Scramble to flee Kiev as missiles rain down

Ukraine: Fire breaks out at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

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More than one million refugees have fled the country in just seven days, according to the United Nations. Half a million of those ­refugees are children. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “I have worked in refugee ­emergencies for almost 40 years and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this.” As Russia’s obliteration of Ukraine continued, with hundreds more killed across the country, the three million people in the capital were left two choices – hunker down and fight or try to escape.

Those who chose to flee ran a gauntlet of Russian bombs as they tried to reach the city’s main ­southern railway station. Inside, there was pandemonium as ­civilians – mainly women and ­children – struggled to board packed trains, with sobbing fathers left behind to face Putin’s thugs.

At one point, a huge explosion shook the station as thousands waited to be evacuated.

People nearby said they felt the earth shake, though there were no reports of casualties. Ukraine’s interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said the blast was caused by wreckage from a downed Russian cruise missile.

Nearby, tower blocks were burnt out and still smoking from ­overnight bombing. But worse is to come with Kyiv braced for an “all-out assault” at any time. Russian convoys were yesterday continuing to head for the capital from both north and south, with troops expected to try to encircle Kyiv in the coming days.

However, a defiant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his army had killed around 9,000 Russian troops and destroyed more than 200 tanks.

He said Ukrainians, including those in the capital, would ­continue to fight with “nothing to lose but our freedom”.

Mr Zelensky said his ­country had already thwarted Russia’s deadly push, adding that he was proud of the heroic ­resistance to Moscow.

He said: “We are a nation that broke the enemy’s plans in a week. Plans written for years: sneaky, full of hatred for our country, our people.”

Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, also warned Russian forces heading for the capital that he and his fellow citizens were prepared to fight to the death.

Vitali and ex-boxer brother Wladimir said they were ready to lose their lives in the fight with Russian forces.

He added: “We’re not interested in how strong the Russian army is, we’re ready to fight.

“And we’re ready to die for our home country and for our families, because it’s our home, it’s our future and somebody wants to come to our home and steal our future from us.”

He added there was a “huge patriotic movement” to defend the country and that Ukrainians of all working backgrounds are ready to take up arms.

As the fighting intensified across the invaded country yesterday, with Kremlin-ordered attacks on all major key Ukrainian cities, Kherson in the south was the first to completely come under the ­invaders’ control.

And with the south starting to teeter under the might of Russia’s military machine, Putin’s focus was said to be moving to the impending battle for the capital.

It was just after midnight ­yesterday that Kyiv was rocked by the latest salvo of huge explosions.

However, while rockets ­continued to fall on the capital there were also signs of hope for the millions of Kyiv residents who have chosen to stay and fight. The massive 40-mile Russian ­military convoy just a few miles north of the city still seems to be stalled with the UK Ministry of Defence saying it had been ­hampered by Ukrainian resistance, breakdowns and congestion.

The MOD said: “The column has made little ­discernible progress in over three days.”

And residents who have opted to stay behind have also been buoyed by reports of possible Russian shortages of food and fuel, with military ­vehicles stuck in the ­winter mud and increasingly ­disgruntled ­soldiers constantly under fierce Ukrainian attacks.

On the outskirts of the city, there was heavy fighting yesterday, with roads strewn with the burnt and blackened carcasses of destroyed military vehicles.

And Mayor Klitschko warned the invading forces that yet more fierce resistance awaited them from within the city.

He said: “We stayed in front of one of the strongest armies in the world. The will to be independent is the main priority for us.

“And we’re defending our ­families, our city, our country and our future. There is a huge patriotic movement right now.

“Old people, can you imagine? Doctors, actors, actors from the theatre, many ­professions that never had no expectation to fight, to keep ­weapons. But right now they are coming to us, they’re ready to fight. It’s amazing.”

It comes a day after Russia warned people to leave Kyiv ahead of it launching strikes on key ­intelligence targets.

Families also fled the western city of Lviv, which is 50 miles from the Polish border.

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