Russian forces tighten their grip on Kiev in an attempt to overthrow the government | Russia
Russian forces tightened their grip on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and carried out amphibious assaults on the Sea of Azov coast in a bid to overthrow the government.
Almost exactly 30 years after the devastating siege of Sarajevo, another major European capital came under heavy shelling from shells hitting apartment buildings, driving up the civilian death toll.
After the second day of the invasion, it was clear that it was being fiercely resisted, but also that Russia still had a lot more military might to unleash on its neighbor.
The Ukrainians are preparing a final defense of their capital, with barricades, and calling on civilians to arm themselves with molotov cocktails.
According to US estimates, Russia fired 200 ballistic and cruise missiles at Ukraine, hitting mostly military targets but some landing in residential areas.
US defense officials said the Russian offensive faced stronger resistance than its commanders had anticipated. They had so far failed to establish uncontested air superiority, for example. But the United States estimates that Moscow has committed only a third of the attack force it has amassed around Ukraine’s borders in recent months.
According to the Pentagon, 10 amphibious landing ships unloaded thousands of naval infantry west of Mariupol, potentially cutting off the port city.
In a televised address marked by the extreme rhetoric that accompanied the invasion, Vladimir Putin described the Kiev government as “terrorists” and “a gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy released a video of himself and his aides outside the presidential office to counter Russian media rumors that he had fled.
“We are here. We are in Kyiv. We are defending Ukraine.
Western intelligence agencies have predicted that Zelenskiy and his senior officials could be targeted for assassination as Russia seeks to decapitate the country.
“It’s clear the kind of vitriol coming from Russia about the Ukrainian leadership, so I think we can expect them to be targets for Russian forces entering the city,” a Western official said.
The tremors of the invasion continued to reverberate around the world on Friday, demonstrating the possibility that the already disastrous conflict will spill over Ukraine’s borders.
NATO activated its rapid reaction force which had been established as an emergency in case of a serious threat on the alliance flank.
The Kremlin has also issued a direct threat against Finland and Sweden, which openly plan to join NATO following the invasion.
“Their NATO membership can have detrimental consequences…and face military and political consequences,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
In Kiev, barricades were erected around the city as its defenders set up positions on bridges prepared for an assault, more Russian troops converged on the city from three directions and Putin urged the Ukrainian army to take the power of the elected government and bow to its demand to disarm and exclude NATO membership.
Flows of people – mostly women and children, since Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 are not allowed to leave – crossed Hungary, Poland and Romania, with queues of 15 hours reported at border points. Guards fired warning shots to prevent a stampede at Kyiv’s central station as thousands of people tried to make their way to evacuation trains.
Ukrainian officials said nearly 3,000 Russian servicemen had been killed so far, but warned that advanced enemy units had already entered Obolonskyi district in northern Kyiv. The Ministry of Defense advised residents to “prepare molotov cocktails”.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the city had entered “a defensive phase”. He added: “Shots and explosions are ringing out…and saboteurs have already entered Kiev. The enemy wants to bring the capital to its knees and destroy us.
In video footage purporting to be from southern Ukraine, near Crimea, a Ukrainian civilian was shown standing in front of an advancing Russian military convoy, in scenes reminiscent of Tiananmen Square in 1989, in which a lone Chinese protester stood stood in front of a tank, halting its advance.
US officials estimated that Russia launched more than 200 missiles at Ukraine, including ballistic and cruise weapons. They said most were aimed at military targets, but some landed in residential areas and it was unclear whether this was accidental or deliberate.
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan has recalled he has the power to investigate war crimes in Ukraine and Amnesty International has accused the Russian military of ‘indiscriminate attacks’ after investigating several incidents, including a missile strike on a hospital. building in Vuhledar, eastern Ukraine, which killed four civilians and injured 10 others.
In another sign of the war’s potential to spin out of control, two other merchant ships were hit by errant missile strikes in the Black Sea, a Japanese bulk carrier and a Moldovan chemical tanker.
Zelenskiy earlier on Friday accused Europe of not being tough or quick enough to sanction Russia sooner, urging citizens to compel their governments to do more to stop Putin’s invasion.
“Europe has enough strength to stop this aggression,” he said. “We have to act quickly. We demand an effective reaction against the Russian Federation. Sanctions need to be further strengthened.
Ukraine’s government has continued its calls for the EU to tighten its sanctions, expressing bitter disappointment that steps taken so far have not included barring Russia from the global Swift electronic payments system.
Germany’s finance ministry said on Friday it was open to the proposal to include Swift sanctions, while the EU and UK moved to freeze overseas assets of Putin and his minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov.
The move was largely symbolic, as the Russian president is not expected to have identifiable personal wealth abroad.
In Kiev, Zelenskiy said in a televised address that Putin was targeting civilian and military sites. “They say civilian objects are not a target for them. This is a lie; they do not distinguish in which areas to operate,” he said, promising to continue to defend his country and criticizing world leaders for “looking from afar”.
In Russia, thousands of people defied strict anti-protest legislation to hold anti-war rallies across the country on Thursday night. OVD-Info, which monitors arrests during opposition protests, said more than 1,800 people in 59 cities had been arrested.
Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull, UK’s head of defense intelligence, issued a statement to reporters on the state of the fighting in Ukraine: “Russian forces continue to advance in two axes towards Kyiv. Their goal is to encircle the capital, ensure population control and change the regime. Russia continued to carry out strikes throughout Ukraine. Overnight, Russia launched a concerted series of strikes on targets in Kyiv. Rocket launchers were used in Chernihiv and Kharkiv. The Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to offer strong resistance, focusing on the defense of key cities across Ukraine.