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Zelensky fires warning shot to Putin as noose tightens around Kyiv


UKRAINE WAR: LATEST 

  • Vladimir Putin urges Ukrainian military to overthrow the country’s leadership and negotiate peace 
  • Ukraine and Russia discuss a place and time for talks
  • Russia vetoes draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would have deplored Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine – China abstained from the vote 
  • President Joe Biden instructs the U.S. State Department to release $350 million in military aid to Ukraine 
  • Canada, the US, Britain and the European Union said they could act to exclude Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system
  • Ukraine said more than 1,000 Russian soldiers had been killed – Russia did not release casualty figures
  • NATO allies will provide more weapons to Ukraine and deploy more forces to the eastern part of the alliance
  • The conflict could drive up to five million people abroad
  • Britain’s defence ministry said the bulk of Russian forces involved in the advance on Kyiv were now 30 km (19 miles) from the city centre 

Defiant president Volodmyr Zelensky today said his country’s army had successfully repelled Russian forces advancing on Kyiv and was in control of the capital after a night of brutal fighting that saw terrified residents seeking shelter underground.

In a video message to the besieged nation, Zelensky accused the Kremlin of attempting to seize Kyiv, overthrow the government and install a ‘puppet’ regime ‘like in Donetsk’, one of two separatist regions which warmonger Vladimir Putin officially recognised before launching an all-out invasion. 

Declaring ‘we broke their idea’, he added: ‘The fights are going on in many cities and areas of our state. But we know that we are protecting the country, the land, the future of our children. Kyiv and key cities around the capital are controlled by our army.

‘The [Russian] occupants wanted to block the centre of our state and put here their marionette, like in Donetsk. We broke their idea.’

It comes after a high-rise apartment block in Kyiv was hit by a devastating missile this morning, while Ukraine’s civilian death toll hit 198. 

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said the bulk of Russian forces involved in the advance on Kyiv were now 30 km (19 miles) from the city centre.

‘Russia has yet to gain control of the airspace over Ukraine greatly reducing the effectiveness of the Russian Air Force,’ the defence ministry said in an intelligence update posted on Twitter.

As Ukrainian forces said they had fought off a Russian attack on their capital today, Zelensky vowed to stay and fight on in an impassioned video to his people.

‘I am here. We will not lay down any weapons. We will defend our state, because our weapons are our truth,’ he said outside his office, denouncing as disinformation claims that he had surrendered or fled.

Wearing military garb the president added: ‘A lot of fake information has appeared on the internet saying that I allegedly called on our army to lay down its arms and that evacuation is underway.

‘Our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children and we will protect all of this. This is what I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine!’.

Shocking footage today showed a missile ripping apart a tower block near Zhuliany airport, while CCTV from inside also shows the extent of the damage after the site was hit.

Images show the building with a hole covering at least five floors blasted into the side and rubble strewn across the street below. 

There have been no fatalities recorded from the attack, however, according to an adviser to the interior minister. Anton Herashchenko also said Russia was lying about not shelling civilian infrastructure, claiming at least 40 such sites had been hit.  

Some 198 civilians, including three children, have been killed so far by Russian forces attacking the pro-Western country, Ukraine’s health minister said today, while 1,115 – including 33 children – have been wounded.

It comes as a barrage of cruise missiles have also been launched by Russian forces against Ukrainian military facilities.  

Claims that Russia has taken full control of the southern city of Melitopol, however, were dismissed this morning by the UK’s armed forces minister James Heappey.  

Meanwhile, the mayor of a city south of the capital says the country’s military has fended off a Russian attempt to take control of a military air base. 

