Desperate battle to flee Kyiv: Thousands fight to get on trains

Desperate battle to flee Kyiv: Thousands fight to get on trains out of capital as 15,000 Russian troops and 40-mile convoy close in on Ukraine capital after Putin warned them ‘leave or DIE’ – with UN saying scores of civilians are dead

  • Footage from Kyiv overnight showed people trying to cram onto an already packed train to escape the city
  • Their desperate bid to flee came as a 40-mile long convoy of tanks and armoured vehicles rolled closer
  • Estimates have suggested as many as 15,000 soldiers could be with the convoy – an entire Russian division
  • Residential areas in the Ukrainian capital were bombarded by Russian air strikes into the night on Tuesday
  • One strike on Tuesday afternoon hit Kyiv’s TV tower and killed five, said to be one family walking together
  • Other strikes around the country have also resulted in numerous deaths, while some cities are surrounded

A video has shown people’s desperate bid to flee Kyiv overnight on Tuesday as explosions struck residential areas and as many as 15,000 troops – an entire Russian army division – bore down on Ukraine’s capital.

Footage from Kyiv station showed hundreds of civilians, some with young children, trying to cram onto an already packed train amid fears that the city could soon be turned into a war zone.

Air strikes rocked residential suburbs of the capital on Tuesday night as a 40-mile long convoy of Russian military vehicles inched closer, with fears that President Vladimir Putin’s troops will soon lay siege to the city. 

Another convoy was reported to be moving towards Kyiv from the south-east, with plans to encircle it.

On Tuesday afternoon, outrage followed an eruption of explosions around the capital’s 1,300ft TV tower, built by a ravine where as many as 150,000 people were killed by the Nazis – including 34,000 Jews in two horrific days in 1941 – during Adolf Hitler’s campaign against the Soviet Union.

Five people, reportedly a single family walking together, were burned alive in the blasts.

After the attack, Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted: ‘To the world: what is the point of saying ‘never again’ for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating…’ 

Russia also shelled the country’s second-largest city Kharkiv, killing at least 11 people and wounding dozens of others, Ukrainian officials said. Kharkiv’s central square was hit with what was believed to be a missile, leaving the massive area piled high with debris.

Hospitals raced to treat victims of the bombardment even as mothers and children sheltered in their basements. While the fighting in Ukraine raged, the death toll remained unclear. ‘According to preliminary data, dozens of Kharkiv residents, including children, died from these airstrikes,’ the ministry said on its Facebook page.  

An airstrike also hit a residential area near a hospital late Tuesday in Zhytomyr, a city about 85 miles west of Kyiv, Mayor Serih Sukhomlin said in a Facebook video. Ukraine’s emergency services said the strike killed at least two people, set three homes on fire and broke the windows in the hospital. 

Zhytomyr is the home of the elite 95th Air Assault Brigade, which may have been the intended target. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that Russia should stop its bombardment of Ukraine before more talks on ending the war are held. Ukrainian and Russian officials have held one round of talks since the six-day-long war began and reportedly are planning more.  

‘As for dialogue, I think yes, but stop bombarding people first and start negotiating afterwards,’ Zelenskyy said in a joint interview Tuesday with CNN and the Reuters news agency.

At the border, anguished families said goodbye as women and children fled while many men returned to fight. More than 675,000 people have escaped to neighbouring countries since the Russian invasion began – a number that will only grow, according to the UN refugee agency.

A UN agency also said at least 136 civilians have been killed in the war so far, including 13 children, and 400 have been injured. ‘The real toll is likely to be much higher,’ Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the U.N. human rights office (OHCHR) said. Other reports have said far more civilians have been killed.

