EXCLUSIVE: Mirror reporter Andy Lines was among thousands fleeing Kyiv today as Russian tanks approached the Ukrainian capital. People leave the city by car, train, bus, bicycle and even on foot
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Thousands of people have fled the Ukrainian capital today as the Russian invasion continues.
Mirror reporter Andy Lines was among those forced to leave Kyiv because Russian tanks were approaching his hotel.
Here, he recounts his experience…
It’s an amazing and dramatic exodus – all to escape the war.
Tens of thousands of terrified people inched step by step towards safety.
I joined those fleeing Kyiv today to avoid the horrors of the Russian invasion.
They traveled by car, train, bus, bicycle and even on foot.
For security reasons, we were ordered to leave Kyiv immediately as Russian tanks rolled dangerously close to our hotel.
Before we left at 8am, I was evacuated for fear of a missile attack on a parking lot deep underground – twice!
It was truly an extraordinary day.
AFP via Getty Images)
On one of the country’s busiest highways, we passed a fleet of Ukrainian tanks lurking on the brink.
The T72s and T64s were waiting to repel any Russian invaders.
But when I saw them standing there – with their commanders at the top ready for action – so close to a highway service station, I was particularly chilled.
We inched mile after mile on the E40 before we reached MO6.
I’ve never seen a traffic jam like this.
It’s really horrible.
In the first four and a half hours, we covered seven miles.
There was a three-hour period where our driver never entered second gear.
It took us five hours and 38 minutes just to get out of the city.
There were rusty 30-year-old Ladas, tractors and expensive brand-new Mercedes.
Minibuses, motorbikes and giant vans politely jostle for seats.
But everyone knew the magnitude of the situation and I heard only one angry car horn during the grueling 13-hour walk.
All the driver wants to do is achieve safety in the night.
Former factory worker Vasiliy, 64, smashed a window during a stop.
He was driving his dilapidated light blue Lada with only one working rear brake light.
He drove to Kyiv to pick up his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
On his roof rack was a stroller and a suitcase.
“I come from Zhytomyr in central Ukraine,” he said.
“I came to pick up my son who lives in Kyiv. I came yesterday when I heard that Kyiv has been peeled.
“I’m so glad we were able to get out and leave.”
When the cars passed us, it was all packed with four or five people crammed into the backseat.
All is murky. No one laughs.
But despite that there was a real spirit of camaraderie.
We passed the same cars on a three-lane road so often that we ended up on nodding terms.
Some people clapped and reassured me when they realized we were journalists.
AFP via Getty Images)
A woman is making a cheese and tomato sandwich for her young son.
She didn’t speak English but opened the window and motioned to ask me if I wanted her to make one for me.
Many cars have children and old women and some have pet dogs and cats. One woman held her brown pomeranian in her lap in the front seat – repeatedly petting it to give the dog peace of mind.
In another picture, a black and white spaniel sits between two children.
What’s even more amazing is that we passed thousands upon thousands of people who actually WALKED to safety.
The Polish border may be more than 500 miles from Kyiv but they want to start.
Carrying giant backpacks, supermarket shopping bags and wheeled suitcases that they plodded on their shoulders.
The blue and yellow Ukrainian flag flutters on a huge advertising screen.
Below a group of young people walking with their cases.
Sometimes the line of people stretched as far as the eye could see.
Some stop to rest and play with their children.
Ten miles from Kyiv, a group, including several women, were standing by the side of the road trying to get an elevator.
Then, within a mile, there are dozens and dozens more.
I have never seen so many people hitchhiking on a stretch of road.
Daily Mirror / Andy Stenning)
On the other side of the road as we headed west, a number of convoys of Ukrainian troops were driving back to Kyiv getting ready for the battle ahead.
Some of them proudly paraded the Ukrainian flag.
When they drove past, they received a huge cheer.
When we were in Kiev, before we reached the countryside, there was a massive military presence.
Along both sides of the road, camouflaged armed soldiers hid under nets, surrounded by green sandbags, waiting for any Russian troops to enter.
Outside Beresteiski metro station, a squad of heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
A person smokes a cigarette and yawns while talking to an elderly woman.
In the city there were queues at every withdrawal point we passed.
But they are nothing compared to the cars at the gas station.
They are huge and some drivers are forced to resort to pushing their vehicles to the pumps to utilize every last bit of fuel.
Daily Mirror / Andy Stenning)
And there were scenes of chaos at the main station as people jostled each other to board the last trains.
Mothers, fathers and children are pushed to get on and most trains are absolutely crammed.
Very few people want to stay and those who want to fight.
The rest of them fled, wondering if they would be able to return to their homes.
The journey to Lviv takes 14 hours but it’s a safe route for a lot of people.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/inside-terrifying-evacuation-kyiv-homes-26333352 Inside Kyiv's Scary Evacuation as Homes Hit by Missiles and Russia Moves Closer - World News