Explosions over Kyiv as Ukraine faces Russian advance

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Explosions over Kyiv as Ukraine faces Russian advance



Masses of people flee as explosions and gunfire rocked major Ukrainian cities

Missiles pounded the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Friday as Russian forces pressed their advance and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with the international community to do more, saying the sanctions announced so far were not enough.

Air raid sirens wailed over the city of three million people, where some were sheltering in underground metro stations, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion that has shocked the world. A Ukrainian official said a Russian plane had been shot down and crashed into a building.

A senior Ukrainian official said Russian forces would enter areas just outside of Kyiv later on Friday and that Ukrainian troops were defending positions on four fronts, despite being outnumbered.

An estimated 100,000 people fled as explosions and gunfire rocked major cities in Ukraine. Dozens have been reported killed. Russian troops seized Chornobyl, the former nuclear power plant north of Kyiv, as they advanced on the city from Belarus.

A senior Ukrainian defence official warned that Russian forces would enter areas just outside the capital later on Friday after officials said Kyiv and other locations had been struck by Russian missiles in the early hours of the morning. Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar added that Ukrainian army units were defending positions on four fronts despite being outnumbered.

U.S. and Ukrainian officials say Russia aims to capture Kyiv and topple the government, which Putin regards as a puppet of the United States.

'Stop the enemy wherever you see it'

Zelensky, who in a statement posted online talked about the terrible explosions over Kyiv, said he understood Russian troops were coming for him but vowed to stay in the city.

"[The] enemy has marked me down as the No. 1 target," Zelensky said in a video message. "My family is the No. 2 target. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state.

"I will stay in the capital. My family is also in Ukraine."

In his remarks, the Ukrainian leader warned that military and civilians were under Russian attack. He urged citizens to help one another and "stop the enemy wherever you see it."

Ukraine, he said, is defending its country alone with powerful forces watching from a distance.

"Did yesterday's sanctions convince Russia? We hear in our sky and see on our earth that this is not enough," the president said. "Foreign troops are still trying to become more active in our territory."

Asked if he was worried about Zelensky's safety, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS: "To the best of my knowledge, President Zelensky remains in Ukraine at his post, and of course we're concerned for the safety of all of our friends in Ukraine — government officials and others."

Russia launched its invasion by land, air and sea on Thursday following a declaration of war by Putin, in the biggest attack on a European state since the Second World War.

Putin says Russia is carrying out "a special military operation" to stop the Ukrainian government from committing "genocide" — an accusation the West calls a baseless fabrication. He says Ukraine is an illegitimate state whose lands historically belong to Russia, a view which Ukrainians see as an attempt to erase their more than 1,000 year history.

Putin's full aims remain obscure. He has said he does not plan a military occupation, only to disarm Ukraine and remove its leaders. But having told Ukrainians their state is illegitimate, it is hard to see how he could simply impose a new leader and withdraw. Russia has floated no name of a figure it would regard as acceptable and none has come forward.

Britain said Moscow's aim was to conquer all of Ukraine, and its military had failed to meet its main objectives on the first day because it failed to anticipate Ukrainians would resist.

"It's definitely our view that the Russians intend to invade the whole of Ukraine," Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News.

"Contrary to great Russian claims — and indeed President Putin's sort of vision that somehow the Ukrainians would be liberated and would be flocking to his cause — he's got that completely wrong, and the Russian army has failed to deliver, on Day 1, its main objective."

    A democratic nation of 44 million people, Ukraine voted for independence at the fall of the Soviet Union and has recently stepped up efforts to join the NATO military alliance and the European Union, aspirations that infuriate Moscow.

    Russia faces sweeping sanctions, trade limits

    Western countries unveiled financial sanctions on Moscow billed as far stronger than earlier measures, including blacklisting its banks and banning technology imports. However, they stopped short of forcing Russia out of the SWIFT system for international bank payments, drawing strong words from Kyiv, which says the most serious steps should be taken now.