A video has shown people’s desperate bid to flee Kyiv overnight on Tuesday as explosions struck residential areas and as many as 15,000 troops – an entire Russian army division – bore down on Ukraine’s capital

People wait to board an evacuation train from Kyiv to Lviv at Kyiv central train station following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 1, 2022

Pictured: Crowds gather at Kyiv train station as they try to flee the city before it is turned into a war zone by Russian forces

People arrive to the West Train Station from Zahony after border crossing at Zahony-Csap as they flee Ukraine on March 01, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary

Pictured: Flames are seen in Zhytomyr following an air strike on Tuesday night, that officials said destroyed houses and killed at least three people. More, they said, could still be trapped in the rubble

Pictured: Ukrainian emergency service personnel, along with civilians, search through the rubble of houses in Zhytomyr, a city about 85 miles west of Kyiv, after air strikes hit the city on Tuesday

A blast is seen in the TV tower, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kiev, Ukraine March 1, 2022

Footage shows the missile hitting the TV tower during the airstrike which has killed at least five people in the latest Russian attack

Although Ukrainian forces have slowed Russia’s advance and still control Kharkiv and the coastal cities of Kherson and Mariupol, all three are encircled, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defence.  

Russian strikes on Mariupol, a key southern port on the Azov Sea, seriously wounded several people. Separatist forces in Donetsk said they have established two corridors for the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, which suggests that a large attack on the city could be imminent. 

US defence officials have said Moscow has so far moved 80 percent of its forces – believed to number 190,000 in total – across borders into Ukraine, but so far only a fraction have engaged in combat.

The presence of a huge convoy rolling towards Kiev has been tracked by satellites, raising fears that the worst is yet to be seen from Putin’s forces. According to The Times, experts have said as many as 15,000 soldiers could be moving with the convoy.

Blasts rocked Kyiv on Tuesday night. The Kyiv Independent reported at 23:29 local time (21:29GMT) that Russian bombs had struck Vyshneve, a town outside the capital. 

It also said the residential neighbourhoods of Rusanivka, Kurenivka and Boiarka – as well as the area near Kyiv International Airport – were coming under attack. Rusanivka in particular is very central.

It also reported a loud explosion was heard at Bila Tserkva, a city in Kyiv Oblast, when a fuel depot was attacked, according to the UNIAN news agency.

The locations of the reported attacks suggest Russian forces were closing in from multiple sides of the capital, particularly from the south-west, while also striking deep into the city.

Powerful blasts could be heard Tuesday night in central Kyiv. People on the ground reported car alarms were set off by the blasts, a first in the central part of the capital city where Russian forces are encroaching. 

To add to Ukraine’s woes, the country’s Defense Ministry said it has evidence that Belarus, a Russian ally, is preparing to send troops into Ukraine.

The ministry statement, posted on Facebook at midnight, said the Belarussian troops have been brought into combat readiness and are concentrated close to Ukraine’s northern border.

‘During the past 24 hours, according to intelligence findings, there has been significant aircraft activity. In addition, there has been movement of a column of vehicles with food and ammunition’ approaching the border,’ the statement said.

The reports came after Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko appeared on Tuesday to have indicated Vladimir Putin’s forces have plans to invade Moldova.

Putin’s war-mongering sidekick addressed security officials today while standing in front of a battle map that seems to show a planned operation from southern Ukraine into its tiny neighbour.  

The map also showed proposed battle plans for Russian troops across the country.

It detailed Russian lines of attack heading into Ukraine, some of which have materialised in the first few days of the invasion – such as forces storming towards Kyiv from the north, and towards Kherson from Crimea.

Alexander Lukashenko has appeared in front of a battle map during a state TV broadcast which appears to detail Russia’s attack plans in Ukraine

The map seems to suggest that a force will be sent from the Ukrainian city of Odessa to attack neighbouring Moldova, where Russia already has troops

A convoy of Russian tanks, artillery pieces, fighting vehicles and support trucks now stretches all the way from Hostomel, on the outskirts of Kyiv, to the village of Prybirs’k some 40 miles away (part of the convoy is seen, right)

There are fears the purpose of the convoy (pictured) is to surround Kyiv, besiege it and bomb it into submission – mirroring tactics Russia used in Syria while fighting alongside the forces of Basahar al-Assad 

Russian vehicles are seen to the southeast of Invankiv and heading towards Kyiv in this satellite image taken on Monday

But they also showed off several attacks that have yet to come to pass – with one even appearing to point from the port city of Odessa into Moldova, suggesting Russia plans to march troops into Ukraine’s neighbour. 

The map displayed by Lukashenko is split into four sections which align with the command districts of Ukraine’s military, showing Russian attacks from Belarus, along Ukraine’s eastern border, and from occupied Crimea.

