In videos, photos, and maps, how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unfolding on the ground
In photos, videos and maps, this is how the situation on the ground is unfolding, including reports from journalists for The Washington Post on the scene.
Russian troop movement
Ground incursion from Belarus to north of Kyiv
Helicopter troop inserts into Kharkiv area
Russia is getting more resistance than it expected around Kyiv, according to the Pentagon
west of the port city
Annexed by Russia
Sources: Janes, Post reporting
As the Russian assault on Ukraine intensified, Post reporters shared what they were experiencing on the ground.
In Kharkiv, The Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan took shelter with her colleagues for a second time as the shelling intensified.
In Kyiv, Post Video journalist Whitney Shefte returned to her hotel’s bunker, along with other journalists and hotel guests, for the fourth or fifth time that day.
And farther west, The Post’s David Stern reported from a traffic jam in the Carpathian Mountains, where many were trying to travel farther from the fighting. “Cars are backed up for, well, miles,” he said.
As Russian forces push toward Kyiv, the seventh most populated city in Europe, people all over the country are being urged by officials — and sometimes compelled by necessity — to fight back in whatever ways they can.
The country’s former president is patrolling the city streets with a civilian defense force, armed with an AK-47. Civilians have been called to find their own weapons and make molotov cocktails — a type of crude, homemade explosive named, mockingly, after a former Soviet foreign minister.
Roughly 18,000 weapons have already been distributed in the Kyiv region, according to the government. At the country’s borders, Ukrainian guards have been stopping vehicles, looking for men between the ages of 18 and 60 who can help in the fight.
Kira Rudik, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, also said she was ready to fight. She had learned to use a Kalashnikov, she said, in a post on Twitter. “It sounds surreal, as just a few days ago it would never come to my mind.”
– Adam Taylor and Ruby Mellen
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies taken Friday showed large deployments of ground forces and nearly 150 helicopters poised in southern Belarus, fewer than 100 miles from Kyiv.
Friday a senior U.S. defense official said the Russian military had lost momentum in its offensive as Ukrainian forces put up resistance, but the official added that could change. The photos reveal extensive troops and materiel in Belarus, a nation loyal to Moscow.
Satellite images taken Friday
show more than 140 helicopters and ground forces with vehicles in convoy postion in Belarus near Mazyr and Chojniki
Captured by Russia
by Ukrainian forces
“This is an indicator of a large push to come,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a professor and arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies. “The helicopters and the ground forces nearby suggest an imminent offensive against Kyiv.”
He added that while they were hard to definitively identify, the helicopters were probably Russian because “Belarus only has a tiny number of attack helicopters” and “the fact that they are out in the field suggests they are far from home.”
In Chojniki, Belarus, more than 90 parked helicopters formed a line extending more than five miles, Maxar said.
Northeast of that town, several hundred military vehicles were positioned. Fifty additional helicopters were photographed near Mazyr, Belarus. The Pentagon said Friday about a third of the Russian forces committed to the assault are now in Ukraine, or more than 50,000.
As officials warned that the capital could fall, thousands of people waited in a Kyiv railway station, desperate to get on a train to leave the city. Photos from the Kyiv-based news organization Zaborona posted on Twitter showed crowds of people swarming platforms. The organization said Ukrainian Railways was evacuating 4,000 people an hour, prioritizing women and children.
As some Ukrainian men living overseas queued at border crossings to return and try to do their part to fight Russia’s onslaught on Friday, others expressed frustration at being blocked from leaving amid a national call to arms.
Ukraine’s border guard had stopped all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country on Friday, as the defense ministry called on residents of one district of Kyiv to make molotov cocktails.
Alexander Gorbenko, 54, complained there was little he could do to protect his homeland from Russian troops as he parted with his wife and 11-year-old daughter at the Medyka-Shehyni border crossing to Poland, unable to cross with them.
“I just have an air rifle, the cash machines don’t work, and there is no organization,” he said. “I cannot prepare, you cannot just go and buy a weapon, it’s not like the United States.”
— Loveday Morris
Explosions lit up Kyiv’s predawn sky Friday. Social media video showed the blasts as fearful onlookers filmed. The Post verified the videos below and synchronized audio and visual cues to show how the explosions looked from various angles.
A civilian building was heavily damaged after a projectile hit a residential neighborhood in the city, according to Ukrainian officials.
Several people were injured, including one in critical condition, according to the mayor’s office.
Valentina Petrova, one of the building’s residents, examined the damage left behind.
Passersby observed the destruction in shock.
Russian forces drew nearer to Kyiv on Thursday as military experts warned the capital could fall in days.
