Chief worldwide correspondent
Seven days which sparked a burning patriotic resolve in Ukraine, which propelled individuals the world over, from presidents and prime ministers, bankers and enterprise leaders, soccer stars to determine skaters, artists and activists, to face up and be counted to sentence Russia's aggression.
The Russian rouble collapsed, the UN Normal Meeting known as on Moscow to tug out; Russian leaders denounced this "Russiaphobic frenzy". And, on the bottom, swathes of Europe's second-largest nation have been decreased to smoking ruins, a harrowing echo of Russia's blistering campaigns in Grozny and Aleppo.
Within the days earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine, Kyiv was a European metropolis of golden-domed cathedrals gleaming within the night time, brightly-lit eating places serving steaming bowls of borsch, nook kiosks pouring espresso behind frosty winter home windows.
And the world was a spot the place many thought a blitzkrieg throughout a border was solely historical past's enterprise. On the Munich Safety Convention, many a authorities minister quietly informed me "I simply don't assume it would occur". And, after all, not in opposition to the capital.
However in her residence in Kyiv, 37-year-old Liana was prepared with baggage packed, together with some books; garments ironed, sufficient cash from an ATM to final some time. Her mom Vera refused to do the identical. Her associates poked enjoyable at her. However Liana's son Rustam, a bespectacled 13-year-old wired to his smartphone, was prepared too.
At nighttime on Thursday 24 February, in a metropolis which couldn't sleep, rumours and experiences electrified social media and exploded in discussion groups.
This snippet "Russian motion will start at 4am" shot via our on-line world with the sort of chilling precision Western intelligence experiences had used for weeks to warn of "an imminent invasion" by practically 200,000 Russian troops and heavy weaponry now massed alongside the borders.
Native flights stored cancelling, mother and father questioned if they need to take their youngsters to highschool within the morning, journalists began asking one another in the event that they have been staying.
By 05:00, posts cascaded throughout the web – "listening to thuds" in Kyiv, Kramatorsk, Melitopol, Chernobyl, Odessa. The checklist was lengthy.
At 05:58, Ukraine's International Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted "Putin has launched a full-scale invasion". Hours earlier, President Vladimir Putin had introduced the beginning of a "particular navy operation" in japanese Ukraine.
At 06:00 Liana known as her mom. "I informed you so. Are you packed?"
By dusk, roads out of Kyiv have been gridlocked. Properties have been emptied of vitality as a metropolis went underground, to basements and bomb shelters, to subway stations with marble stairways and sumptuous mosaics constructed deep beneath within the Nineteen Sixties to additionally double as Chilly Warfare bunkers.
It was a day which ended the tidy lifetime of Liana, who runs a small workplace provide firm, and terrified her mammoth Maine Coon cat, who discovered he couldn't reside as much as his namesake – the US skilled boxer Mike Tyson often called Iron Mike.
I met all of them in a cavernous basement within the metropolis centre, two flooring beneath floor, the place our BBC staff additionally took shelter. A good-knit household, together with mom Vera with a shock of purple hair and a fair hotter smile, took up residence on skinny mats on the onerous flooring subsequent to ours.
"It was a troublesome night time," declared champion boxer-turned-mayor Vitali Klitschko because the day dawned on Saturday with information that Russian forces have been now advancing on Ukrainian cities from the north, east, and south. "Russian troops are usually not in our metropolis," he reassured "Kyivians" who woke – in the event that they slept in any respect – asking that very query.
His rallying cry was amplified hours later, on that day, and on daily basis after, by the comedian-turned-president-in-a-suit-turned-wartime-leader-in-olive-green-attire. "We gained't lay down our arms,' President Volodmyr Zelensky declared, rebuffing "faux information" that he'd executed the other.
"Are you anxious?" I requested Liana. "I can't be unhappy, I have to be hopeful to help our president," she exclaimed in her personal act of resistance underground. Tyson, nevertheless, was hiding upstairs, beneath a mattress. And Liana anxious about her father residing north of the capital, in a village near Chernobyl, now occupied by Russian forces. He'd crept out of his residence final night time, crawling via fields beneath cowl of darkness, to see Russian troops throwing tarpaulin over heavy weaponry to cover them from view.