Ukraine’s president Volodmyr Zelensky today claimed the country’s army has successfully repelled Russian forces advancing on Kyiv and is in control of the capital after a night of brutal fighting that saw terrified residents seeking shelter underground

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

A Ukrainian soldier stands guard behind tires in Kyiv during Russia's military intervention in Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier stands guard behind tires in Kyiv during Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine

A view shows an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

A view shows an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

People take cover as an air-raid siren sounds, near an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv

People take cover as an air-raid siren sounds, near an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, posted a video on social media on Saturday morning insisting that his country would fight on

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, posted a video on social media on Saturday morning insisting that his country would fight on

Emergency services said the number of victims was 'being specified' and that an evacuation was underway

Emergency services said the number of victims was ‘being specified’ and that an evacuation was underway

The body of a Tochka-U short-range ballistic missile lies near a local oil terminal after shelling in Kirovsky District, Donetsk

The body of a Tochka-U short-range ballistic missile lies near a local oil terminal after shelling in Kirovsky District, Donetsk

A view shows an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

A view shows an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

Smoke could then be seen billowing from the tower block following the devastating attack earlier this morning

Smoke could then be seen billowing from the tower block following the devastating attack earlier this morning

Firefighters extinguish fire in a high-rise apartment block which was hit by recent shelling in Kyiv on Saturday

Firefighters extinguish fire in a high-rise apartment block which was hit by recent shelling in Kyiv on Saturday

CCTV images show the inside of the Kyiv apartment block moments before it was attacked by a Russian missile

CCTV images show the inside of the Kyiv apartment block moments before it was attacked by a Russian missile

Seconds later the devastation can be seen as the window smashes and a plume of smoke billows through the room

Seconds later the devastation can be seen as the window smashes and a plume of smoke billows through the room

Natalia Balansynovych, mayor of Vasylkiv, about 25 miles south of Kyiv, said Russian airborne forces landed near the city overnight and tried to seize the base. She added that fierce fighting also raged in Vasylkiv’s central street.

She said Ukrainian forces repelled the Russian attacks, and the situation is now calm. Ms Balansynovych said there were heavy casualties, but did not give any numbers. 

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: ‘Yesterday I urged NATO and Nordic partners to do all they can to support Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

‘I am pleased even more allies have come forward with defensive and humanitarian aid. We must stand with the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and democracies everywhere.’

Yet even as Zelensky spoke, the Ukrainian interior ministry was warning Kyiv’s residents to shelter in place and not venture out onto the streets.

Ukraine’s armed forces on Saturday morning claimed 3,500 Russians had been killed overnight, and 200 taken prisoner. They said 14 Russian aircraft, eight helicopters, and 102 tanks had been seized.

Meanwhile, dozens of people were wounded in overnight fighting in Kyiv, city mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Saturday morning.

As of 6am local time, 35 people, including two children, had been wounded, he said. It is unclear whether he was referring only to civilians. Klitschko added there was currently no major Russian military presence in Kyiv, although he said saboteur groups were active.

Armed forces were engaged in a fierce battle for control of the city, with footage on social media showing explosions close to a metro station in the western center of the capital by the zoo; a battle ongoing for control of a thermal power plant to the north; and multiple reports suggesting fierce fighting 20 miles south, near a vital airbase.

In Kyiv, footage shared on social media showed a bombardment close to Beresteiska metro station, in the west of the city, which is near the zoo.  

More than 50 explosions and heavy machine gun fire were reported in the district of Shulyavka, near Beresteiska metro and the zoo, according to The Kyiv Independent. 

A bridge near the metro was blown up, according to reports. It was unclear whether the explosion was caused by artillery or by Ukrainian forces intent on stopping the Russian advance.

The district is under the control of the 101st Independent Security Brigade of the General Staff.

Terrified residents posted videos filmed from their apartments, with flashes of light and the sound of gunfire. One video shared on social media showed an apartment building glowing with red lights, which some speculated was to guide bombers or snipers. Others said the lights were to warn the military not to bomb them. 

The northern suburb of Troieshchyna was also coming under sustained attack for another night, as Russia tried to wrest control of the thermal power plant on the banks of the Dnieper river. Unconfirmed reports suggested dozens of Russians had been arrested. 

Meanwhile, satellite images show a huge queue of trucks and cars waiting in a traffic jam leaving Ukraine, near the Romanian border in Siret.

Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the military struck a range of installations with long-range Kalibr cruise missiles.

He said that since the start of Russia’s attack on Thursday, the military has hit 821 Ukrainian military facilities, including 14 air bases and 19 command facilities, and destroyed 24 air defence missile systems, 48 radars, seven warplanes, seven helicopters, nine drones, 87 tanks and eight military vessels.

