Natasha Suslenko woke up at 4:30 a.m. Friday morning to the sound of air-raid sirens and bombs across her hometown of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, warning of a Russian attack.
For the second day, she had to grab her things and move into her building’s basement parking garage for safety.
“We just put on our clothes in one second, took our child, and went down to the parking garage,” Suslenko told CNBC from Kyiv. Because of the cold winter weather.
Family members make sporadic visits back to their apartments to take naps when they deem it safe. Thousands of others sleep in the Kyiv metro, which is now serving as a massive bomb shelter.
On Thursday, the first day that the sirens rang out across Kyiv as Russian troops invaded the country from multiple flanks, Suslenko made sure to grab all her family’s important documents as well.
“Some people left town,” she said. “We decided to stay because we have a small kid, one-year-old. So it’s pretty hard.” More than 100,000 people have fled Kyiv so far.
Heading west or trying to leave the country altogether. Outward road traffic is backed up for miles with “so many, many cars, like zombie movies,” she said.
By Friday evening, Russian reconnaissance troops were within miles of Kyiv’s city center, Ukraine’s defense ministry said. “Strikes on Kyiv with a cruise or ballistic missiles continued,” it reported.
Passenger flights over Ukrainian airspace have been completely halted, and Russian forces have attacked most of the country’s airports.
Videos showing Ukrainian airbases, as well as civilian areas hit by Russian missiles and bombs, are being shared widely on social media, though specific reports from the country are difficult to confirm.
Western leaders had warned of a Russian invasion for months as President Vladimir Putin implemented a troop buildup of more than 100,000 of his forces along Ukraine’s border.
Putin rejected and scoffed at the West’s allegations, only to make a fiery case early Thursday morning for a “special military operation” to “demilitarize” the country after denying its statehood.
So far at least 200 Ukrainians, both civilian and military, have been killed, while Ukrainian forces push back against Russian troops who have also sustained casualties in the hundreds.
Nine hundred miles south, in Cyprus, Natasha Suslenko’s husband Andrii anxiously checks his phone. He left Ukraine just days before on a work trip and is now stuck, with no way of getting back home.
“I feel helpless because I’m here and my wife is there, and it’s a very emotional, desperate situation,” he told CNBC via video call. He’s still working in his capacity as a business coach and consultant.
Helping his Ukrainian clients crisis-manage their businesses. He worries for his parents as well, who are back in Kyiv with his wife.
“My family was devastated” by Russia’s sudden invasion, Suslenko said. “They were 65 and they were not expecting this.
✅Exposed In 2022
My mom was in denial for all the months before, like, ‘no, it’s not going to happen. It was unbelievable.”
The news stunned the world and followed protracted NATO-Russia negotiations over security demands — like Putin’s demand to prevent.
Ukraine from ever joining the 30-member alliance and to make the group revert to its 1997 parameters — that NATO leaders deemed to be unacceptable. CNBC!