Ukraine and Russia war news, Kiev explosion news: live updates

KRAMATorsk, Ukraine – By the time she packed up her important documents, some clothes and a spare tire, and said goodbye to her dog, Marina Danilyuk could tell the fighting was on the streets of her hometown.

She and her husband sped down the side streets to pick up a friend, and then headed to the highway. She caught a glimpse of what seemed to be the aftermath of a fierce street battle: two destroyed Russian armored vehicles.

“I didn’t think they’d come,” she said of the Russians. “I didn’t believe it until the last minute.”

In the early afternoon, Danieliuk’s gray Volkswagen Golf and his three occupants were on the highway, joining tens of thousands of other cars heading west. Road traffic was disrupted, sometimes crawling in the middle of rural farm fields. Ukrainian army convoys, many with pontoon bridges, dead-end roads. Ambulances sped in both directions.

At one point, a caravan of giant grain reapers incurred, as farmers – or perhaps their creditors – scrambled to transport valuable chariots before the Russian advance. In towns along the road, people stood in long lines waiting for automated teller machines or to get to groceries.

Gas was almost impossible; Cars lined up for hundreds of yards at each stop. As the sun set over farmland, Ruslan Kalashnik, 24, stood next to his car at a gas station on the highway at about sunset, his face pinched with worry.

“We evacuated, like everyone here,” he said.

credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

He awoke Thursday to two loud explosions near his apartment in Kramatorsk, the city that serves as the seat of government in the part of Ukraine’s currently controlled Donetsk region. He heard planes flying in the sky.

But what prompted him, his sister, and his mother to act was a hidden and illegal phone call from his father, a soldier in the Ukrainian army at the front, who first faced the attack in heavy bombardment. He explained that the invasion continues.

He said, “Get out now.” “That was all the time he had to talk,” Mr. Kalashnik said. “We haven’t heard from him since then.”

In his few hours on the road, he said, he became dizzy from the fast-moving military action that seemed to be reshaping his country, minute by minute.

“Only while we were driving the car did a lot change,” he said.

Along the way, he said, he called his grandmother who lives near the Russian border to the south of Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine that was partially encircled on Thursday. He said that the Russian soldiers had already arrived, she told him, and she added, “There is a tank in my garden.”

Mrs. Danilyuk, a retired 65-year-old, lives with her husband, Bogdan, in Shchastya, a town along the line dividing the government districts and a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine, where she was an active volunteer in a children’s theater group. As she woke up Thursday to the bombing.

“We mourned in a state of panic,” she said in a phone interview from the road. “I was afraid to turn on the light. I decided to take a shower while I had the chance. We packed the documents. But I didn’t bring the family photos. They were in a big box. There would be no room for them.”

She said she later regretted the decision. In the end, I took another spare tire.

“I should have left yesterday,” she said. “Today, I left everything and left.”

She was planning to stay with her son in Kiev, although he lives in a one-room apartment, but she also realized that Kiev is not safe either. Before leaving, she and her husband spread some fodder on the ground for their chickens, then let the birds roam—perhaps, in a street fight.

And at the last moment, in one small tragedy one day with several of them, Mrs. Danielleuk knelt down and hugged her dog, Muffy, a stupid animal who had been enjoying a walk in the pine forests around their house.

“I hugged Movi and cried,” she said. The dog will be alone now.

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