KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine’s Health Minister Viktor Lyashko says 57 Ukrainians have been killed as a result of the Russian invasion, and 169 more were wounded.
Lyashko also said Thursday that Ukraine’s authorities are repurposing the country’s health care facilities to make room for those who need medical assistance because of the hostilities.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending troops and tanks from multiple directions in a move that could rewrite the world’s geopolitical landscape. Ukraine’s government pleaded for help as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee.
After weeks of denying plans to invade, President Vladimir Putin launched the operation on a country the size of Texas that has increasingly tilted toward the democratic West and away from Moscow’s sway.
The autocratic leader made clear earlier this week that he sees no reason for Ukraine to exist, raising fears of possible broader conflict in the vast space that the Soviet Union once ruled.
Putin denied plans to occupy Ukraine, but his ultimate goals remain hazy. He also threatened any country trying to interfere with “consequences you have never seen.”
Ukrainian officials said their forces were battling Russians on multiple fronts and had lost control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant — the scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
Ukrainians who had long braced for the prospect of an assault were urged to shelter in place and not to panic.
“Until the very last moment, I didn’t believe it would happen. I just pushed away these thoughts,” said a terrified Anna Dovnya in Kyiv, watching soldiers and police remove shrapnel from an exploded shell. “We have lost all faith.”
With social media amplifying a torrent of military claims and counter-claims, it was difficult to determine exactly what was happening on the ground.