Terrified Ukrainians, including families with young children and pets, filled Kharkiv’s subway station following Russia’s early morning invasion on Thursday.
Trains have all stopped within the metro station, which was built after World War II and designed to be used as a bomb shelter, as those seeking refuge were seen sheltering and sleeping inside subway cars.
The scenes evoked haunting echoes of London during The Blitz in 1940 and 1941, when Germany led a series of bombings against the United Kingdom and many residents sought shelter in underground stations and air raid shelters.
Terrified Ukrainians, including families with young children and pets, filled Kharkiv’s subway station on Thursday. Above, a father carried his anxious-looking baby in a stroller down the steps into the station
Those seeking refuge were seen sheltering and sleeping inside subway cars in the underground station that transformed into a bomb shelter overnight. People were seen checking their phones intently for updates, folding their arms and waiting tensely underground
Trains have all stopped within the metro station, which was built after World War II and designed to be used as a bomb shelter. Above, Caman Denysenko appeared contemplative as he embraced his pet cat as he joined hundreds of others underground
A woman is seen in somber meditation as she awaits a train leaving Kyiv
The subway stations transformed into a bomb shelter overnight as Ukrainians sought refuge
Groups of people crowded inside train cars on Thursday, as seen above
Among those seeking shelter was a father seen carrying his anxious-looking baby in a stroller down the steps into the Kharkiv station. Another was a man named Caman Denysenko who appeared contemplative as he embraced his pet cat and joined hundreds of others underground.
One woman grabbed necessities from her home and fled to the subway, she told CNN’s chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward from inside the station.
‘Just documents and some money, and mostly we can’t take cash because I’m not sure that I can pay by card now. And I’m not sure I can get anywhere from Kharkiv for now,’ she said, adding that she has a car, but is not sure it would ‘be safe in Ukraine in any city.’
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov told locals to fill the subway for safety. ‘Russian tanks are standing near the ring road. The subway is the safest place,’ he said at a press conference. ‘All utilities are working. There are no civilian casualties in Kharkiv. Terekhov asks everyone to stay in shelters.’
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko also said last month that his city would use its subway system as a bomb shelter in a Russian invasion.
A grisly photo detailing the violence on the ground shows an injured woman covered in dried blood with a large head bandage as she shows a tried grin. British journalist Darren Grimes tweeted the photo with the caption: ‘A woman wounded in an air strike on an apartment block outside Kharkiv. God help the people of Ukraine.’
Dan Rivers, an ITV News correspondent, tweeted a photo of a jam-packed hallway loaded with families huddled together and sleeping.
‘Kharkiv Subway tonight. Like something from the Blitz in London during WW2. Shocking. Where on earth will this all end?’ he captioned the tweet.
Salwan Georges, a photojournalist with the Washington Post, tweeted a video walking through a crowded station as groups of people, some with very young children, settled down while explosions could be heard in the distance.
‘Hundreds of people, including many women and children are currently taking shelter inside a subway station in Kharkiv, #Ukraine as explosions are heard in the city,’ he tweeted.
Meanwhile, in Kyiv, Ukrainians rushed the train station to flee the country. Associated Press Photographer tweeted a photo of a woman and a young girl waiting for a train, captioned: ‘A woman with her daughter waits for a train as they try to leave Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.’
‘Big explosions happened in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa as world leaders decried the start of an Russian invasion that could cause massive casualties,’ he added.
Meanwhile, children of the Donetsk region being led through drills as war exploded across Ukraine.
In images also reminiscent of the Blitz, the primary school pupils were led down in single file into an underground bomb shelter as they prepared for an assault from Vladimir Putin’s forces.
Too small to climb on to the shelter’s ledges themselves, many of the children from the Number One school in the city of Druzhkivka had to be hoisted up by adults.
Huddled together on numbered benches, fear and apprehension in their eyes, these are the children of the Donetsk region being led through drills as war exploded across Ukraine
In images which brought back memories of the Blitz, the primary school pupils were led down in single file into an underground bomb shelter as they prepared for an assault from Vladimir Putin’s forces
There they hunkered down, their arms curled around their knees, awaiting their fate. They are scenes likely to become only more common following yesterday’s full-scale invasion.
Air raid drills at the school normally take place twice a year, according to the BBC which captured the footage. But there was an extra, emergency exercise on Wednesday.
The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv is expected to fall to Russian forces within days and the country’s resistance effectively crippled, US security officials fear.
Troops are already closing in on the seat of Ukrainian power after taking control of the strategic Chernobyl nuclear power plant today, and will seize it within 96 hours, bringing a ‘new Iron Curtain’ down on Europe, Volodymyr Zelensky warned.
