Russia's "military operation" has triggered chaos and fear in several parts of Ukraine, as sounds of warplanes and explosions grow louder.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the launching of a "military operation" in Donbass in eastern Ukraine on Thursday morning, several reports of military convoys, missile strikes, explosions and people packing up their belongings in a bid to leave the sensitive areas started making rounds on the Internet.  

While many journalists and regional experts urged media organisations to verify the visuals coming out of the region to avoid war mongering and escalating panic, here are some credible images portraying the current situation in the region. 

Tanks and armoured vehicles of the Russian army began to be seen in Donetsk, while explosions started to be heard in Ukraine's various cities.
Tanks and armoured vehicles of the Russian army began to be seen in Donetsk, while explosions started to be heard in Ukraine's various cities. (AP)

Explosions hit the cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Odessa at 04:50 local time. Ukrainians woke up to the sounds of bombings.

Black smoke that can be seen below rose from a military airport in Chuguev near Kharkiv, plunging Ukraine's morning into alarming darkness.

Explosions hit the cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Odessa at 04:50 local time.
Explosions hit the cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Odessa at 04:50 local time. (AA)

The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered defending Ukraine, calling all citizens who were ready to defend the country from Russian forces to come forward, saying Kiev would issue weapons to everyone who wants them.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers were seen getting into a military vehicle in Mariupol with worried faces as Zelenskyy declared martial law.

Zelenskyy ordered defending Ukraine, calling everyone to defend the country.
Zelenskyy ordered defending Ukraine, calling everyone to defend the country. (AP)

Ukrainians who had long braced for the possibility of a Russian operation were urged to stay home and not to panic, while citizens began to line up in front of ATMs and banks to withdraw money as the conflict expected to harshly damage the country’s vulnerable economy.

Citizens began to line up in front of ATMs and banks to withdraw money.
Citizens began to line up in front of ATMs and banks to withdraw money. (Reuters)

While multiple explosions took place in the following hours, civilians started to leave their houses, even cities within the sound of sirens and military jets. 

Many were panicked at the escalation of hostilities, lamenting on not knowing where to go or what to do while blasts hit their houses.

Many explosions took place as civilians started to leave their houses.
Many explosions took place as civilians started to leave their houses. (AA)

In eastern Ukraine, mortar fires by the separatist-controlled Donetsk damaged the Ukrainian-controlled areas, while the local people were shaken by fear. 

Two of them are a woman and child, who peer out of the window of a bus as they leave Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine.

Many were panicked at the escalation of hostilities, lamenting on not knowing where to go.
Many were panicked at the escalation of hostilities, lamenting on not knowing where to go. (AP)

While some civilians are trying to leave the city, others are trying to escape possible bombs by taking shelter in subway stations and basements of their houses.  

"I woke up because of the sounds of bombing. I packed a bag and tried to escape," told  Maria Kashkoska, one of the residents who sheltered inside the Kiev metro station told the AFP news agency.

The picture below shows frightened Ukrainians a subway station after air raid sirens rang out across the country's main cities.

People take shelter in a subway station.
People take shelter in a subway station. (Reuters)

Russia's defence ministry declared that it has neutralised Ukrainian military airbases and its air defence systems. 

Ukraine, on the other hand, stated that it has killed "around 50 Russian occupiers" while repulsing an attack on a town on the frontline with Moscow-backed rebels.

In the midst of these conflicts, an apartment in the city of Kharkiv was damaged and injured many, causing bloodshed and tears.

Here, you see one man grieving after a devastating explosion destroyed his building. 

While some civilians are trying to leave the city, others are trying to escape possible bombs.
While some civilians are trying to leave the city, others are trying to escape possible bombs. (AFP)

World leaders swiftly condemned Russia's military attack, with Western capitals vowing to escalate sanctions against Moscow while the head of the United Nations demanded the conflict end immediately. 

Big explosions were heard before dawn in Kiev.
Big explosions were heard before dawn in Kiev. (AP)

But smokes and flames continue to rise in Ukrainian cities including in a military building in Kiev that can be seen above, signalling the continuation of conflict in spite of the devastating catastrophe.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies