This story has been updated with new developments. Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion are beginning to arrive in neighboring countries, many of them traveling on foot. Reuters reports that normally quiet border crossings in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are seeing increasing numbers of Ukrainians, and those countries are bracing for the possibility of several thousand more. Poland has set up reception centers for refugees and the country also plans to send a medical train to evacuate Ukrainians injured in the fighting. Slovakia and Hungary sent troops to the border to process the refugees.
Countries that do not border Ukraine, including Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, have pledged to send humanitarian aid and accept refugees. Romania said on Tuesday it was ready to accept up to 500,000. After Russia launched its dreaded invasion of Ukraine early on Thursday, some Kiev residents hunkered down in their homes or took refuge in metro stations, but many tried to flee the capital, leading to heavy traffic jams as long lines of cars left the city, the BBC reports.
“We are facing war and horror. What could be worse?” Liudmila Gireyeva, 64, said in Kyiv, according to AP. Putin “will be damned by history, and the Ukrainians damn him”. She said she would try to travel to the western city of Lviv before trying to join her daughter in Poland. the Guardian reports that at 6 p.m. local time, the main road out of Kyiv was jammed with vehicles and traffic was not moving. At Kyiv’s main train station, hundreds of passengers with luggage but no tickets were trying to get out of the city, although some services were cancelled.
Shortly after Putin announced military action, Oleksandra Matviichuk, president of the Center for Civil Liberties in Kyiv, told CNN she feared the invasion could cause a refugee crisis. “I am in Kyiv. And a lot of people stay in Kyiv and will fight for our country and for our city, and for our dignity,” she says. “But people with children, people without parents, people who are scared (will) try to leave (the) city.” She said she feared the invaders would target journalists, human rights activists and anyone “resisting the occupation”. (Read more Ukrainian stories.)