Russia has targeted Ukraine’s military infrastructure.
People walk in a subway to get a train as they leave the city of Kiev
People queue at an ATM in Mariupol after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine
A man named Alexander (right) reassures his son as the family takes refuge in a metro station in Kyiv
People wait at a bus station to go to western parts of the country, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine
People queue for fuel at a gas station in Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region
Residents of the capital are leaving the city
Women use their phone as they wait with bags and suitcases near Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi railway station in Kiev this morning
Traffic jams block the roads in Kiev as residents rush to leave the city after air raid sirens rang out when Putin began his military operation against Ukraine
People line up to withdraw money at a cash dispenser in Kyiv in the morning of February 24
Ukrainians who had long braced for the prospect of an assault were urged to stay home and not to panic even as Ukrainian authorities reported artillery barrages and air strikes on targets around the country.
An adviser to Ukraine’s president, Oleksii Arestovich, said about 40 people have been killed so far in the Russian attack and several dozen wounded.
He did not specify whether the casualties included civilians. Mr Zelensky said at a briefing: ‘The Ukrainian military is waging hard battles, repelling attacks in Donbas and other regions in the east, north and south.’
He said the Ukrainian authorities will hand weapons to all those willing to defend the country.
After weeks of denying plans to invade, Mr Putin justified his actions in an overnight televised address, asserting that the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine – a false claim the US had predicted he would make as a pretext for an invasion.
He accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands to prevent Ukraine from joining Nato and for security guarantees.
He also claimed that Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine but will move to ‘demilitarise’ it and bring those who committed crimes to justice.
The attacks came first from the air, but later Ukrainian border guards released security camera footage on Thursday showing a line of Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine’s government-held territory from Russian-annexed Crimea.
People wait at a bus station to go to western parts of the country, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine
Cars stand in a long line near a gas station as they wait to fuel up
People, some carrying bags and suitcases, walk at a metro station in Kyiv early on February 24
Ukrainians wave flags in Maidan Square, where the revolution that ousted the country’s last pro-Russian government was overthrown, setting it on a path to closer ties with the West
Volodymyr Zelensky called for the celebrations to coincide with the rumoured date of a Russian attack, saying that Ukrainians are united by a desire to live in peace
US President Joe Biden in a written statement condemned the ‘unprovoked and unjustified attack’, and he promised that the US and its allies would ‘hold Russia accountable’.
The president said he planned to speak to Americans on Thursday after a meeting of the Group of Seven leaders. More sanctions against Russia were expected to be announced.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the assault as a ‘full-scale invasion’ and said Ukraine will ‘defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now.’
In the capital, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko advised residents to stay home unless they are involved in critical work and urged them to prepare go-bags with necessities and documents if they need to evacuate.
Witnesses in Mariupol reported hearing explosions and seeing dozens of people with suitcases heading for their cars to leave the city.
‘We are facing a war and horror. What could be worse?’ 64-year-old Liudmila Gireyeva said in Kyiv. She planned to head to the western city of Lviv and then to try to move to Poland to join her daughter.
The Russian claims about knocking out Ukrainian air defences and Ukrainian claims to have shot down several Russian aircraft could not immediately be verified.
The Ukrainian air defence system and air force date back to the Soviet era and are dwarfed by Russia’s massive air power and its inventory of precision weapons.
The Russian Defence Ministry said it was not targeting cities, but using precision weapons and claimed that ‘there is no threat to civilian population’.
Mr Zelensky urged global leaders to provide defence assistance to Ukraine and help protect its airspace from the ‘aggressor’.
A huge explosion is seen at Vinnytsia military base, in central Ukraine, as the country comes under all-out attack by Russia
An explosion lights up the night sky over Kiev in the early hours of Thursday, as Russia launched an all-out attack on Ukraine from north, south and east with bombs, cruise missiles and rockets raining from the skies
A blast in Sumy, eastern Ukraine, strikes what appears to be an arms depot which exploded, lighting up the night sky
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency told air operators of a high risk to civilian aircraft over Ukraine, reminding air operators that ‘this is now an active conflict zone’.
The consequences of the conflict and resulting sanctions on Russia started reverberating throughout the world.
World stock markets plunged and oil prices surged by nearly six dollars per barrel. Market benchmarks tumbled in Europe and Asia and US futures were sharply lower.
Brent crude oil jumped to over 100 dollars per barrel on unease about possible disruption of Russian supplies. The ruble sank.
Anticipating international condemnation and countermeasures, Mr Putin issued a stark warning to other countries not to meddle, saying, ‘whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history.’
In a stark reminder of Russia’s nuclear power, Mr Putin warned that ‘no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor’.
Though the US on Tuesday announced the repositioning of forces around the Baltics, Mr Biden has said he will not send in troops to fight Russia.
Mr Putin’s announcement came just hours after the Ukrainian president rejected Moscow’s claims that his country poses a threat to Russia and made a passionate, last-minute plea for peace.
A wounded woman is seen as airstrike damages an apartment complex outside of Kharkiv, Ukraine
Ukrainian security forces accompany a wounded man after an airstrike hit an apartment complex in Chuhuiv, Kharkiv
‘The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,’ Mr Zelensky said in an emotional overnight address, speaking in Russian in a direct appeal to Russian citizens.
‘But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.’
Mr Zelensky said he asked to arrange a call with Mr Putin late on Wednesday, but the Kremlin did not respond.
At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called by Ukraine because of the imminent threat of a Russian invasion, members still unaware of Mr Putin’s announcement appealed to him to stop an attack.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the meeting, just before the announcement, telling Mr Putin: ‘Give peace a chance.’
European Council president Charles Michel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen promised to hold the Kremlin accountable.
‘In these dark hours, our thoughts are with Ukraine and the innocent women, men and children as they face this unprovoked attack and fear for their lives,’ they said on Twitter.
Even before Mr Putin’s announcement, dozens of nations imposed sanctions on Russia, further squeezing Russian oligarchs and banks out of international markets.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has shrugged off the sanctions, saying that ‘Russia has proven that, with all the costs of the sanctions, it is able to minimise the damage’.