KYIV, UKRAINE – Yurii Zhyhanov wakes up to her mother’s screams and finds herself covered in dust. On the second day of the Russian invasion, shelling on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, hit their residential buildings before dawn.
Many civilians, horrified to see their lives at stake, began to flee within the first hours of the attack. Amid the smoke and screams of car alarms on Friday, Zhyhanov and his family packed up and joined them.
“What is this? What is this?” he said, addressing Russia and pointing towards the damaged building behind him. “If you want to attack soldiers, attack soldiers. This is all I can say.”
His fatigue and shock reflected that of his country as people climbed out of bomb shelters, basements and subways to face another day of upheaval.
Those who did not wake up before the explosion were awakened by the sirens of the air raid. Later, it was reported that Russian forces had already reached the outskirts of the capital.
Russia said it was not targeting the cities, but the fighting appeared to be too close.
The body of a dead soldier lies on the ground near a tunnel in Kyiv. Elsewhere, the wreckage of a downed plane smoked in a residential area. Black plastic covered body parts were found among the brick houses.
Trains carrying armored personnel ran through the streets of the city. Soldiers on the empty bridge set up defensive positions. Anxious residents stood at the doorways of apartment complexes, watching.
Outside a convent, a woman raises her hand toward a mural of saints and appears to pray. In the port city of Mariupol, a young girl named Vlada wants the assault to stop.
“I don’t want to die,” she said. “I want all of this to end as soon as possible.”
Uncertainty increases fear. On a street in the Obolon district, Associated Press journalists saw a disabled military truck, its tires deflated. The truck had no obvious badges and it was not clear if it was a vehicle that the Ukrainian staff said was stolen by Russian troops to disguise themselves as locals.
The Ukrainians overcame the damage left by shelling. And some mourned.
In the city of Horlivka, in territory held by pro-Russian rebels, a blanket-covered body lying on the ground outside a house was hit by bullets. A man stood nearby talking on the phone.
“Yeah, mom’s gone, that’s all,” he said. “That’s it, mom’s gone.”
The United Nations human rights office said it was receiving increasing reports of civilian casualties, with at least 25 verified deaths, mainly from shelling and air strikes. Agency spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said: “We are concerned that these numbers could be much higher.
The urge to run away grew stronger. Some approach the border on foot, packing behind them. Marika Sipos, who has left her home in Koson, said: “Unfortunately we came here at an old age, facing war. She wiped her eyes.
At a train station just across the border in Poland, hundreds of people from Ukraine sought shelter. Some curled up in cots, trying to sleep. A woman stroking the hair of a young girl.
One of the people at the station was Andry Borysov, who said he heard the crash of something flying overhead and then an explosion as he rushed to catch a train out of Kyiv.
“It was an unmistakable sound,” he said.
Some hesitate to leave Ukraine, even as they are standing on the platforms.
In Kostiantynivka, a government-controlled area in the separatist-held Donetsk People’s Republic, a woman who gave her name only, Yelena, appeared undecided.
“It’s 50-50 in terms of whether it’s worth leaving,” she said. “But it wouldn’t hurt to leave for a few days, for a weekend.”
Others leaving Ukraine know it may take much longer before they can return home.