Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought death and destruction across the country. For Ukrainians, lives have been forever changed. Millions have fled their homeland; others have resolved to stay and fight, regardless of their military experience.
George Keburia wiped away tears as he said goodbye to his wife, Maya, and their children after they boarded a train departing west from Odessa on March 5. Fearful of the violence that could reach their city, his family became one of the many to leave their home in Ukraine since the war began less than two weeks ago.
More than 2 million people have fled Ukraine as Russia’s invasion has continued, the United Nations said. The announcement came as Ukraine continued to accuse Russia of targeting civilians, even as the two nations agreed upon a cease-fire for humanitarian corridors. The U.N. estimated that some 4 million people could flee the country as the war continues.
More than 1 million people have fled Ukraine, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The organization said the crisis was “set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century” and praised the neighboring countries of Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia for keeping their borders open.
The country has also seen a rise in internal displacement. The U.N. estimates that 12 million people will need relief and protection inside Ukraine, a country with a population of about 43 million, as Russia intensifies its military assault.
Moscow continued its assault on Ukrainian cities and appeared to escalate attacks on residential areas. In Kyiv, a strike on a television tower left burning buildings and smoldering bodies in its wake.
In Kharkiv, Russian bombs destroyed one of the city’s central squares.
In the most intense shelling since the invasion began, Russia ramped up its attacks in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.
As the violence intensified, Post reporter Whitney Leaming documented her and her colleagues’ journey from the eastern city south to Dnipro.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians crossed into neighboring countries, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Those fleeing the escalating fighting waited in lines for as long as 36 hours. They streamed into Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova. Migration officials warned that they expect the numbers to increase as the war continues.
The Post spoke to Ukrainians waiting at the busiest border post between Ukraine and Poland. The line of cars stretched more than 20 miles.
The Ukrainian government urged all citizens to take up arms to repel Russia. As troops continued to close in on the capital, residents in Kyiv did what they could: Those not trained to fight on the front lines made molotov cocktails.
In Kharkiv, people angered by the ongoing invasion lined up to volunteer for the fight.
In the western city of Lviv, which had not yet seen any fighting, residents used tires, concrete and sandbags to block the road from a possible Russian incursion.
In a defiant video posted to Twitter, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, surrounded by government officials, said he would continue to defend Kyiv.
“We are all here, defending our independence, our state,” he said. “It will continue to be so.”
Earlier, the president had said in a video address that he was target “No. 1 for Russian forces.” The U.S. government offered to help him leave the capital, but Zelensky has repeatedly insisted he intends to stay.
The Russian attacks continued with shelling on Kyiv.
A residential building was damaged, and civilians examined the destruction left behind.
Russian forces drew nearer to Kyiv as military experts warned the capital could fall in days. Some Ukrainians, facing an uncertain future, decided to flee on buses and trains. Others hunkered down in train stations and bunkers as they braced for shelling.
Meanwhile, thousands of people protested Putin’s attacks on Ukraine in cities across Russia, a striking show of anger in a nation where spontaneous mass demonstrations are illegal and protesters can face fines and jail.
As Russian troops continued to mass on the border, Zelensky pleaded for peace in a video address. Speaking directly to the Russian people, in their language, he warned that the Kremlin had ordered nearly 200,000 troops to enter his country.
“If these forces attack us,” Zelensky warned, “if you attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives, the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. Not attack, defend.”
In a prerecorded speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the legitimacy of the breakaway territories of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as independent, ordering what he called “peacekeeping” troops into the region, only parts of which were controlled by pro-Moscow separatists. The screed rejected Ukraine’s legitimacy as an independent nation and foretold what would become an invasion.