Officials said Vladimir Putin plans to encircle Ukrainian forces in Kyiv and force them to either surrender or be destroyed, and the leadership of Ukraine will then fall in a week.
A former senior US intelligence officer told Newsweek: ‘After the air and artillery end and the ground war really starts, I think Kyiv falls in just a few days.
‘The military may last slightly longer but this isn’t going to last long.’
A source close to the Ukrainian government said they agreed that Kyiv will be surrounded within 96 hours but believed the government will stay strong and not collapse.
President Biden addressed the nation on Thursday afternoon. He promised to impose strict sanctions on Russia but said nothing of any kind of evacuation plans. Earlier this month, he said Americans in Ukraine had to get themselves out of the country
Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty on Thursday asked the Secretaries of Defense and State to tell them what the strategy was – if there is one – for getting Americans out of Ukraine
Meanwhile, Republicans are demanding answers from President Biden on what he will do to help an estimated 23,000 Americans still stuck in Ukraine.
Biden warned that if war broke out, the State Department would not rescue any US citizen or green-card holder who is still in the country. Americans are being told to make their own way to the borders of neighboring countries Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Moldova and Hungary but many can’t.
There are tens of thousands of people trying to flee Ukraine on buses, trains and in cars. At every gas station, there are snaking lines for gasoline and banks are limiting how much cash people can withdraw.
Some off-the-books former military personnel are helping people escape on buses, but there remain an unknown number of people on the ground in need of help.
Republican Senators Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn on Thursday sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense and State Secretary Blinken demanding answers.
They cited the shambolic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, during which 13 US troops died, and asked what the government had planned to avoid similar disasters in Ukraine.
An explosion lights up the night sky over Kyiv 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
The attack has come to Ukraine on all fronts, with bombs and missiles striking targets across the country, ground forces rolling in from Belarus, Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk, and paratroopers dropping on Kharkiv
‘We write to express our grave concern regarding the safety and evacuation of Americans in Ukraine.
‘Given the disorderly and chaotic evacuation of US citizens, legal permanent residents and Afghan allies amid the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal in 2021 – an evacuation mission that remains incomplete – Congress is willing and ready to conduct proper oversight responsibilities on behalf of the American people,’ the letter reads.
The Senators said the State Department estimates that as many as 23,000 Americans remain in Ukraine.
‘What is the US government’s plan to protect US citizens and facilitate the evacuation of American citizens?’ they asked.
Biden did not offer any form of promise or offer of help to Americans stranded in Ukraine when he spoke on Thursday.
He said the US will impose strict sanctions on Russia, hitting its oligarchs living abroad and its banks, in an effort to hit Putin where it hurts.
Biden admitted during the briefing that he did not think the sanctions – which he and other Western countries have been threatening for months – would have any effect on the Russian leader.
Earlier, spoke with a group of 23 American citizens as they were being transported from Kyiv to Romania in two vehicles – a minibus and a car – arranged by Bryan Stern, a 23-year Army and Navy veteran who saved 2,000 people from Kabul last year with his volunteer group Project Dynamo.
Stern collected the American evacuees shortly after 5am from Kyiv, while ‘missiles fell from the sky’ around them.
They are now driving the 300 miles to Romania, taking quieter, smaller roads in the hopes of evading Russian troops, fighter jets and the thousands of other evacuees in cars.
The State Department has not been able to provide an exact number for how many American citizens remain in Ukraine but estimates range from between 10,000 to 30,000. They are now telling anyone still in Ukraine to travel by land to Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia or Moldova.
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
‘There are thousands of Americans and NATO ally-citizens that are left in Ukraine right now and it’s about to be Soviet-occupied Russia,’ Stern, a former Navy Lt. Commander told on Thursday over speakerphone while driving one of the two vehicles in his rescue operation.
‘We’re in the middle of what is probably the first rescue of Americans in the opening hours of World War III.
‘We have 23 people in two vehicles. Everyone’s got a different story. What we have learned is that in these situations, people don’t leave when they should for all kinds of reasons. We don’t really judge and often we don’t ask.
‘We have one American woman whose father passed away yesterday. She flew to Kyiv for his funeral and woke up to missile fire and now we’re evacuating her. She lives in New Mexico.
‘In this circumstance, some people didn’t believe it. Some wanted to wait it out. Some hedged their bets and thought “Putin isn’t that crazy.” What we’ve all been doing for the last two weeks is saying, “well, there is no way he would do this. Only a mad man would. So why am I going to leave and have my house get looted and robbed.” Unfortunately, all those hopes and dreams were all wrong.
‘The missiles landed at 5am. The sun came up, and we were rolling an hour after that with a bus full of evacuees,’ Stern told over the phone this morning while driving with a car full of evacuees.