    The UN Security Council will vote on Friday on a draft resolution that would condemn the invasion and require Russia's immediate withdrawal, though Russia is certain to veto it.

    China, which signed a friendship treaty with Russia three weeks ago, has refused to describe Moscow's actions as an invasion.

    Russia has prepared a package of retaliatory sanctions, the TASS news agency reported.

    Russia is one of the world's biggest energy producers, and both it and Ukraine are among the top exporters of grain. War and sanctions will disrupt economies. Oil and grain prices have soared. Share markets around the world, many of which plunged on Thursday at news of the outbreak of war, were mainly rebounding on Friday.

    What's happening on the ground?

    The situation on the ground is changing rapidly as Russian forces advance from several directions. But here's a glimpse at what's happening in some major centres as the fight in Ukraine moves into its second day.

    Kyiv, the capital city

    "Horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. "Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941, when it was attacked by Nazi Germany."

    Ukrainian forces downed an enemy aircraft over Kyiv early on Friday, which then crashed into a residential building and set it ablaze, said Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister. It was unclear whether the aircraft was manned or whether it could be a missile. Kyiv municipal authorities said at least eight people were injured when the object crashed into an apartment block.

    The violence forced many to seek safety underground, with people moving into metro networks and basements in search of safety from air assaults.

    A person walks around the wreckage of an unidentified aircraft that crashed into a house in a residential area in Kyiv on Friday. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)
    Ukrainian servicemen walk by fragments of a downed aircraft seen in Kyiv on Friday. It was unclear whether the aircraft was manned or whether it could be a missile. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/The Associated Press)
    People rest in the Kyiv subway, using it as a bomb shelter, on Thursday. (Emilio Morenatti/The Associated Press)

    Western border communities

    In the west of Ukraine, people are moving to border crossings as they try to enter neighbouring countries, including Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.

    People walk with their belongings at the Astei-Beregsurány border crossing as they flee Ukraine on Friday in Beregsurány, Hungary. Long queues have already formed at the Hungarian-Ukrainian border crossings after Russia began its attack. (Janos Kummer/Getty Images)
    A man holding a child reacts in Ubla, Slovakia, as they arrive from Ukraine on Friday. (Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters)
    People hug each other in Ubla, as they arrive from Ukraine to Slovakia. (Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters)

    Eastern communities

    As Russian troops continued pressing their offensive Friday, intense fighting also raged in the country's east. Russian troops entered the city of Sumy, near the border with Russia, that sits on a highway leading to Kyiv from the east. The regional governor, Dmytro Zhivitsky, said Ukrainian forces fought Russian troops in the city overnight, but other Russian convoys kept rolling west toward the Ukrainian capital.

    "Military vehicles from Sumy are moving toward Kyiv," Zhivitsky said. "Much equipment has passed through and is heading directly to the west."

    Zhivitsky added that another northeastern city, Konotop, also came under siege. He urged residents of the region to fight the Russian forces.

    Donetsk and Luhansk

    Humanitarian issues are a pressing concern as fighting intensifies in Ukraine, including in the country's restive east, where Ukrainian forces have been locked in conflict with Russian-backed separatists for nearly eight years. UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said $20 million US from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund will support emergency operations along the contact line in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk, and in other areas of the country, and will "help with health care, shelter, food, and water and sanitation to the most vulnerable people affected by the conflict."

    Locals said this school building, seen Friday, was damaged by recent shelling in the separatist-controlled town of Horlivka, in the Donetsk region in Eastern Ukraine. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)
    Families line up to board a Kyiv-bound train at a station in Severodonetsk, in the Donetsk region on Thursday. (Ricard Garcia Vilanova/The Associated Press)
    Rescuers help a local resident after shelling in the town of Starobilsk, in the Luhansk region in Eastern Ukraine, in this handout picture released Friday. (Ukrainian State Emergency Service/Reuters)