In Sydney, several hundred people marched in heavy rain on Saturday chanting ‘Ukraine will prevail’ and demanding more action against Moscow, while protesters in Tokyo called for Russia to be expelled from the United Nations Security Council.

The fresh protests came as Russian and Ukrainian forces clashed in fighting for Ukraine’s capital and after Russia vetoed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would have deplored the Kremlin invasion of Ukraine.

From Tokyo through Warsaw and London to New York, thousands have protested in recent days against the invasion, Europe’s biggest security crisis in decades.

Draped in Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag and waving the country’s national banner, Sydney protesters also carried also signs condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to topple the Ukrainian government.

Some speakers demanded that the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison expands sanctions against Moscow and bans Russian citizens from visiting Australia, while others called for the NATO to step into the conflict.

‘I want more economic sanctions on Russia, I want military help for Ukraine,’ said Katarina, a protester who gave only her first name. ‘I want more action, more concrete action and less words. It’s too late for diplomacy right now.’

Another protester, Mogdan, called on the Australian government to lead other countries in attempts to stop Putin.

‘It’s World War Three, it’s a war not only on Ukraine, it’s a war on everyone,’ the protester said.

A smaller protest took place in front of the Russian embassy in Canberra, Australia’s capital, with people carrying signs ‘Putin off Ukraine’ and ‘Stop War’.

Several hundred Russian, Ukrainian and Japanese protesters gathered in the busy Shibuya shopping district in central Tokyo, many with their children and holding Ukrainian flags, chanting ‘stop the war’ and ‘stop Putin’ in Japanese and English.

‘I just want to say, ‘Putin stop this, regain your sanity’,’ said Hiroshi Sawada, a 58-year-old musician who attended the rally in Tokyo.

A 28-year-old Russian worker who asked not to be named said none of the people she knew from her home country supported the war. ‘We hate what is just happening now in our country,’ she said.

Australia and Japan joined the United States, the European Union, and many other countries in imposing a series of rounds of sanctions against Russian politicians, businesses, and elite citizens over the invasion.

Images show the tower block with a hole covering at least five floors blasted into the side and rubble strewn across the street below

Images show the tower block with a hole covering at least five floors blasted into the side and rubble strewn across the street below

Firefighters look on after an apartment building in Kyiv was devastated by a missile attack on Saturday morning

Firefighters look on after an apartment building in Kyiv was devastated by a missile attack on Saturday morning

Firefighters extinguish fire in an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in the Ukrainian capital this morning

Firefighters extinguish fire in an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in the Ukrainian capital this morning

Nataliya Ableyeva, 58, comforts a child who was handed over to her at the Ukrainian side of the border by a father who was not allowed to cross

Nataliya Ableyeva, 58, comforts a child who was handed over to her at the Ukrainian side of the border by a father who was not allowed to cross

Anna Semyuk, 33, hugs her son, after a stranger took her children across the border and kept them safe while fleeing from Ukraine and arriving in Hungary

Anna Semyuk, 33, hugs her son, after a stranger took her children across the border and kept them safe while fleeing from Ukraine and arriving in Hungary

Civilians are seen after an attack on a residential building during Russia's military intervention in Kyiv, Ukraine

Civilians are seen after an attack on a residential building during Russia’s military intervention in Kyiv, Ukraine

Medical specialists transport a wounded woman to an ambulance after recent shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday

Medical specialists transport a wounded woman to an ambulance after recent shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday

A firefighter works inside an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv earlier this morning

A firefighter works inside an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv earlier this morning

Firefighters extinguish fire in an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in the Ukrainian capital this morning

Firefighters extinguish fire in an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in the Ukrainian capital this morning

Ukrainian servicemen take cover as an air-raid siren sounds, near an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen take cover as an air-raid siren sounds, near an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv

Anna Semyuk, 33, hugs her children, after a stranger took them across the border and kept them safe while fleeing from Ukraine and arriving in Hungary

Anna Semyuk, 33, hugs her children, after a stranger took them across the border and kept them safe while fleeing from Ukraine and arriving in Hungary

Helga Tarasova hugs her daughter Kira Shapovalova as they wait in a underground shelter during bombing alert in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

Helga Tarasova hugs her daughter Kira Shapovalova as they wait in a underground shelter during bombing alert in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

