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First 48 Hours: Scenes Of War From Journalists On The Ground In Ukraine

As fog of war spreads across Ukraine, we’ve tried to gather some testimony, videos and images from verified journalists covering the beginning of the Russian invasion.

​Screenshot of a video posted by AP's Francesca Ebel on Twitter showing a bridge that was blown up to prevent the advance of Russian tanks, north of Kyiv

Screenshot of a video posted by AP's Francesca Ebel on Twitter

Irene Caselli

In these first hours and days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is virtually impossible to gauge the full extent of the terror and destruction being wrought. Both witnesses and journalists — local Ukrainian-based reporters and foreign war correspondents — offer a mosaic of testimony and observation around the country.

As we continue to monitor news outlets and the social media feeds of accredited journalists, Worldcrunch brings you snapshots on the ground from those helping to understand the monumental and fast-moving story in Ukraine.

Metro shelter

Near the end of the first full day of war on Thursday, Lioudmyla Bobova, 59, spoke with Le Monde correspondent Faustine Vincent, explaining that she had already been forced to flee her hometown of Luhansk during the outbreaking of fighting in 2014, arriving 110 kilometers from the front line in the city of Kharkiv.

Now, nearly eight years later, she and her family are under assault again — this time from Russian airstrikes. “There are no bomb shelters here. Now that night is coming, we know the attacks are going to get worse. We’ll try to keep calm.”

Overnight, as the fighting got closer and closer to Kyiv, many people moved underground to sleep in metro stations, for fear of the city being shelled. Here's the view from Argentine journalist Cecilia Guardati.

Bare and eerie

By Friday morning, as news emerged of Russian troops approaching Kyiv, 475 kilometers to the west, Xavier Colás of Spain’s El Mundo newspaper shared a video of empty streets in the town center with air sirens roaring.

Christopher Miller of Buzzfeed said he had never seen the streets of Kyiv so “bare and eerie” in 12 years living there.

Violence arrives

But the destruction was arriving quickly.

Olga Tokariuk of Spanish news agency EFE shared a picture of a bullet that landed in the apartment of a friend in the northern Obolon district of Kyiv, together with these words: "Thank you, 'Russian world', for this bullet in my house. I hate you, I hate all of you. I will never forgive. I will forever remember"

Illia Ponomarenko, defense correspondent with the Kyiv Independent, tweeted an image of a stock of Molotov cocktails from Kyiv, “Waiting for Russian tanks.”

There was a massive fire after a Russian rocket attack that hit the ground near a residential building outside of Kyiv overnight, with no casualties. El País photographer Luis de Vega went to the site and spoke to a neighbor of the building next door. “‘It’s a miracle,’ tells me Anatoli,” he tweeted.

Emma Graham-Harrison of The Guardian reported from the site where a missile hit soon after 4 a.m. on Friday in northern Kyiv:

“The missile left a crater two metres deep, twisted shards of metal beside a playground slide, and shattered glass below the windows of a nearby kindergarten. Dozens of homes were scorched or shredded, their inhabitants turned into some of Kyiv’s first war refugees. In one apartment block 10 floors of kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms sat open to the skies, their balconies, doors and windows broken off or shattered into pieces by the weapon that brought the Russian invasion to this corner of the city."

Gorban Abasov, a 70-year-old singer, told Graham-Harrison: “People are grieving. This is already a tragedy.”

Blown up bridge

Marian Kushnir, a reporter with Ukrainian Radio Svoboda, shared a disturbing video from the suburbs of the northeastern city of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest, showing destroyed Russian rocket launchers and a dead Russian soldier.

Euromaidan press reported on a soldier who helped blow up the Henichesk bridge in the south of the country, to stop Russian troops from advancing. The engineer, Skakun Vitaliy, lost his life in the process and has been celebrated as a hero.

Some Ukrainian journalists lashed out at the West, echoing the anger and frustration that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky aired towards leaders in the West.

“We are alone. The world is watching an insane dictator trying to slaughter us — and is letting him do it,” tweeted Olga Rudenko, chief editor of the English-language Kyiv Independent.

Fleeing to somewhere

The first days of the war also saw masses trying to flee, the seeds of what will almost certainly become a refugee crisis in neighboring countries, and beyond.

Polish independent media outlet Outriders shared images of the overcrowded road from the city of Lviv to the border crossing of Medyka, in Poland.

They also shared images taken by photographer Piotr Andrusieczko of people with their bags, leaving Kyiv by bus.

Irish Times reporter Daniel McLaughlin took the early-morning train Friday from Kharkiv to Kyiv as many Ukrainians flee their homes. "I think this train is carrying the last ones who want to leave." Indeed, by Friday, the capital seemed no more safe than eastern cities of Ukraine.

Reporting for Italian daily La Stampa from the eastern city of Kramatorsk, Francesca Manocchi recounted the long lines forming at the gas stations that had remained opened. “The phrase ‘I want to leave,’ is now followed by, ‘Yes, but where to?’”

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