Videos show empty streets, with sirens blaring and a voice telling residents to shelter in place.
At the city’s railway station, the square is filled with people anxiously waiting next to suitcases, taking videos and rushing in and out of cars as the sirens ring.
The same was true in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, where many foreign journalists have been based.
Christopher Miller is an American correspondent who has lived in Kyiv for more than a decade, reporting for numerous outlets.
He described evacuating with other journalists to the basement of a hotel he was staying at in Kramatorsk, in Ukraine’s east: “It was jarring to see them there, having spent the previous evening celebrating a good reporting week with cocktails and steaks.
“Before turning in and because I had used up all my reporter’s notebooks, I visited a stationery shop, where a young girl pleaded with her mother to buy her a pen with a teddy bear on it. It was the last normal thing I remember experiencing before the bombs went off.”
Subscribe to The Big Issue
Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work.
On returning to Kyiv he found most people had been trying to leave.
The platforms at Kyiv train station are dangerously crowded as people hope to escape the fighting. The station concourse is similarly full, as people arrive with whatever they can carry.
One woman was filmed with a backpack and her cat, August, in a carrier.
Images shared widely online from the city’s south east made it clear why. The district of Pozniaky is characterised by its tall apartment buildings painted pink, red and cream, but fighting had already nearly torched one to the ground.
Ukrainian forces had apparently shot down a Russian rocket or fighter jet — reports differ — which crashed in the residential district, blowing out windows, collapsing balconies and leaving a crater of charred rubble.
Many spent the night sleeping in the city’s subway station for safety.
The situation in Kharkiv, 40km from the Russian border was more serious. Graphic images showed civilian casualties as some residential buildings near the city had been hit directly with rocket fire.
Other residents awoke to find discarded missile casings the size of a man lodged in the tarmac outside local shops or standing tall on the pedestrian crossing.
Western countries have placed sanctions on much of the Russian economy in an attempt to slow or halt the assault. But the invasions shows no signs of slowing. For the citizens of Ukraine, it is just the beginning.