Russia’s Vladimir Putin has brought war back to Europe.
Missiles rained on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, at dawn on Thursday. Fragments pierced the ceiling of Mikhail Shcherbakov’s apartment which he shares with his mother. A resident identified only as Sasha says, “Today, I had the worst sunrise in my life,” after rushing to her balcony to investigate the sounds that woke her—and finding they were not fireworks.
Farther from the border, a morning commute transformed into chaos. Lines of cars waited at fuel stations while others fled from Kyiv, the capital. People carrying luggage took shelter in the subway, unsure of where to go.
While some panicked, others clung to routine.
“I’m not afraid. I’m going to work. The only unusual thing is that you can’t find a taxi in Kyiv,” one resident complained as air raid sirens wailed.
But elsewhere in the capital, Anna Dovnya watched soldiers and police remove shrapnel from an exploded shell. She was terrified. “Until the very last moment, I didn’t believe it would happen. I just pushed away these thoughts,” she says.
As the day progressed, alarm across Ukraine rose. People crowded at grocery stores and cash machines. Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko called on the city’s three million people to stay indoors unless they work in critical sectors. He advised everyone to prepare go-bags (prepacked luggage with essentials, such as medicine and documents) in case immediate evacuation was called for.
Russia’s attack was wide-ranging. Airstrikes and shelling hit cities and military bases. Ukraine’s government reports that Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border in a “full-scale war” mode.
The invasion was Moscow’s most aggressive action since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Within hours of the first word of the attack, Ukraine said it was fighting Russian troops just miles from the capital for control of a strategic airport.
The chief of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—an alliance of 30 countries including most of Europe plus the United States and Canada) joined a chorus of world leaders who decried the attack. In previous days, the United States and other nations had imposed sanctions on Russia, limiting trade, banking, and other support. But Putin deflected the world’s condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries not to interfere.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law.
“As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history,” Zelenskyy tweeted. “Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and won’t give up its freedom.”
At this point, the United States and its NATO partners have shown no indication they would join in a war against Russia, though President Biden is meeting with other nations’ leaders and says he will address the American people later in the day.
Meanwhile U.S. and NATO forces mobilized troops and equipment around Ukraine’s western flank—as Ukraine pleaded for defense assistance and help protecting its airspace. Poland has prepared centers for Ukrainian refugees in anticipation of civilian evacuations.
Pray for the people of Ukraine and for peace, wisdom, and right action among world leaders.
(Long lines of cars form as people attempt to leave Kyiv, Ukraine, after Thursday morning’s attack by Russia. AP/Emilio Morenatti)