The face of Europe, and the world, changed on Thursday as Russia launched a unilateral attack on Ukraine, raining down missiles and rockets in cities from Kyiv to Kharkiv, killing an untold number of people, and throwing the fate of the country into the balance. The warnings had been building for months, and Western promises of retaliation are growing, as Vladimir Putin seeks to redraw borders in his fanatical quest to revive the Russian empire.
On the ground, however, war is unfolding in its horrific, intimate ways. “War is a big disaster, and this disaster has a high price,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in emotional televised comments just before the first missiles began to fall in the early hours. “People lose money, reputation, quality of life, they lose freedom. But the main thing is that people lose their loved ones, they lose themselves.”
Dozens of Ukrainians are believed to have died and more than 50,000 people have begun fleeing their homes for bordering countries. A U.S. official has warned that this is merely the first stage of Russia’s all-out invasion, with only a fraction of the more than 150,000 troops that the country has deployed to Ukraine’s borders taking part in the assault so far.