Russian invasion: Kyiv: A besieged and deserted city | International
At 6 a.m. on Sunday, the doors of Kyiv’s central train station opened and a large crowd waiting outside began pouring in, filling the facility to the seams. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people standing in the hallways, vestibule and platforms of the Kyiv rail terminal, waiting to board a train from the Ukrainian capital.
As Russian troops continued on Monday to trying to take over Kyiv, the city was under increased pressure from shelling, street fighting and power cuts, and many people tried to flee to the Polish border. Trains, overflowing with passengers, slowly rolled out of the station, even as more Ukrainians arrived in Kyiv from other parts of the country. But military personnel were preventing them from leaving the station due to a curfew in place until 8 a.m. Monday.
Not that there are buses or taxis near the station anyway. A story was circulating that a two-kilometer taxi ride now costs over $200, but this was a hard claim to prove or disprove, as no taxi driver dared approach the station.
One of the people providing information about the curfew was Vasily, 30, a member of Ukraine’s territorial defense units. Armed with a gun, he repeatedly warned passengers that it was very dangerous to leave the station because Ukrainian soldiers could mistake them for a Russian soldier or an adversary and open fire, without landing. Questions.
Vasily, who is married and has a daughter, said he was from the Donbass region in southeastern Ukraine, parts of which have been under pro-Russian separatist control since 2014. He said he was forced to flee to Kyiv due to disputes with pro-Russian residents. “I’m not afraid to die fighting the Russians,” he said, wearing a yellow armband over his winter jacket so people could identify him as a member of the defense units.
Early on Sunday, the sound of explosions was constant and regular, coming every half hour. On the third day of the Russian military offensive, the streets of Kyiv were deserted. On the wide avenues that criss-cross the city, there were no pedestrians or cars except for military vehicles, police patrols and ambulances. There were no lights inside the houses and the curtains were drawn, on the orders of the authorities. All the shops were closed, as well as the entrances to the metro networkwhere guards ensured that no one tried to enter or leave.
There were not many military checkpoints in the city center, but the avenues connecting to the exit roads were under military guard. Occasionally a small group of men could be seen in the area. Five young men who appeared to be in their twenties said they were looking for a place to enlist and they stopped all passing cars asking for information. All said they were eager to help defend the city.
Another group of men who looked in their thirties said they were looking for military units in order to get their hands on weapons to fight the Russians. All the while, sirens and explosions continued to sound in the background.
About 50 Ukrainian soldiers stood guard on the Podilsky Bridge. Some pointed their guns at the entrance to the bridge, while others piled sandbags around the base. They were preparing for a Russian offensive and seemed ready to defend the bridge at all costs. It was obvious that there had already been fights in the neighborhood: there were three corpses lying in a nearby street. One of them was still bleeding profusely.