A two-pronged pincer movement is shown targeting Kyiv – an attack that is currently playing out – which forces are also shown heading out of occupied Donetsk and Crimea before linking up at Melitopol, which Russia has captured.

But attacks are also shown hitting the city of Dnipro, which has yet to take place – possibly because the forces assigned to attack it have been held up by fierce resistance in Kharkiv, which is along the route.

Another attack appears to be heading for the city of Cherkasy via the city of Sumy, where Russian forces have also been held up, while a third appears to break off from the Kyiv assault towards Zhytomyr.

Perhaps the most baffling shows troops attacking from the Ukrainian port city of Odessa towards Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova that Russia occupies.

Nicu Popescu, Moldova’s deputy prime minister, admitted today that his country is in a ‘very risky zone’ with the population feeling ‘anxiety and fear’. But, he added, he does not expect to be invaded and instead sees the biggest challenge as handling an influx of refugees. 

A Ukrainian military official said Belarusian troops joined the war Tuesday in the Chernihiv region in the north, without providing details. But just before that, Lukashenko said his country had no plans to join the fight. 

The map also pinpoints what appear to be Ukrainian military infrastructure and missile batteries in locations that were struck by Russian missile strikes on the first day of the invasion. 

People arrive at a train station as they try to leave Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022

People wait to board an evacuation train from Kyiv to Lviv at Kyiv central train station following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 1, 2022

People fleeing from the conflict drive cars heading to the Ukrainian and Romania border near Cernivtsi, in Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Hundreds of people gather at the Kyiv train station to try to catch a ride out of town with news of the Russian convoys approaching the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022

People walk along an empty road during curfew, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy talks during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022

People look at the gutted remains of Russian military vehicles on a road in the town of Bucha, close to the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Russian forces have advanced to the outskirts of Kyiv from two sides, with a huge column of armour and artillery heading for the city as diplomats warned Putin may soon resort to ‘medieval’ siege tactics

Putin has drawn global condemnation and sanctions that have sent the rouble to historic lows and forced Russians to queue outside banks for their savings.

The Russian dictator ordered the ‘special military operation’ last Thursday in a bid to disarm Ukraine, capture the ‘neo-Nazis’ he says are running the country and crush its hopes of closer ties to the West.

Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, has called on the US-led military alliance to implement a no-fly zone – a request rejected by Washington, which fears stoking a direct conflict between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers and where such an act may lead.

Washington and its allies have instead sent weapons to Kyiv, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States had agreed with partners to convene a task force ‘to freeze and seize the assets of key Russian elites’.

The move ‘will inflict financial pain on the powerful individuals surrounding Putin and make clear that no one is beyond our collective reach,’ Yellen said in a statement following a Tuesday call with Group of Seven officials. 

The West has imposed heavy sanctions on Russia to shut off its economy from the global financial system, pushing international companies to halt sales, cut ties, and dump tens of billions of dollars’ worth of investments.

The sanctions have had an immediate impact on Russia’s economy, with queues forming outside banks as Russians rush to salvage their savings.

Exxon Mobil joined other major Western energy companies including British BP PLC and Shell in announcing it would quit oil-rich Russia over the invasion.

Several countries have moved to ban Russian planes from their airspace, and U.S. President Joe Biden, in his first State of the Union address, said Tuesday that the United States is closing its airspace to all Russian flights and is working to seize yachts and apartments of Russian oligarchs.

In Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking city of Donetsk, in territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists, authorities said three civilians had been killed by Ukrainian shelling.

Reuters was not able to confirm any of the incidents of reports of casualties. The United Nations says at least 136 civilians have been killed in the invasion, but that the real number of people is likely much higher.

Russia has not published any precise casualty figures for its own military, but says its losses have been far lower than those of Ukrainian forces.

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met over a ceasefire on Monday but talks broke down with no further rounds yet announced. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday that Russia must ‘first stop bombing people’ before talks could make any headway.

Zelenskiy, who has been staying in a heavily guarded government compound in Kyiv, warns that the capital remains Russia’s main target. Residents have been sheltering in underground metro stations at night for fear of attacks.

‘We resist the invasive aggression,’ Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter late on Tuesday, after thanking Western leaders for their support. ‘Today, more than ever, it is important for us to feel that we are not alone.’

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