Eight decades of peace in Europe that started with the end of World War II was broken on Feb. 24, 2022 after Russia unilaterally launched an invasion of Ukraine, sending its troops by land, air and sea into the neighbouring country.
Almost immediately after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a "special military operation" on its southwestern neighbour, multiple explosions were heard near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, as well as other major cities, several news outlets such as The Guardian reported.
In response, Ukraine declared a state of emergency and told its citizens in Russia to leave.
Stocking up on petrol and essential supplies
Ukrainians reportedly flocked to petrol stations to fill up their tanks.
It’s 7:30 AM in Ukraine people are starting to panic and hit the roads long lines starting to form at gas stations. pic.twitter.com/UPOjFk7imU— Eleanor Beardsley (@ElBeardsley) February 24, 2022
They also rushed to withdraw money, and stock up on food and water, according to ABC News.
ABC News further reported that several people in Kyiv had not expected the invasion to occur, and that many did not know how to react, with some attempting to stick to their daily routines as much as possible, such as walking their dogs, to maintain a semblance of normality.
Some, however, panicked at the sudden onslaught.
"Where do I go? Tell me please. Where will I run?"— DW News (@dwnews) February 24, 2022
People across Ukraine were out on the streets, queuing at ATMs, looking for shelter or seeking ways to leave the country. pic.twitter.com/sMI2tynAbT
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko has advised the city's three million residents to stay indoors and prepare go bags that include essentials such as medicine and documents.
Photos from Kyiv: Ukrainians are fleeing the nation’s capital after Russia launched a wide-ranging attack Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling. https://t.co/JvrYXbxAKk pic.twitter.com/TCniknv2oL— The Associated Press (@AP) February 24, 2022
Many people have also taken refuge in underground train stations.
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. @washingtonpost pic.twitter.com/ZddeHqlMvU— Salwan Georges (@salwangeorges) February 24, 2022
Many Ukrainians fleeing from major cities
According to France24, while some Ukrainian residents decided to stay put in their homes, others decided to flee, resulting in heavy traffic flowing out from Kyiv and other cities.
Kyiv's streets quickly emptied out as its residents either stayed indoors or packed their bags and left.
Ukraine's capital is strikingly quiet amid Russian operations in Donbass, save for a few people determined to go about their day.— RT (@RT_com) February 24, 2022
Elsewhere, roads out of Kiev are in a state of gridlock as people scramble to leave the city. pic.twitter.com/mwTmSVzEKh
By evening time, the central square of Kyiv, Maiden Square, was practically empty save for a handful of cars sporadically passing by.
A number of Ukrainians fleeing from the Russian invasion arrived at Poland, Reuters reported.
Some had their children in tow.
LIVE: People arrive in Poland after fleeing Ukraine https://t.co/sFTtyxrY3X— Reuters (@Reuters) February 24, 2022
While other European countries bordering Ukraine, such as Romania and Slovakia, have yet to report a large influx of refugees, witnesses there reportedly observed an increase in foot traffic from Ukraine.
Families forced to separate
As violence escalated and males between the ages of 18 and 60 were called up by the government, families were captured on camera saying their goodbyes, with a particularly emotional separation between a father and his daughter garnering much attention from social media users.
🇺🇦 That’s how a father in Ukraine sent his family to the safe zone and said goodbye to the camera.— Ukraine News 🇺🇦 (@UkraineNews0) February 24, 2022
As Russia carries on with its air strikes and shelling on critical infrastructure in Ukraine -- including the western area, previously thought by locals to be safe as it's closer to EU and NATO countries -- the death toll is expected to continue to rise.
According to AFP, which cited official Ukrainian sources, at least 68 people had been killed across Ukraine, including both soldiers and civilians.
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Top image adapted via RT & Twitter