What to Know as Russian Forces Target Kyiv – Twin Cities
By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Invading Russian forces moved closer to the Ukrainian capital on Friday, in an apparent encirclement after a barrage of airstrikes on towns and military bases across the country.
With growing signs that Russia is aiming to overthrow him, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told European Union leaders in a video link from his bunker on Thursday evening that this may be the last time they will see him. living.
But on Friday, Zelenskyy posted a video of himself and his top aides outside the presidential office in Kyiv to reassure Ukrainians that he and other senior officials would remain in the capital.
He later called for a ceasefire and warned in a grim statement that several towns were under attack. “Tonight they will storm,” he said.
The assault, expected for weeks by the West, amounts to Europe’s biggest ground conflict since World War II as President Vladimir Putin tries to restore Cold War influence in Moscow. It is unclear how many or few Russian forces seized or the extent of casualties.
US President Joe Biden and his NATO partners agreed on Friday to send thousands of troops to help protect allies along the alliance’s eastern edge. Biden then spoke with Zelenskyy to convey his support and “praised the courageous actions of the Ukrainian people who were fighting to defend their country,” the White House said.
Here’s what to know about the conflict and security crisis in former Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe:
RUSSIAN TROOPS MARCH ON
The Russian military said on Friday it had surrounded the towns of Sumy and Konotop in northeastern Ukraine, but was “taking measures to ensure the safety of civilians”.
Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces have so far destroyed 211 Ukrainian military facilities, including 17 command centers, 19 air defense missile systems, 39 units radar, 67 tanks and six combat aircraft. The Russian military also said it had seized a strategic airport outside Kiev, allowing it to quickly build up forces to take the capital.
On Friday evening, the Russian military said it had taken control of Melitopol, a town near the Sea of Azov. The allegation could not immediately be independently verified.
Meanwhile, a senior US defense official said it is estimated that Russia has now launched more than 200 missiles at Ukraine and some have hit residential areas, although it is unclear s they were deliberately targeted.
But US defense officials believe the Russian offensive has met with considerable resistance and is proceeding more slowly than Moscow had expected.
The Ukrainian military reported shooting down a Russian II-76 transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a town 40 kilometers south of Kiev, a story confirmed by a senior US intelligence official. It was not known how many were on board. Transport planes can carry up to 125 paratroopers.
LYRICS TIPS TO STOP FIGHTING
Hopes for a negotiated end to the war faded on Friday after a tentative agreement to discuss Zelenskyy’s offer to designate Ukraine as a non-aligned country failed.
The Kremlin first said it was ready to send a delegation to Belarus, then backtracked, saying it preferred to meet in Warsaw. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested it was too late, saying Zelensky should have agreed to talks sooner.
But on Friday evening, Zelenskyy’s spokesman, Sergii Nikiforov, wrote on Facebook that the two sides were consulting on a location and time for the talks.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has offered Budapest as a possible location. Also writing on Facebook, he said he took the proposal to the Russian and Ukrainian governments and neither rejected it.
Prior to the invasion, the West had rejected Russia’s request to keep Ukraine out of NATO. Putin used the refusal to justify the invasion, saying the West left him no other choice.
CIVILIANS IN DANGER
Awakening on the second day of the Russian invasion, horrified civilians found themselves in danger as artillery shells rained down on some residential buildings on the outskirts of Kiev.
Townspeople stood uneasily outside the doors of apartment buildings watching the armored personnel carriers roll through the streets.
After 8 p.m., a loud boom was heard near Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the square in central Kiev. And the mayor said five explosions hit near a major power plant just outside the city. The causes of the explosions were not immediately known.
Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said her staff had so far verified at least 25 civilian deaths and 102 injuries, mostly from shelling and air strikes.
A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, Shabia Mantoo, said more than 100,000 people are believed to have left their homes in Ukraine and “up to 4 million people could flee to other countries if the situation is getting worse.”
FLEE FOR SAFETY
Thousands of Ukrainians crossed into neighboring countries to the west on Friday seeking safety from the war unfolding in their country.
With men of military age banned from leaving the country, most of those crossing the borders were women, children and the elderly.
A woman from Kiev who arrived in Przemsyl, Poland, described how men were removed from trains in Ukraine before arriving at the border.
Cars were blocked for several kilometers at some border crossings as Polish, Slovak, Hungarian, Romanian and Moldovan authorities mobilized to welcome Ukrainians, providing them with shelter, food and legal aid. These countries have also relaxed their usual border procedures, including COVID-19 testing requirements.
PERSONAL APPEAL OF THE POPE FOR PEACE
The pope broke protocol with an in-person visit Friday to the Russian embassy to “express concern over the war” in Ukraine.
Pope Francis’ extraordinary gesture was seen as a sign of his anger at Russia’s actions and his willingness to issue a personal call for an end to hostilities.
The pope traveled to and from the embassy in a small white car, with Vatican officials saying they were unaware of any previous such papal initiative.
THE NIGHTMARE OF NUCLEAR WAR REVISITED
Reigniting Cold War fears of a nuclear confrontation, Putin warned in a speech that he had the weapons available if anyone dared to use military means to try to prevent his takeover of Ukraine.
Whether an empty threat or not, Putin’s words raised the specter of nuclear war – by accident or miscalculation.
The Russian president said in a speech Thursday morning that despite “the loss of a considerable part of its capabilities after the fall of the Soviet Union”, Russia remains “one of the most powerful nuclear states” and possesses ” a certain advantage in several advanced technologies”. weapons.”
MONEY PROMISES FOR UKRAINE
The UN plans to seek more than $1 billion in donations for humanitarian aid in Ukraine over the next three months, the UN’s humanitarian aid chief said on Friday.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the EU had decided on “unprecedented” economic aid of 1.5 billion euros ($1.68 billion) to Ukraine.
TURN THE SCREWS ON RUSSIA
The West has withdrawn a military option in Ukraine, but world leaders – with the exception of Moscow’s ally China – are preparing measures to harm Russia’s economy and its leaders, including Putin. -same.
The United States, Britain, Canada and the European Union said on Friday they would sanction Putin and Lavrov, his foreign minister. The EU unanimously agreed to freeze their assets.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said US sanctions will include a travel ban.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the sanctions showed the West’s “utter helplessness”. “Who are you going to talk to? … A nuclear power, a great country; who did you decide to play with? Zakharova said in televised remarks.
EU ministers said further sanctions were still possible, including the expulsion of Russia from SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions.
Asian and Pacific countries have joined the West in taking punitive measures against Russia, including export controls aimed at depriving its industries and military of semiconductors and other products of high technology.
In retaliation for Britain’s ban on Aeroflot flights, Russia’s civil aviation authority banned British flights to and over Russia from Friday.
Canada’s largest province is removing all Russian vodka from government-owned liquor stores, Ontario’s finance minister has said. Quebec plans to ban Russian alcohol.
The Council of Europe has also suspended Russia from the main human rights organization on the continent.
And in pop culture, the hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest also banned Russia from the May final in Turin, Italy.
THE SPORTS WORLD TURNS BACK
Russia was stripped of hosting the Champions League final by UEFA with Paris replacing St Petersburg, and Formula 1 scrapped this season’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in September.
The flagship final of the European men’s football season will still take place on May 28 but at the 80,000-seat Stade de France.
The International Ski Federation has announced that Russia will no longer stage its World Cup events this winter, and the European Curling Championships scheduled for November in Perm, Russia, will also be moved, the international sports governing body.
The International Tennis Federation has also indefinitely canceled all events taking place in Russia.