Thousands fleeing Kyiv as Russia commences full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Fleeing Kyiv Russian invasion
Posted at 7:56 AM, Feb 24, 2022

Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, leading thousands of people in the country's capital to flee the city.

The Russian military commenced a widespread attack on Ukraine early Thursday morning from its northern, southern and eastern borders. Shelling was reported in cities across the country, including in towns on the outskirts of the capital of Kyiv.

The shelling prompted thousands of people living in Kyiv — a city of about 3 million people — to pack up and evacuate the city. Photos taken by The Associated Press show hundreds of cars jam-packed on a westward-bound expressway leading out of the city.

Other photos show cars lined up down Kyiv's streets in an attempt to purchase gasoline before fleeing the city.

Reuters also reports that long lines have formed in front of ATMs as Ukrainians attempt to withdraw cash while debit cards are still functioning.

Kyiv line to get gas Russian invasion
Cars line up waiting to get gasoline outside a gas station in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian troops have launched their anticipated attack on Ukraine. Big explosions were heard before dawn in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa as world leaders decried the start of an Russian invasion that could cause massive casualties and topple Ukraine's democratically elected government. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

"I didn't expect this. Until this morning I believed nothing would happen," Nikita, a 34-year-old marketing specialist, told Reuters as he shopped at a local supermarket ahead of a planned evacuation. "I was woken up. I'm an adult healthy man. I packed, bought food and will stay at home with my family."

However, not everyone in Kyiv is seeking to evacuate. The Guardian reports that many seeking to stay in the city took refuge in an underground garage, while others sheltered in the basements of block apartments.

Those headed west are likely headed for Lyiv, a town located near the Ukraine-Poland border. It's where the U.S. has re-located Ukrainian diplomats and one of the Ukrainian cities located furthest away from invading Russian troops.

Ukraine map graphic

Those fleeing the country may also seek refuge in neighboring countries like Slovakia, Hungary or Romania.

Earlier this year, officials in Europe warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could spark a refugee crisis across the continent. Aljazeera reports that as many as 5 million Ukrainians could seek safety in Central European countries in the days ahead.