Ukrainians flee Kyiv under air raid sirens as Russia launches 'full-scale invasion'

·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·7 min read
KYIV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 24: Inhabitants of Kyiv leave the city following pre-offensive missile strikes of the Russian armed forces and Belarus on February 24, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Overnight, Russia began a large-scale attack on Ukraine, with explosions reported in multiple cities and far outside the restive eastern regions held by Russian-backed rebels. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
People flee Kyiv as military action begins in Ukraine from Russia (Getty)

Ukrainians have fled Kyiv as Vladimir Putin launched a "full scale invasion" on their homeland overnight.

Explosions were heard in Ukraine at around 5am local time, which Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed were missile strikes.

Air raid alarms began ringing in the capital, urging people to flee and take shelter, resulting in terrified families taking to the roads and metro stations in an effort to find safety.

In a late-night address appealing to the Russian people to stop an attack, Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian people wanted peace, and that Putin had ignored an invitation to attend talks.

Putin announced his military action during a televised address early on Thursday morning, saying the move was a response to threats from Ukraine.

He made the speech at the same time a UN meeting was held to avoid a war.

Watch: Journalist stops live report after loud explosions are heard in Kyiv

Zelenskyy urged world leaders to provide defence assistance and help protect the country’s airspace from Russia as his nation is under attack.

In an address to the nation, Zelenskyy said any Ukrainian who wants weapons will be supplied with them.

"We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities," he said.

He also people to come forward to donate blood for soldiers who have already been wounded in the course of the attack.

Zelenskyy said: “Anyone who has military experience, who can join the defence of Ukraine, has to come to the military offices of the ministry of internal affairs... please, keep yourself updated on the information. We have wounded soldiers that require blood donations, please join and donate blood.”

In the Russian-annexed Crimea, camera footage showed Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine, amid reports that troops have breached Ukrainian borders in at least four regions.

People, some carrying bags and suitcases, walk at a metro station in Kyiv early on February 24, 2022. Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv on Thursday as cities across Ukraine were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
Ukrainians are fleeing the country as Vladimir Putin launched a 'full scale invasion' on their homeland. (Getty)
A family takes shelter in a metro station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022. Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv today as cities across Ukraine were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
A family takes shelter in a metro station. (Getty)
Girls hold their mobile phone as they take refuge in a metro station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022. Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv today as cities across Ukraine were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
Girls hold their mobile phone as they take refuge in a metro station in Kyiv. (Getty)

Russia’s military said it had targeted Ukrainian air bases and other military assets and had not targeted populated areas.

In a chilling threat, Putin said Moscow's response would be "instant" if anyone tried to target Russia as a result of their actions.

He said Russia does not have a goal to occupy Ukraine, but the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian “regime”.

Read more: Vladimir Putin launches full-scale invasion with explosions heard near Kyiv

A couple speaks with each other at a metro station in Kyiv early on February 24, 2022. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
A couple speaks at a metro station in Kyiv as Putin launched a full scale invasion. (Getty)

He also warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.

Zelenskyy issued his own statement filmed from his home, declaring martial law on the streets of Ukraine.

He told Ukrainians: "Don't panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine."

The severity if the situation cannot be understated.

Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Anton Herashchenko said: 'Starting today, the world has a new geopolitical reality. Either Ukraine and the world will stop the new Hitler now, or there will be a Third World War.'

There are mixed reports of those killed and injured during the unrest so far.

Ukraine's military said it had destroyed four Russian tanks on a road near the eastern city of Kharkiv, killed 50 troops near a town in Luhansk region and downed a sixth Russian aircraft, also in the country's east.

Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv  on February 24, 2022. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine today with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv. (Getty)
TOPSHOT - Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv  on February 24, 2022. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine today with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv. (AFP via Getty Images)

However, Russia has denied reports that its aircraft or armoured vehicles have been destroyed.

Ukraine's border guard service said that three of its servicemen had been killed in the southern Kherson region and that several more were wounded.

Boris Johnson will be addressing the situation in a televised address at 11am GMT.

He described the situation as a "catastrophe for our continent".

The PM added: "I will make an address to the nation this morning on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I will also speak to fellow G7 leaders and I am calling for an urgent meeting of all Nato leaders as soon as possible."

Explosions have been reported across the country (PA)
Explosions have been reported across the country (PA)

Putin has accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining Nato and offer Moscow security guarantees.

He said the Russian military operation aims to ensure a “demilitarisation” of Ukraine, adding that all Ukrainian servicemen who lay down arms will be able to safely leave the zone of combat.

Explosions could be heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv shortly after Putin’s address, while explosions were also reported in the cities of Odessa and Kharkiv.

A British-Ukrainian student living in Kyiv said she woke up to the sounds of explosions on Thursday morning.

Read more: Boris Johnson and Joe Biden lead world leaders' fury at Vladimir Putin

People, some carrying bags and suitcases, walk near Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi railway station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022.
Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv today as cities across Ukraine were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery. - Russian President announced a military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
People, some carrying bags and suitcases, walk near Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi railway station in Kyiv. (Getty)
Police and security personnel inspect the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv on February 24, 2022. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
Police and security personnel inspect the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv. (Getty)

Valentina Butenko is studying politics at University College London, but returned to Ukraine a few weeks ago to offer help with the security crisis there.

“I woke up this morning to the sound of an explosion,” the 19-year-old, who has a British mother but was raised in Ukraine, said.

“I live on the outskirts of Kyiv so I expect it must have been pretty huge for me to hear it.

“Have been hearing explosions intermittently since 5am … the sky has lit up a few times although it seems to have calmed down slightly now.”

Butenko said “a lot” of people are leaving the Ukrainian capital and roads out of the city are blocked, making it “impossible to get out”.

Alexander (R), reassures his son as the family takes refuge in a metro station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
Alexander reassures his son as the family takes refuge in a metro station in Kyiv. (Getty)
TOPSHOT - People hug as a woman with a suitcase passes by outside a metro station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
People hug as a woman with a suitcase passes by outside a metro station. (Getty)
People walk out of a train at a metro station in Kyiv early on February 24, 2022. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
People look to flee the city as missiles are being fired. (Getty)

In the UK, Johnson is leading a crisis meeting of senior ministers and officials to consider how to respond to Vladimir Putin’s military action against Ukraine.

The PM said the Russian president has “chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction”, and is expected to announce further sanctions.

The meeting of the Cobra emergency committee follows a call between Johnson and Zelenskyy during the night as Russia launched its assault.

Johnson – whose initial package of sanctions was criticised by senior Tories and opposition figures – has promised to respond “decisively” to the Russian onslaught.

A woman carries her cat as she walks near Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi railway station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022.
Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv today as cities across Ukraine were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery. - Russian President announced a military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
A woman carries her cat as she walks near Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi railway station in Kyiv. (Getty)
A woman carries her cats as she walks near Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi railway station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022.
Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv today as cities across Ukraine were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery. - Russian President announced a military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
People are trying to save their pets as they leave the city. (Getty)
A family walk with a suitcase near Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi railway station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022.
Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv today as cities across Ukraine were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery. - Russian President announced a military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a
A family try to leave the city as Russia launches an attack on Ukraine. (Getty)

“I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to president Zelenskyy to discuss next steps,” he said.

“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

“The UK and our allies will respond decisively.”

A Downing Street spokesman said the UK assured Zelenskyy the West will “not stand by as president Putin waged his campaign against the Ukrainian people”.

“The prime minister said he hoped Ukraine could resist, and that Ukraine and its people were in the thoughts of everyone in the United Kingdom people during this dark time,” the spokesman said.