The fight for Kyiv: Russian forces enter Ukrainian capital

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The fight for Kyiv: Russian forces enter Ukrainian capital



The fight for Kyiv: Russian forces enter Ukrainian capital

The fight for Kyiv: Russian forces enter Ukrainian capital

Tense atmosphere in city threatened from north-west and east in what appears to be a lightning attack

Russian forces have entered Kyiv and were threatening the Ukrainian capital from the north-west and east in a lightning attack apparently aimed at seizing the city.

The defence ministry in Moscow claimed its forces had taken control of the strategic Hostomel airfield to the north-west after a day of fighting, while Russian tanks were filmed by locals in the Obolon suburb about six miles north of the city centre in the morning.

Gunfire could be also heard close to St Sophia Cathedral, reporters said, creating an increasingly tense atmosphere in the capital, which many expected would have been better defended given its obvious strategic significance.

Konrad Muzyka, the president of Rochan Consulting, said the “situation does look dire at the moment” particularly regarding Kyiv. “It appears that the main goal is to take Kyiv, break the C2 [command and control], and ‘decapitate’ the political leadership.”

Earlier on Friday, Ukraine had said it had retaken the Hostomel airbase north-west of the city, which was the target of a dramatic helicopter assault by the Russian 31st guards air assault brigade on Thursday afternoon.

But it was far from clear that was definitive, and uncertainty grew as Ukraine’s defence ministry warned earlier on Friday morning there were Russian forces in north-western Kyiv suburbs to the south of the base preparing to attack the city.

One of the areas through which Russian forces have been trying to advance in their assault on Kyiv has been through the north-western suburbs around Vorzel, Buch and Irpen. In the early afternoon, Russia claimed it had control of the capital from the west. This footage shows an armoured vehicle in the north-west on Friday morning:

During the fighting on Friday, Ukrainian officials claimed that a kindergarten in Vorzel where 50 children were sheltering was hit by Russian fire, although without inflicting any casualties.

Nevertheless, Ukraine’s military said on Friday morning that the damage sustained by the strategic airfield because of the fighting meant that Russian paratroopers had to land at Gomel, in Belarus, suggesting Moscow’s efforts had been partly repulsed.

Kyiv authorities warned locals in the Obolon district to stay off the streets because “active hostilities” were approaching – suggesting there could be an impending counterattack.

Earlier in the morning, Ukraine’s armed forces urged residents of the district not to leave their homes, and to “make Molotov cocktails” or petrol bombs, while the defence ministry said it had distributed 18,000 assault rifles in the capital.

Ukraine’s military also warned that a group of Russian spies and saboteurs was seen in a district of Kyiv about 3 miles (5km) north of the city centre. Video posted online by an interior ministry adviser apparently showed dead Russian saboteurs who had captured Ukrainian military vehicles and switched uniforms.

Windows were blasted out of a 10-storey apartment block near Kyiv’s main airport, where a 2-metre crater filled with rubble showed where a shell had struck before dawn. A policeman said people were injured there but not killed.

Pressure was also intensifying around Chernihiv, about 90 miles north-east of Kyiv, Ukraine’s military said, with Russian forces trying to bypass the city and head to the capital down the E95 road to Kozelec and ultimately Kyiv’s eastern suburbs.

Further east, about 125 miles from the capital, Ukraine’s military admitted on Friday morning that the city of Konotop had been lost to Russian forces. Boryspil, the capital’s main civilian airport, lies to the east of the capital.

The speed of the Russian advance, despite the best efforts of Ukraine’s military, caught many by surprise as Russian military forces converged on Kyiv from the north, east and west.

Early on Friday morning, one resident who had evacuated from Kyiv’s city centre described hearing fighting close to the main road connecting Zhytomyr in the west to the capital and reports that Russian forces were trying to infiltrate from that direction.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said that 137 people including 10 military officers, had been killed. An adviser said about 400 Russian forces had died, while the British said the figure was 450. Moscow has given no casualty count. The death toll could not be independently verified.

Ukraine’s forces were believed to be holding firm in the in eastern Donbas region, according to Rochan Consulting, while the eastern city of Kharkiv, which has a population of more than 1 million, was gradually being surrounded.

In the south, fighting was reported to be continuing around Kherson on the Dnieper River and in Melitopol. Video circulated showing large numbers of what appeared to be Russian Spetsnaz special forces massing outside a Ukrainian SBU intelligence building in Melitopol.

Fighting was also taking place around Mariupol, further east, and close to the line of control with the pro-Russian separatist statelets, its mayor said at lunchtime, as Moscow’s forces attempted to create a land corridor to occupied Crimea.

The situation in the rest of the country remained more fluid. A resident in the southern Black Sea port of Odesa said that while there had been Russian strikes in the south of the city the north remained calm.

Maryna who lives in Odesa, described the situation in the Black Sea port city.

“I live in Odesa in Kotovsky settlement on the northern edge of the city. There are not many explosions where I am. It’s a narrow, long town along the coast and I’m in the north whereas most of the military units are in the south.

“The only thing near me is a training area which I can usually hear and it is quiet. One of the strikes yesterday hit a residential area called 411 Battery. It’s a historic area named after the gun battery that defended Odesa in world war two but now it is residential.

“People in Odesa are mainly staying indoors. The shops are open but people are too scared to go out and yesterday people bought all the bread because they were worried it would run out.”

In Sumy, the main city in the Sumy region, and 125 miles from the Russian border, Russian forces were in control of the city, with residents saying that armour was visible patrolling in the streets.

Sasha, 33, a vet who lives in Sumy, the main city in the Sumy region, said: “I live not far from the artillery training school which is where there was fighting yesterday when the Russians came. “I have elderly parents and a small child, so we think it’s best to stay.

“All the traffic in the city has stopped and there is Russian armour in the streets. If the citizens don’t shoot at the Russians, they don’t shoot back. They arrived before lunchtime yesterday which is when we heard the shooting. It’s quiet now. So far it is only Russian soldiers and they are not making any proclamations.”

“We’ve also heard that the Russians have taken Okhtyrka which is 70km from here and further west. They have put up the Russian flag.