International Christian relief groups Samaritans’ Purse and World Help are standing alongside the Ukrainian Church to provide aid to victims as Russia’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine enters into the third day Saturday with Russian troops storming toward Ukraine’s capital.
Explosions and artillery fire could be heard in the streets of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv Friday night and street fighting with Russian forces was going on early Saturday, The Guardian reported, adding that residents had been urged to seek shelter, avoid going near windows or on balconies.
Saturday morning, a residential apartment building near the international airport in Kyiv was struck by a Russian missile attack, Kyiv Independent reported, adding that no deaths had been reported and that people across the country were taking shelter underground and in subway stations.
The street clashes in Ukraine have resulted in “hundreds of casualties,” The Associated Press reported.
Amid the suffering and chaos, Evangelical humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse said it had deployed disaster response specialists to Poland and Romania, where Ukrainian refugees were arriving in large numbers.
More than 50,000 Ukrainians had fled the country as of Friday night, “many more are moving toward its borders,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was quoted as saying. Another 50,000 Ukrainians had left the country in anticipation of the war, Reuters reported earlier.
Grandi said Thursday that more than 100,000 people had moved within Ukraine to flee violence.
Experts have warned that a prolonged war could displace millions of Ukrainians, leading to large-scale humanitarian crisis.
“We have deployed members of our Disaster Assistance Response Team to surrounding countries and are standing ready to help meet emergency needs resulting from the crisis,” said evangelist Franklin Graham. “Please join me in praying for the people of Ukraine and for this conflict to end quickly.”
The specialists, which include medical staff, are assessing needs in Ukraine’s neighboring countries as a result of Russia’s invasion, which began Thursday. The group, led by Graham, is also speaking to partner churches and organizations in Ukraine “to prepare and implement a strategic disaster response.”
The group, which works with more than 3,000 churches across Ukraine, has also prepared an Emergency Field Hospital for overseas shipment “in the event that it is needed.”
The organization will also distribute over 600,000 gift-filled Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for children through those churches and ministry partners.
Christian group World Help, through local churches and Christian nonprofits, is also providing emergency essentials for over 1,000 displaced Ukrainians.
“Our hearts are breaking for the people of Ukraine,” said Kraig Cole, director of International Partnerships for World Help, which serves the physical and spiritual needs of people in impoverished communities around the world.
“We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and we want to get people the help they need as soon as possible,” Cole explained. “We’ve been preparing for a Russian invasion, but I don’t think anyone predicted an attack like this. … We have no idea how the situation in Ukraine will escalate. We’re just getting started.”
Cole also urged the Christian community in America to provide help. “No one is powerless to help. Even a small gift can go a long way toward helping a person survive as they flee what is quickly becoming a full-scale warzone. This is our chance to follow the example of the Good Samaritan and to go out of our way to help someone who is hurting.”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden Friday night signed an order to provide up to $600 million to Ukraine — up to $350 million in military aid, and $250 million for “overall assistance.”
Also on Friday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to his fellow European leaders in a video call, telling them it might be the last time they saw him alive, according to Chronicle Live.
The United States had offered to evacuate Zelenskyy, but he rejected it, saying he would stay in the country as “the fight is here,” according to The Associated Press, which cited a source in U.S. intelligence.
The Biden administration also wants to divert Customs and Border Protection agents from the U.S. southern border crisis to facilitate evacuations from Ukraine.
In a memo sent to field operations executives Thursday, CBP’s office of field operations sought volunteers who would immediately go to Poland for “Operation Ukraine Support,” Just the News reported.
“The Office of Field Operations is seeking volunteers to assist with the possible evacuation of U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and their immediate family members from Ukraine,” the memo read. “Eligible employees who volunteer for this situation may be selected to serve a temporary duty assignment in Poland to facilitate travelers for entry into the U.S., to include providing guidance and problems resolution to other government agencies.”
The Biden administration had made a similar move for Afghan evacuees after the U.S. pull-out from the South Asian country.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the largest ground war in Europe since World War II, has drawn strong condemnation from the international community.
On Thursday, Biden said he would re-impose sanctions he had earlier lifted, but these sanctions won't begin for 30 days. He added that the U.S. would also work with allies to enact additional sanctions, including possibly cutting Russia off from Western financing (Swift payments system) and tech imports.
Biden and European nations will, however, continue paying Russia for its oil and gas imports. The president added: "in our sanctions package, we specifically designed to allow energy payments to continue."
“We have purposefully designed these sanctions to maximize the longterm impact on Russia and to minimize the impact on the United States and our allies,” he said.
“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,” Biden said.
On Friday, Russia, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, used its veto power to block a resolution condemning its invasion. The vote at the U.N.'s headquarters in New York City was 11 in favor, one against, and three abstentions, including China and India.
In Russia, authorities have arrested at least 1,800 people for holding demonstrations against the war on Ukraine, said the local arrest watchdog group OVD-Info.
Russian pop stars, television show hosts and journalists have also voiced their opposition to the invasion.
Russia began its attacks early Thursday, targeting Ukrainian military assets in several key cities nationwide.