A Teenage Ukranian Refugee Fighting To Reach Safety Texts His Story
PoliticsHome followed the journey of Aleksandr*, a 19-year-old Ukranian student, as he tries to flee the country. Through voice notes and swapping messages, he charts his last seven days of escaping war, and the impact on his family.
* Name changed at his request to protect his identity.
Thursday February 24
Putin begins his invasion of Ukraine in the early hours of the morning with missile strikes across the country. Explosions and gunfire are heard in Ukraine's capital Kyiv. In a televised statement Putin says he has ordered the military action to de-Nazify and demilitarise Ukraine, thus signalling the end of diplomatic efforts from the EU and the US to avoid war.
Just days earlier he officially recognised the separatist areas of Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk as Russian and said repeatedly he wants no further expansion of NATO. Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls on all Ukranians to defend their country, and the European Council hold an emergency meeting declaring the invasion "unjustified military aggression".
In a town 25km to the south of Kyiv, Aleksandr and his mother wake up in the middle of the night to find there's no electricity.
Shortly after, they hear explosions, believed to be coming from a nearby air base. A few hours later his brother and his wife-to-be arrive at the family home, having driven from central Ukraine on log-jammed motorways as people begin fleeing the city.
Friday 25 February
Many people in Kyiv wake up from a night spent in bomb shelters and sleeping on platforms in the underground system. Throughout the early morning there are direct rocket strikes on the capital. The Russians take Snake Island in the Black Sea with 13 Ukrainian border guards captured. President Zelenskyy records a video message, promising that he will stay in Kyiv. The Russian military advances from the north, south and east of the country. The UK, US and the EU announce plans to impose sanctions on Putin personally.
Aleksandr is joined by his 17-year-old girlfriend, and the family begin driving from their home to Vinnytsia
It lies 280km to the south of Kyiv. He is driving in a convoy with neighbours. Aleksandr has Polish residency rights but isn’t sure if he will be allowed into the country, and worried that because of his age he could be conscripted.
Saturday 26 February
The Russians continue their advance towards Kharkiv, Kherson and Kyiv. Sanctions and restrictions on Putin's war come thick and fast; European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announces that Russian aircraft will be banned from EU airspace and Russia Today is banned from the airwaves. After significant pressure, including from Boris Johnson, the EU decides to cut off some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system. BP removes its 20 per cent stake in Rosneft, the Russian state oil company. The Rouble plummets.
Ukranians are urged to take up arms and defend the country – volunteers start making Molotov cocktails at home and make-shift road blocks are set up to defend Lviv, which is yet to encounter the Russian military. It is estimated that 150,000 Ukrainian refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries, half of them to Poland, and many to Hungary, Moldova, Romania and beyond. Boris Johnson appeals to Russians to say he does not believe the war is in their name.
Aleksandr and his family make it to Ternopil after their road journey to Vinnytsia becomes too dangerous
Sunday February 27
The Russian artillery bombards residential areas of Kharkiv in the west of the country and the fighting intensifies as Russians are met with strong Ukranian resistance. Putin says he is putting his nuclear deterrence on high alert, and satellite images show a 40 mile-long convoy of military hardware entering Ukraine.
The UN General Assembly meet for an emergency session while Russia and Ukraine prepare to meet for talks in the morning at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River.
Germany makes a historic policy shift by dramatically increasing its spending on defence, and the EU agrees to fund weapon supplies. Around 500,000 people have now fled the country.
Aleksandr, his 17-year-old girlfriend, and his family arrive in Lviv.
Wednesday March 2
The death toll mounts as bombardment of key cities continues, along with Kharkiv’s Freedom Square government buildings and opera house. Rockets are fired on Mariupol. Russian soldiers take the city of Kherson in South Ukraine, while the Kremlin confirms that they’ve lost 500 of their own soldiers.
Ukranian hospitals are under huge strain from constant bombing with terminally ill children unable to get access to medical care. Babies are born in bomb shelters and hospital basements. The pressure mounts on the UK to take people fleeing from the Ukraine, and Home Secretary Priti Patel announces a bespoke scheme for 200,000 eligible people - likely to be immediate family of those living in the UK already. Boris Johnson tells Parliament he believes Putin has committed war crimes.
Thursday March 3
The death toll of Russian soldiers is now predicted to be in the thousands, not 500, by Ukranians and the 40 mile long artillery chain is not advancing and may be stuck. However encirclement of key cities continues, including around Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, and residents of the port city of Mariupol say they are being shelled continuously and their supplies are running out. The International Paralympic Committee says Russian and Belarusian athletes cannot take part in the games.
Aleksandr and his girlfriend make it to Poland
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe