At Least 137 People Killed in First Day of Russia's Attack on Ukraine, Officials Say

Soldiers, children and medical staff are among the dead

The death toll continues to rise after the first full day of Russia's incursion into Ukraine.

The Ukrainian health minister, Viktor Lyashko, initially said 57 citizens were dead and another 169 people were wounded amid the fighting, the Associated Press and NBC News reported.

Hours later came a grave revision upward: Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said early Friday local time that 137 people had been killed and 316 were wounded, according to reports.

Many of those killed appear to be soldiers, per the AP, citing earlier figures that 40 Ukrainian soldiers were among the dead.

However, there were also reports of civilians who were killed, including at least one young child. NBC News reported the figures also include medical staff.

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The extent of Russian casualties remained unclear.

Details are emerging all the time about the ongoing attack on Ukraine; information about the extent and toll of the fighting continues to shift.

Ukrainian officials had said Russia began a widespread assault on the country early Thursday, with troops moving from the north, south and east. Airstrikes and bombings were also reported with threats mounting against the capital of Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million people.

"The general feeling is that everyone should prepare for the worst and be ready to leave in a couple of minutes," Vitaly Vavryshchuk, a 41-year-old investments worker living in Kyiv, tells PEOPLE.

"Everyone understood there was a risk of attack," Vavryshchuk says.

But even so, the reality is something else.

Ukrainian military track burns at an air defence base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, Ukraine
Mariupol, Ukraine, on Thursday. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP/Shutterstock

"Beyond imagination," Vavryshchuk says. "Putin is threatening Ukraine, but he would never be prepared to kill Ukrainians. We thought it was a geopolitical game and there would be a political solution."

A number of world leaders have condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin, who insists Ukraine has historic ties to his country and that he is only interested in "peacekeeping" amid separatist movements and other tensions.

Putin likewise has challenged NATO's influence in Europe, with Ukraine sandwiched between Russia and the easternmost NATO countries.

President Joe Biden said in a White House speech Thursday he was imposing even more severe economic punishments on Russia but would be deploying troops only in support of NATO countries, not Ukraine. He said the U.S. would support Ukraine in other ways.

Ukraine President Zelenskyy has sought to project courage.

"We are defending our country, we fight for our country and we protect our country," he said in one address.

* With reporting by AMY ESKIND

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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