The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ukrainian families flee Russian attack, clutching their belongings and beloved pets

Hundreds of people, including many women and children, take shelter inside a metro station as explosions are heard in downtown Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

As sirens rang out amid Russia’s assault on Ukrainian cities Thursday, scores were forced to flee their homes. Some held their children in their arms, while others clutched their beloved pets — the cats and dogs they could not leave behind amid the barrage of attacks coming from Russia.

Countries around the world swiftly condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal act of war,” with President Biden vowing “consequences” and other leaders announcing harsh sanctions.

For those fleeing the capital of Kyiv by car, roads were congested with traffic that stretched for miles. Those on foot rushed to local subway stations and bus routes, holding their pets in carriers.

Amid the shelling, people gathered in underground subway stations, dragging their luggage behind them, while others embraced loved ones in the street.

Some travelers hurrying to buy tickets told Washington Post correspondent Siobhán O’Grady, who is on the ground in Kyiv, that they did not know where they were heading — they just wanted to get out.

On social media, Romanian animal rescue charity Casa lui Patrocle, which is based in the city of Suceava — around 25 miles from the Ukraine border — vowed to help families fleeing with their pets, writing in a Facebook post that it would provide veterinary assistance to anyone who entered the country.

The organization said it would help treat “any type of animal.”

The main roads out of the Ukrainian capital were blocked with heavy traffic as people attempted to flee.

Ride-sharing app Uber told users that the service would “be available where possible” despite the threat of more explosions.

Images shared to social media showed snaking lines of cars, all carrying passengers seeking a way out of the unfolding chaos.