Ukrainians flee to Poland after Russian military attack
Ukrainians arrived at the Polish border crossing early on February 24 after Russian forces invaded Ukraine by land, air, and sea in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.
Cars and trucks waited at the border checkpoint as people crossed by foot carrying their suitcases with them.
Russian missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities and Ukraine reported columns of troops pouring across its borders into the eastern Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Luhansk regions. Russian troops also landed by sea at the port cities of Odessa and Mariupol in the south.
Explosions were heard before dawn in the capital Kyiv, a city of 3 million people. Gunfire rattled, sirens blared, and the highway out of the city choked with traffic as residents fled.
Black smoke rose over the headquarters of Ukraine's military intelligence after an explosion in Kyiv near midday.
The assault followed weeks of fruitless diplomatic efforts by Western leaders to avert war and realised their worst fears about Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions.
Alexander Bazhanov fled his home in eastern Ukraine with his wife and young child, taking only what they could carry and walking the final part of their journey to cross the Polish border on Thursday (February 24) after Russian troops launched an invasion.
The 34-year-old technical manager from Mariupol, located some 113 kilometres (70 miles) from Donetsk, decided to cross into Poland after a colleague had called him, informing him that "war started."
"I don't have any feelings other than that I am very scared," Bazhanov told at the pedestrian border crossing in Mekya, located about 400 kilometres (248.5 miles) from the Polish capital Warsaw. "I will visit my father in Spain but I don't have any money and I don't know how I will do that."
Bazhanov expects "total war" to break out in Ukraine following Russian attacks in the morning.
Russian forces fired missiles at several cities in Ukraine and landed troops on its coast, officials and media said, after President Vladimir Putin authorised what he called a special military operation in the east.
Central European nations that share a border with Ukraine, including Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland, have for weeks braced for an expected flood of refugees searching for sanctuary within the European Union.
Some Ukrainians entering the Polish border town where lines to enter the European Union grew during the morning said they decided to flee because they believed Russia could push far into Ukraine.
Russia has demanded an end to NATO's eastward expansion and Putin repeated his position that Ukrainian membership of the U.S.-led Atlantic military alliance was unacceptable.
Putin said he had authorised military action after Russia had been left with no choice but to defend itself against what he said were threats from modern Ukraine, a democratic state of 44 million people.