The city’s mayor vowed to fight Russian forces.
Some residents tried to leave on buses, fearing what may come next.
Thousands of people protested President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on Ukraine in cities across Russia on Thursday, a striking show of anger in a nation where spontaneous mass demonstrations are illegal and protesters can face fines and jail.
More than 1,700 people were arrested in at least 47 cities across the nation, according to Russian rights group OVD-Info. The group was declared a foreign agent last year, when Putin launched a sweeping crackdown on activists, rights groups and opposition figures.
The protests came with an outpouring of horror from liberal Russians, social media influencers, athletes, actors, television presenters and others.
— Robyn Dixon
Video shared to social media on Thursday and verified by The Post shows at least seven aircrafts flying toward plumes of smoke in Hostomel, Ukraine, approximately three miles east of the Antonov International Airport. In the video the sounds of the approaching helicopters build as the people who are filming discuss what they’re seeing.
A mix of nearly two dozen attack and transport helicopters assaulted the Hostomel airfield outside Kyiv, the Ukrainian military said.
A resident in Hostomel shared video from his apartment on Thursday showing a room in tatters — a blown-out window, destruction from debris, dust-covered furniture and a baby stroller with a toy doll in it. He said the damage was from Russia’s military attack.
— Joyce Lee, Alex Horton, Elyse Samuels
There were similar scenes of destruction in the south eastern Ukrainian city of Mauripol.
In Chuhuiv, just outside of Kharkiv, the pain inflicted from the strikes was clear on people’s faces.
In Ukraine and neighboring Poland, Post reporters witnessed the attack unfold firsthand. Siobhán O’Grady took shelter with other colleagues in a Kyiv hotel basement as Russian forces attacked an air base nearby.
Post photojournalist Salwan Georges reported from a Kharkiv subway station, where hundreds were taking shelter from bombardments. Some of the Ukrainians there said their family members were above ground, fighting with the military.
And The Post’s Loveday Morris reported from the Ukrainian-Polish border where a steady stream of people were crossing into Poland on foot. U.S. troops inside Poland are moving closer to help process those fleeing.
In the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, residents flocked to gas stations in the morning to fill up. They wanted to be prepared, but not everyone was set on leaving.
“We will stay in Ukraine,” Kristina Nimenko, 18, told The Post. “We will stay at home because we are from Ukraine.”
Across the country, Ukrainians faced a new reality on Thursday.
They got in their cars to drive west.
But had to avoid Ukrainian carriers in the streets.
They fled to train stations.
They took shelter from the strikes in underground subway stations.
And they looked on as smoke from Russian bombardments rose.
In a Kharkiv hotel lobby, a boy played the piano as Russian tanks advanced on the city.
By Thursday morning, it became clear the attack was coming from multiple areas. Video published by Ukraine’s border guard showed Russian military vehicles entering the country through Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
In central Ukraine, east of the Dnieper River, explosions near a Ukrainian airfield were documented.
Post reporter Siobhán O’Grady is in Kyiv and could hear loud explosions in Ukraine’s capital. She sent in this report just after the strikes began.
“From central Kyiv, the booms just after 5 a.m. appeared to be relatively far from major urban centers. As dawn begins to break here, traffic appears to be moving relatively normally with plenty of cars driving calmly and no audible sirens or panicked pedestrians,” O’Grady said.
Large explosions could also be seen and heard in Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv, the country’s second largest after Kyiv.
Just hours before Putin’s declaration, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for peace in an emotional video address. Speaking directly to the Russian people, in their language, he warned that the Kremlin had ordered nearly 200,000 troops to enter his country.
“If these forces attack us,” Zelensky warned, “if you attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives, the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. Not attack, defend.”
On Wednesday, satellite imagery released by Maxar Technologies showed new deployments in western Russia, according to the organization, which has been tracking Moscow’s military movements. Maxar released photos it said showed deployments within 10 miles of the Ukrainian border and less than 50 miles from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The satellite image below showed equipment deployed near Kupino, Russia, some 11 miles from Ukraine’s border, according to Maxar.
In Belarus, about 22 miles from Ukraine’s border, an increased Russian presence was also captured. On Feb. 4, the Bolshoy Bokov airfield, near Mazyr, Belarus, was an empty snowy field.
By Tuesday, equipment had filled the space.
Russian troops are “ready to go,” Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby told reporters Wednesday. “They could attack at any time,” he added, “with a significant military force.”
Activists in Kharkiv, about 50 miles from where Russian troops amassed, held an annual vigil on Tuesday to remember those killed in Ukraine’s years-long conflict with Russian-backed separatists. But this year’s vigil was just as much a memorial as it was an act of defiance.
