Ukrainian civilians are fleeing the country: “I do not want to die. I want all this to end as soon as possible”

Photo: AP Photo / Petr David Josek

Russia’s invasion has forced thousands of Ukrainian civilians to flee for their lives. 

Immediately after the Russian attack began early Thursday morning, many Ukrainian families packed their bags and fled. On Friday, many followed as Russian grenades hit apartment blocks on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv.

Yuri Zhyhanov woke up before dawn to his mother’s screams and discovered that he was covered in dust. In the midst of the smoke and alarms, he and his family packed their things and fled.

“What are you doing? What is this?” he says, turning to Russia and extending his arm towards the destroyed building behind him.

“If you want to attack military personnel, attack military personnel. That’s all I have to say”, he notes.

A shocked country

The sadness and shock he expresses reflect the feeling of an entire country where the inhabitants have woken up to a new day of war. 

Many have spent the night in bomb shelters, basements, and subway stations. Those who did not wake up to explosions were awakened by sirens that signaled new Russian attacks.

Then came the news that Russian forces had advanced to the outskirts of Kyiv. Russian authorities have said they are not attacking the city, but the fighting appears to be dangerously close.

The body of a dead soldier lies near a pedestrian tunnel in Kyiv. Elsewhere, smoke rises from a downed plane in a residential area. Body parts found between houses in what was a peaceful neighborhood earlier this week are wrapped in black plastic.

Armored vehicles roll down the city streets while soldiers are lined up on empty bridges. Troubled residents stand and watch right outside the apartment blocks where they live.

“I do not want to die”

In the port city of Mariupol, a young girl, Vlada, says she wants the attack to stop.

“I do not want to die. I want all this to end as soon as possible,” she says.

The uncertainty makes the fear even worse. In a street in the Obolon district of Kyiv, journalists from the Associated Press have observed a military truck with punctured tires.

There are also residents looking through destroyed buildings. 

In the town of Horlivka, located in a separatist-controlled area, there is a corpse covered in sheets outside a house that has been hit in one of the many attacks. A man is standing nearby talking on the phone.

“Yes, mum is gone, that’s all. That’s how it is, mum is gone,” he says.

Uncertain death toll

The United Nations Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) states that at least 25 civilians have been confirmed dead, most of them as a result of grenade fire and airstrikes.

“We fear that the number may be much higher,” spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani notes.

Some civilians travel to the border on foot, pulling trolley cases.

“It is sad that we ended up here now that we are old, that we are at war,” Marika Sipos, who has left her home in Koson in western Ukraine, says as she wipes tears from her eyes.

At a train station just across the border with Poland, hundreds of people from Ukraine have sought refuge. 

A hard decision

Andrij Borysov is among the refugees at the station; he arrived by train from Kyiv. He says he heard a sound from above and then an explosion. It made him hurry to the station to catch a train out of town.

In Kostjantynivka, a city located in a government-controlled area of ​​Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, a woman named Jelena has not yet made up her mind.

“It is 50-50 whether one should travel or not. But it will not hurt to travel away for a couple of days, a weekend,” she says.

Others who travel from Ukraine now know that it may take much longer before they can return home.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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