Fighting begins on the streets in Kiev, People urged to take shelter
Street fighting broke out in Ukraine’s capital as city officials urged residents to seek refuge and the country’s president refused a US offer for evacuation, insisting he would stay behind.
Russian troops stormed the Ukrainian capital early Saturday and street fighting broke out after city officials urged residents to seek refuge. The country’s president refused to clear an American offer, insisting it would remain. “The fight is here,” he said.
The clashes that followed two days of fighting resulted in hundreds of casualties and toppled bridges, schools and apartment buildings. US officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to overthrow Ukraine’s government and replace it with his own regime.
The attack represents Mr Putin’s boldest attempt ever to redraw the world map and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence. It sparked new international efforts to end the offensive, including direct sanctions on Mr Putin. As his country faced explosions and gunfire and as Kiev’s fate hangs in the balance, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed for a ceasefire and warned in a vague statement that several cities were under attack. “We have to persevere this night,” he said. “The fate of Ukraine is yet to be decided.”
Mr Zelensky was urged to evacuate Kiev at the behest of the US government, but turned down the offer, according to a senior US intelligence official with direct knowledge of the talks. The official quoted the president as saying that “the battle is here” and that he needed anti-tank ammunition, but “not the ride.”
City officials in Kiev urged residents to seek shelter, stay away from windows and take precautions to avoid flying debris or bullets. The Kremlin accepted Kiev’s offer to hold talks, but it appeared to be an attempt to squeeze concessions from the embattled Zelensky rather than point to a diplomatic solution.
On Friday, the Russian army continued to advance, claiming the city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine. Nevertheless, in the fog of war it was unclear how much of Ukraine was still under Ukrainian control and how much or less was captured by Russian forces.
As the fighting continued, Ukraine’s military reported the shooting down of an II-76 Russian transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasilkiv, a town 25 miles (40 km) south of Kiev, confirmed by a senior US intelligence official. did it. It was not clear how many were on board. Transport aircraft can carry up to 125 paratroopers. A second Russian military transport plane was shot down near Bila Tserkva, 50 miles (85 km) south of Kiev, according to two US officials with direct knowledge of conditions on the ground in Ukraine. The Russian military has not commented on either aircraft.
The US and other global powers imposed sometimes tough sanctions on Russia as the invasion reverberated through the world’s economy and energy supply, threatening to further affect common households. UN officials said millions could flee Ukraine. Sports leagues moved to punish Russia and even the popular Eurovision song contest banned it from the May final in Italy.
Through it all, Russia remained adamant, vetoing a UN Security Council resolution demanding that it stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw troops immediately. The veto was expected, but the US and its supporters argued that the effort would expose Moscow’s international isolation. The 11–1 vote, with China away from India and the United Arab Emirates, showed significant but not outright opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller, militarily weaker neighbour.
Meanwhile, NATO for the first time decided to send parts of the coalition’s reaction force to the east to help defend its member states. NATO did not say how many troops would be deployed, but said it would include land, sea and air power.
On the second day of Russia’s invasion, the largest ground battle in Europe since World War II, centered on the Ukrainian capital, Associated Press reporters heard explosions before dawn. There are reports of firing in many areas. A huge boom was heard in the evening near Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the square in central Kiev, the center of protests that led to the ouster of the Kremlin-friendly president in 2014. The reason was not immediately known.
Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said five explosions occurred near a large power plant on the eastern outskirts of Kiev. There was no information about their cause, and no power outages were immediately reported.
It was not clear how many people were killed in total. Ukrainian authorities reported at least 137 casualties on their side in the first full day of fighting and hundreds of claims on Russian. Russian officials did not release any casualty figures. UN officials reported the deaths of 25 civilians, mostly from shelling and airstrikes, and said 100,000 people are believed to have left their homes. He estimates that up to four million may flee if the fighting escalates.
Mr Zelensky tweeted that he and US President Joe Biden spoke on the phone and discussed “strengthening sanctions, solid defense aid and an anti-war coalition”.
Late Friday, Mr. Biden signed a memorandum authorizing up to $350 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total approved security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $1 billion. It was not immediately clear how quickly aid would flow.
Mr Zelensky’s whereabouts were kept secret when he told European leaders in a call on Thursday that he was Russia’s No. 1 target – and they may not see him alive again. His office later released a video of him standing with senior aides outside the presidential office and said he and other government officials would remain in the capital.
Mr Zelensky has previously offered to negotiate a key demand from Putin: that Ukraine declare itself neutral and give up its ambition to join NATO. The Kremlin said that Kiev initially agreed to hold talks in Minsk, then said it would prefer Warsaw and later halted communications. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later said Kiev would discuss possibilities of talks on Saturday.
The attack was predicted by the US and Western allies for weeks and a long-term denial by Mr Putin. He argued that by refusing to negotiate Russia’s security demands, the West left him with no other option.
In a window on how Mr Putin views Ukraine and its leadership, he urged Ukraine’s military to surrender, saying: “For us to agree with you than that gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis It would be easier for those who are hiding in Kiev and have taken the entire Ukrainian people hostage. ”
Playing on Russian nostalgia for World War II heroism, the Kremlin equates members of Ukrainian right-wing groups with neo-Nazis. Mr. Zelensky, who is Jewish, angrily dismisses those claims.
Mr Putin has not disclosed his final plans for Ukraine. “We want to allow the Ukrainian people to determine their fate,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signaled. Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia recognizes Mr Zelensky as president, but would not say how long the Russian military operation could last.
Ukrainians suddenly adjusted to life under fire, when Russian forces invaded the country from three sides as they massed an estimated 150,000 soldiers nearby. Residents of a Kiev apartment building woke up to screams, smoke and flying dust. The mayor tore down part of the building he identified as Russian shelling and set it on fire.
“What are you doing? What is it?” Resident Yuri Zhanov asked the Russian army. Like countless other Ukrainians, he grabbed whatever he could, took his mother, and fled, with the car alarm ringing behind her.
Elsewhere in Kiev, the body of a dead soldier lay near an underpass. Pieces of a downed plane smoke between brick houses in a residential area. The body parts found near him were wrapped in black plastic. People came out of bomb shelters, basements and subways to face the turmoil of another day.
“We are all scared and worried. We don’t know what to do then, what’s going to happen in a few days, ”said 20-year-old Lucy Vashka, a worker at a small Kiev hotel.
At the Pentagon, Press Secretary John Kirby said the US believed the offensive, including its progress on Kiev, had gone more slowly than Moscow had planned, noting that Ukraine’s forces were fighting back. have been But he also said that the military operation is in the early stages and the situation may change rapidly.
The Biden administration said on Friday it would move to freeze the assets of Mr Putin and Mr Lavrov after the EU and Britain in direct approval to the top Russian leadership. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ms Zakharova called the sanctions against Mr Putin and Mr Lavrov “an example and a display of total helplessness” of the West.