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Freezing temperatures add to Kiev’s problems as Russian troops approach Ukrainian capital

Thousands of residents are sheltering in unheated basements, underground car parks and subway stations and a sudden cold spell has blanketed the city in snow, making the situation even more difficult.

Viktoriya and his family say leaving their Kiev home to spend the night in an air raid shelter may have saved their lives.

When they returned on Tuesday morning, they found bullets had pierced two windows of their apartment overnight. One smashed a nearby electrical outlet, leaving a hole where the outlet would normally go.

“I realized there was no place I could feel safe now,” said Viktoriya, 38, who asked CNN not to use his full name. “My house is no longer my castle. All the time, something rumbles, explodes, shoots.”

And she said there’s no relief when things calm down.

“It becomes even more anxiety-provoking in moments of silence, because you know they’re not going to last,” she said.

Viktoriya says she and her family spend most of their time at the shelter because they have a little son and are worried about keeping him safe in their apartment.

Many other families with children use the shelter, she says, so they can keep each other company; adults also find it comforting to be together and share the burden of worry and the feeling of hopelessness.

“Life has completely changed in an instant and you cannot influence the situation in any way,” she said. “Now it’s not you who controls your life, but someone else. And whatever you decide: stay in Kyiv, live in the basement or go somewhere quieter, that means the same, you must leave the house.”

“The war has only lasted four days so far, but it seems like it’s been with us for an eons of time. It’s a terrible ‘Groundhog Day’ feeling,” she added.

Crucial period ahead for Kyiv as massive Russian column closes in on Ukrainian capital

People have spent hours queuing at grocery stores and pharmacies across the city since they first opened after a 36-hour curfew on Monday.

For now, the city’s main infrastructure is holding up. Electricity, heat and water are available as normal, but fears of possible supply disruptions have intensified as the Russian army closes in on the city.

The 64-kilometer-long Russian military convoy, consisting of armored vehicles, tanks, towed artillery and other logistical vehicles, has reached the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, according to satellite images from Maxar Technologies.

US officials who were previously surprised by fierce resistance that saw ordinary citizens take up arms to fight the invasion now fear the situation will become “much more difficult” for Ukrainians.

Officials told a Monday briefing that Russia would likely besiege Kiev, leading to nasty scenes of urban warfare, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

And on Tuesday afternoon, the Russian military warned that it would carry out strikes against the facilities of the SBU – Ukraine’s State Security Agency – and the 72nd Main Center for Information and Psychological Operations. [PSO] in Kyiv.

The Russian Defense Ministry statement urged residents near some targets to “leave their homes”, Russian news agency TASS reported.

CNN’s Oleksandra Ochman contributed to this report.

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