By Aleksandar Vasovic
KYIV – The streets of central Kyiv lay almost deserted in the winter sunshine on Sunday, with residents ordered to stay in shelters as Russian forces continued to shell the city’s outskirts, although some were still trying to leave despite the curfew.
On the fourth day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the capital was still in Ukrainian government hands, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rallying his people despite Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure.
At Kyiv’s main railway station, hundreds of stranded passengers waited for trains to take them west, away from the fighting, watched over by a heavy guard of black-clad police armed with assault rifles.
The United Nations said nearly 400,000 people have fled abroad since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion.
James from Cameroon, who worked in Kyiv as a chef for the past decade, said he wanted to go to west Ukraine and stay there until the end of hostilities.
“Where do I go? To Europe and be treated as a migrant? Here is all I have, apartment, everything,” he said, declining to give his full name.
Lisa, a mother of two children aged 3 and 5, hauled heavy bags across station’s main hall. She and her mother also wanted to go to western Ukraine.
“Away from here, until this stops and then we will come back,” she said. “My husband is a reservist and all our (male) relatives joined the TO (Territorial Defense).”
Russian missiles found their mark overnight, including a strike that set an oil terminal ablaze in Vasylkiv, southwest of Kyiv, the town’s mayor said.
Blasts sent huge flames and billowing black smoke into the night sky, online posts showed. Later in the day, missiles also impacted the neighborhood of Troyechchyna, witnesses said.
In downtown Kyiv, Svyatoslav Yurash, a parliamentary deputy of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, brandished an assault rifle slung on his shoulder. He said he wanted to visit some troops nearby and then go to Kyiv’s western outskirts to join the fight.
Yurash, dressed in a white shirt decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk embroidery, said he did not expected “Russians to give up.”
“You have seen (it), we had shelling, we had fighting, we will have more of it,” he said. “He (Putin) wants to have Ukraine destroyed.”