In Kyiv, air raid sirens have been now blaring day and night time, a chilling soundtrack of the town. A weekend curfew got here in drive. We discreetly rigged up a smartphone to broadcast from the basement the place at the least 5 canines, together with Kurt a puffy white Pomeranian named after the American singer-songwriter, and Andrew, a trembling Yorkshire terrier, by no means appeared to bark.
On Sunday, Liana and Vera rushed pell-mell towards me. "What occurred?" I requested, making an attempt to suppress a be aware of fear. "Thanks, thanks!" they shouted excitedly, phrases tumbling over the opposite. Their associates within the US, Britain, and the UAE had despatched them screenshots of our BBC broadcast.
There they have been, within the nook of the display screen, quietly sitting alongside the wall. "Now they know we're secure!" they gushed, reflecting that surge of hysteria worldwide within the giant Ukrainian diaspora because the invasion intensified.
However information from Liana's father was ominous. He might hear Russian tanks rumbling previous, heading south in direction of Kyiv. His electrical energy was now minimize; he cooked potato soup exterior, on an open fireplace in sub-zero temperatures, all of the whereas making an attempt to cover the flame.
By Monday, when the weekend curfew lifted, satellite tv for pc pictures shared by Maxar know-how revealed an enormous Russian armoured column, stretching alongside 40 miles (64km) of street, stopped simply 20 miles from Kyiv. The plight of different cities was much more foreboding. Residential areas of Kharkiv, the second largest metropolis to the west, have been being pounded – so was Chernihiv to the north.
Skinny mats have been changed by mattresses on this new subterranean world – Ukraine beds down and digs in. All via the night time, smartphones glow beneath covers. Liana, like everybody else, connects incessantly with family and friends throughout Ukraine and past.
A Russian missile has slammed into her father's vegetable backyard, smashing his sustenance for the long term. Rustam, intense at the very best of instances, is now an extension of his telephone saturated by every little thing Ukraine. Generally Tyson the cat emerges from beneath his mattress above floor for a comforting cuddle.
Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has vowed to proceed the offensive till "its targets are achieved".
It's been per week of conflict. Unparalleled sanctions imposed on Russia are being described as financial conflict. A conflict crimes investigation has already been launched, and everybody all over the place is taking a stand. Even the Worldwide Feline Federation (FIFe) has banned the import of any Russian breeds of cats.
The southern metropolis of Kherson has fallen. Mariupol is encircled by Russian forces, with out electrical energy, operating water, or sufficient meals. The armoured convoy north of Kyiv nonetheless hasn't made its transfer.
And Liana is in a flood of tears. "Eight Russian troopers barged into my father's home final night time in search of cigarettes, and so they've taken over his home," she wails. She hears a narrative a few household who tried to flee and was shot lifeless on the spot. They're in search of younger males in a position to struggle. She says her aged father sits in a chair and doesn't dare transfer.
In some areas, entire neighbourhoods have been obliterated by Russian firepower or appear to be beneath its sway.
Now it's the second week. Greater than 1,000,000 Ukrainians have fled. Many are staying to choose up weapons to struggle. "We’re the nation that broke the plans of the enemy within the first week," boasts President Zelensky in his newest video message, nonetheless wearing olive-green.
President Putin pronounces his "particular navy operation goes in response to plan", vowing to "destroy this anti-Russia created by the West".
Final night time Kyiv was rocked by explosions, coming ever nearer to metropolis centre, which painted the sky orange. When the night time curfew lifts, Liana and her mom Vera make a touch to the outlets to test for provides – together with cat meals – on fast-emptying cabinets. Then she settles in to attempt to learn the tome she packed for what may very well be an extended and anxious haul. It's a Russian-language model of Homer's the Iliad, a uncommon e-book given two centuries in the past to Russia's Catherine the Nice, the empress recognized for bringing Russia into Europe's cultural and political life.
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Ukraine: How per week of conflict has reworked lives – BBC