“Everyone understands that a war has already been declared,” said Voloymyr Chistilin, one of the organizers of Patriots’ Day in Kharkiv. “And this is a critical, decisive moment.”
But life in Kharkiv looked surprisingly normal even as Ukraine absorbed Putin’s latest moves.
Newlyweds posed for photos, the downtown mall was bustling, and grocery stores were stocked — as if people don’t want to give Putin the satisfaction of disturbing daily life.
— Isabelle Kurshudyan, Whitney Leaming and Salwan Georges
THE WASHINGTON POST
On Monday evening, after Putin recognized the legitimacy of the breakaway territories of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as independent, he ordered what he called “peacekeeping” troops into the region, only parts of which are controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.
The Kremlin said Tuesday that its recognition of the two separatist enclaves covers areas controlled by the Ukrainian government. NATO and Western nations were braced for a full-scale invasion into Ukraine.
Earlier Monday, Putin called a meeting of Russia’s Security Council and grilled members on the merits of recognizing these separatist areas.
After that meeting, Putin aired an angry, prerecorded speech that recognized the sovereignty of the regions, where fighting first broke out in 2014, and rejected Ukraine’s legitimacy as an independent nation.
Zelensky later responded to Putin’s speech in a televised address, calling for a “peaceful, diplomatic solution” to the situation. “We are on our land,” he added. “We owe nothing to anybody.”
Putin’s screed came after a sharp increase in violence in eastern Ukraine over the weekend. Civilians in Ukrainian-controlled parts of the east said they thought their homes were being targeted by separatists to provoke a response from Ukrainian forces. U.S. officials repeatedly warned that Russian troops might stage an attack that appeared to come from Ukrainian government forces to justify an invasion.
“We have no doubt in our minds where this shelling is coming from and who is firing it,” Diana Levenets said, pointing to the hills where the separatist forces are posted. “We can literally see where it’s coming from.”
Meanwhile, leaders of the separatist areas announced a mass evacuation of civilians, saying they knew of plans for an imminent attack by Ukrainian forces. Buses were escorted by the head of police from Donbas to Rostov, a city in southwestern Russia.
The increase in violence in the east began on Thursday, with shelling from Russian-backed separatists that put civilians in the crossfire.
A Post photographer captured images of a badly damaged kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska. No children were harmed, but three adults were injured, according to the Ukrainian military. The kindergarten director describes hustling the children to hide from the shelling in this video.
Although they have increased in intensity, clashes between Ukrainian soldiers and the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine are nothing new. More than 3,000 civilians have been killed there since 2014, according to the United Nations.
Despite military aid from Western countries and newly delivered equipment, the 209,000 active-duty Ukrainian fighters face a potential battle against Russia. In the trenches, the soldiers acknowledged the challenges ahead.
“Our defense is our job,” Oleksander, a battalion commander, told The Post. “But whoever helps us, we’ll be grateful for it.” He took The Post into the trenches, where his troops were preparing for a possible Russian assault.
— Isabelle Kurshudyan, Whitney Shefte and Michael Robinson Chavez
As tensions escalated in Ukraine’s east, Russia also was conducting military exercises in Moscow-allied Belarus, which is to Ukraine’s north. Belarus’s southern border is about 50 miles from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
Both countries said Russian troops would withdraw when the exercises ended Feb. 20. When that deadline arrived, both announced that Russian forces would stay in Belarus indefinitely.
The strains between Russia and Ukraine involve land borders and strategic influence. Ukraine once was a part of the Soviet Union, a fact that Putin used to question the legitimacy of the country’s independence. He sees Ukraine, which has been an independent nation since 1991, as an integral part of greater Russia.
Boundary of former
He has demanded that Ukraine not join NATO because such a move would increase the alliance’s footprint on Russia’s borders.
NATO member states
In 2014, Russian military forces annexed Crimea on the Black Sea, after Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution ousted a pro-Russian government for a Western-leaning one. Putin backed separatists in the eastern industrial regions that are the flash point of the current actions. On Tuesday, forces entered those eastern regions, and Putin called on Ukraine to accept that Crimea is Russian territory, a continuation of his long push to return Ukraine to Russia’s fold.
Percentage of population that identified Russian as their first language
(2001 census, most recent data available)
Ruby Mellen reported from Washington.
Russia-Ukraine live updates: Blasts heard in Kyiv as Russian forces close in
News•1 hour ago
Protesters around the world condemn Putin’s military invasion, express solidarity with Ukraine
News•February 25, 2022
On Ukraine’s Snake Island, a defiant last stand against Russian forces
News•February 25, 2022