Former Abu Dhabi student speaks from Ukraine shelter as explosions draw closer

Yulia Tymoshenko praises bravery of soldiers and essential workers who are keeping Kiev running

A look inside the shelter of a former UAE student in Ukraine

A look inside the shelter of a former UAE student in Ukraine
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Taking shelter in the basement of her apartment building in Ukraine’s capital city Kiev, Yulia Tymoshenko has slept for only four hours in the past two days.

The former New York University Abu Dhabi student said the silence blanketing the city is only broken by the sounds of explosions in the distance.

She rushed to the basement of her apartment building on the left bank of the Dnieper River.

“It’s been more than 24 hours since the full-scale invasion of my country and Russian forces are moving increasingly closer to the city,” she said.

It’s been more than 24 hours since the full scale invasion of my country and Russian forces are moving increasingly closer to the city. I can now hear the explosions getting closer
Yulia Tymoshenko, Kiev resident

“I can now hear the explosions from the right bank getting [closer to] here.

“I have spent the last eight hours inside the shelter in my building because of the warnings of possible air strikes.

“We have been advised to use it to shelter from the bombs.”

Residents of Kiev were told to take shelter on Friday as air raids struck the city on the second day of Russia's ground invasion.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry said Russian forces were approaching the capital early on Friday morning, after more than 24 hours of missile strikes and fighting across the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been condemned by international leaders for launching the invasion.

With sporadic connection to the internet, Ms Tymoshenko has been posting updates on social media of the escalating situation.

Sheltering with her mother, she fought back tears as she spoke of how her father had moved from his village on the outskirts of Kiev into the city on Friday morning to continue his work with the water board.

“I want to thank all the people who continue doing their jobs in Ukraine,” she said.

“My dad, who works for Kiev’s water company, today went to work, although I begged him not to.

“He told me he has to do his job to make sure people [in the city] continued to have free water and supply while sheltering from Russia.

“I am speechless, exhausted, frustrated with the world, but so proud of Ukraine.

“We’re currently just waiting and hoping the Russian military will not be able to capture the city.”

With no idea of how long she will stay in shelter with her mother, Ms Tymoshenko said people had already started to bring their possessions into the basement to make it a little more comfortable, with many setting up makeshift beds along the walls.

While the basement is empty and derelict, it has an electricity supply and is spacious, she said. People have stocked up on food and have emergency backpacks ready if a sudden departure is required.

Lena K., a Ukrainian citizen living in Dubai, said her family had spent Thursday night sheltering in the Metro station in Kharkiv, a city that borders the Donbas region.

“I spoke to my family on Wednesday night and they had made plans to leave the next day to somewhere safer, but the invasion happened hours later,” she said.

“There were Russian tanks just 10 minutes away from the place my family lives, it’s on the ring road of the city.

“My brother is now at his military base ready to fight and my parents have moved back to the home from the Metro shelter.”

Lena said the family had decided not to leave Kharkiv yet as the city has better capacity “to protect from shelling than open fields”.

Updated: February 25, 2022, 7:28 PM