‘Thousands will die, they will be killed from every window,’ Ukraine defence minister warns Russia

Politician calls on Russians to take to streets demanding end to war, as tens of thousands of civilians flee

Jane Dalton
Friday 25 February 2022 23:24 GMT
Putin tells Ukrainian military to ‘take power into own hands’ and overthrow Zelensky

As many Russian soldiers will die in Ukraine as during the two Chechen wars, Ukraine’s defence minister has warned.

“Thousands. Thousands,” Oleksii Reznikov said, calling on Russians to take to the streets and demand an end to the war.

“Hide your loved ones if they are dear to you. Don’t send them to certain death. They will be killed from every window in every Ukrainian city,” he pleaded.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly warned that his country will defend itself.

“When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs ... War is a great misfortune and it comes at a great price,” he said. “People lose their money, reputation, freedom, living standards, and most importantly – they lose their loved ones and themselves.”

A Chechen official put the death toll for the two wars of independence – from 1994-96 and 2000-09 - at up to 160,000 but the figure was not verified and included large numbers of civilians.

As Russia pounded Ukrainian cities with air strikes for a second day, tens of thousands of residents were forced to leave their homes in search of safety, forming long queues to cross into Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.

Those arriving were mostly women, children and the elderly after President Zelensky banned men of military age from leaving the country.

Poland, which in recent years, has deterred immigrants, warned of a potential crisis like that in 2015, when a million Syrians came to Europe.

But the country is planning to open nine reception centres along its border with Ukraine, and ministers said they would take in “as many as there will be at our borders”.

The progress of Russia’s invasion

A woman from Kyiv, who arrived in Przemsyl, Poland, broke down in tears describing how men were pulled off trains in Ukraine before they got to the border.

“Even if the man was travelling with his own child he couldn’t cross the border, even with a kid,” she said.

Vilma Sugar, 68, who fled her home in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, was shaking in fear when her 47-year-son was stopped.

“I’m shaking, I can’t calm down,” she said after reaching Hungary. “We crossed the border but they just didn’t let him come with us.”

In the Polish city of Zamość near the border with Ukraine, one woman closed down her shop to set up a makeshift shelter for up to 30 refugees.

Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban, who has good ties with Vladimir Putin, condemned Moscow’s actions, saying his country would prepare humanitarian aid for Ukraine and was ready to receive refugees.

“No one wants to get conscripted, no one wants to die,” said Tamas Bodnar at the border with Hungary. “It’s clear that those who can, they flee.”

The European Commission has told all EU member states to relax veterinary paperwork requirements for dogs, cats and other pets travelling with refugees.

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