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A man mourns near a body as airstrike damages an apartment complex outside of Kharkiv, Ukraine on February 24, 2022. (Photo: Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Footage Shows Ukrainians Seek Shelter and Flee Country as Russia Attacks

"The question now in Kyiv," said one Ukrainian journalist, "is... whether we will survive."

Jessica Corbett

Photos and videos circulating on social media and news networks across the globe Thursday showed Ukrainian civilians using subway stations as emergency shelters, lining up to cross into Poland, and taking in the wreckage from Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

"You wake up in a totally new reality at 5:00 am and you find out the world is no longer the safe place you imagined," one Ukrainian woman told CNN's Clarissa Ward in a crowd subway station. "We don't want to be a part of Russia or any other country."

Holding back tears, the woman added that she wants the Russian people to know that the invading forces are "not attacking just the military bases, they're actually attacking in our neighborhoods and they're making us feel insecure and very unsafe."

Scenes of Ukrainians flooding the train stations to escape the Russian attack drew comparisons to Londoners and the Blitz during World War II.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the military action before dawn Thursday, sparking swift condemnation from human rights groups and political leaders worldwide as well as protests from people across Russia—who risked arrest to demonstrate against war—and around the world.

As peace advocates took the streets, the International Rescue Committee warned that "the resulting humanitarian catastrophe from a full-scale war in Ukraine will lead to grave human suffering. The world will bear witness to innocent deaths, destruction of civilian infrastructure, and massive displacement inside the country and across Europe."

Russian forces reportedly seized control of Chernobyl, the site of the historic 1986 nuclear disaster. A Ukrainian official said that "the condition of the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, confinement, and nuclear waste storage facilities is unknown."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video statement late Thursday that at least 137 Ukrainians have died so far and another 316 were wounded. He also ordered a 90-day military mobilization and barred male citizens ages 18 to 60 from leaving the country.

Some Ukrainians who fled their homes have gone to Poland, which has opened up reception centers for refugees. One reporter captured a traffic jam spanning over six miles at the border.

Photojournalists across Ukraine also captured damage from Russian rocket attacks and distressed civilians seeking safety.

"I am very stressed. I didn't sleep last night," Anna, a resident of the Ukrainian city Chernihiv, said from her vehicle in a video shared by The New York Times. "I was gathering our belongings. And I'm stuck here in traffic, and it's taking too long."

"We all want peace and quiet, we don't want war," said Anastazja, a Polish student who was studying in Ukraine but returned to her home country.

She also called on decision-makers in Russia to end the long-awaited invasion, saying, "Please... stop, because people suffer from it."

While reporters and others within Ukraine shared harrowing footage of Russia's air and ground assault, Reuters also flagged some images and videos that were misrepresented.

Other journalists have created graphics tracking the Russian attacks throughout Ukraine, which is about 233,000 square miles.

Zelenskyy, in his video statement, said that Russian groups have entered the Ukrainian capital and are targeting the president and his family.

"According to our information, the enemy marked me as target No. 1, my family, as target No. 2. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state. We have information that enemy sabotage groups have entered Kyiv," he said. "I am staying in the government quarter together with others."

"The question now in Kyiv," said Ukrainian journalist Oleksiy Sorokin, "is... whether we will survive."

Sorokin, who reports for The Kyiv Independent, told MSNBC's Katy Tur that "we were told that we shouldn't exist."

"Kyiv was a European capital. Kyiv had bars, had clubs. We love. We had freedom of speech. We went to movies. We enjoyed life. I had plans for the future. I had an apartment renovation that's ongoing," said Sorokin. "I wanted to live... in the city, in the capital of a European state."

"And because of one madman, one absolutely insane person," he added, referring Putin, "I am sitting in bomb shelter, and my main priority right now is for my grandma, my dad, his family to survive—and that's the world we are living in, in 2022, in Europe."


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