Smoke and flame from a burning military truck in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

Smoke and flame from a burning military truck in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

Fire crews arrive at a local oil terminal after shelling in Kirovsky District. Tensions started heating up in Donbass

Fire crews arrive at a local oil terminal after shelling in Kirovsky District. Tensions started heating up in Donbass

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A civil defense man stands guard at a checkpoint in Kyiv, Ukraine after Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine's capital

A civil defense man stands guard at a checkpoint in Kyiv, Ukraine after Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine’s capital

Elsewhere, RT head Margarita Simonyan – seen as a leading Putin cheerleader – accused the Armed Forces of Ukraine of deploying Grads missile launchers in residential areas.

‘Only terrorists do this. This is a war crime. They are asking Putin: bomb our people,’ she said.

Wagner – a private mercenary army seen as having Kremlin links – indicated they would join the war in Ukraine.

‘We will do exactly the same to you, Ukraine, as what you’ve done to Donbas,’ said the group in a website post. We are against those who kill children, women and elderly.’

An appeal has been signed by more Russian doctors to Putin to stop the war. So far 350 have backed the call – but the number is rising fast.

‘The war will take so many lives, cripple so many destinies that we won’t be able to help however hard we try,’ they said.

‘And everyone will be screaming in pain, calling for their mother, in one and the same language.’

By 5:30am in Kyiv (10:30pm Eastern), Ukraine’s armed forces were claiming that the advance from the west had been repelled. 

But a CNN crew in Kyiv reported the sounds of heavy gunfire and what appeared to be anti-aircraft fire. 

Ukraine’s government said earlier on Friday night that they had shot down two Russian military transport planes carrying paratroopers on the outskirts of Kyiv. 

The first IL-76 came down near Vasylkiv, 20 miles south of Kyiv, the Ukrainian military said. 

The second IL-76 was shot down near Bila Tserkva, 50 miles south of the capital, Nexta reported. 

The fate of those onboard was unclear. The aircrafts – medium-range military transport aircraft, which first went into service in 1974 – can hold 150-225 fully-equipped soldiers, and is used to drop paratroopers into combat and resupply arms. 

The town of Vasylkiv appeared, at 3am local time (8pm Eastern), to be a focus of heavy fighting to the south.

Nexta, a local media network, reported that Russians ‘dressed in uniform of the Ukrainian national police’ attacked a checkpoint near Vasylkiv, shooting at Ukrainian soldiers.

‘Immediately after that a group of Russian military in a truck came in. There is a heavy fight going on,’ the site reported. 

A Ukrainian soldier is seen behind tires in Zhuliany neighborhood of Kyiv during Russia's military intervention in Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier is seen behind tires in Zhuliany neighborhood of Kyiv during Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.

Firefighters work by a damaged apartment building in Kyiv which was hit by a recent shelling during Russia's invasion

Firefighters work by a damaged apartment building in Kyiv which was hit by a recent shelling during Russia’s invasion

People leave the Zhuliany neighborhood in Kyiv where apartment blocks hit during Russia's invasion

People leave the Zhuliany neighborhood in Kyiv where apartment blocks hit during Russia’s invasion

Ukrainian servicemen look at a damaged residential building, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen look at a damaged residential building, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

People leave the Zhuliany neighborhood in Kyiv where apartment blocks hit during Russia's military intervention in Ukraine

People leave the Zhuliany neighborhood in Kyiv where apartment blocks hit during Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier stands guard behind tires in Kyiv during Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, on February 26, 2022

A Ukrainian soldier stands guard behind tires in Kyiv during Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, on February 26, 2022

Medics gather residential building in Kyiv which was hit by a recent shelling during Russia's military intervention in Ukraine

Medics gather residential building in Kyiv which was hit by a recent shelling during Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier investigates debris of a burnt military truck in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A Ukrainian soldier investigates debris of a burnt military truck in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A soldier's helmet with a bullet hole near debris of burning military trucks, in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine

A soldier’s helmet with a bullet hole near debris of burning military trucks, in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine

Locals stop a car at a checkpoint after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv

Locals stop a car at a checkpoint after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv

A Ukrainian soldier check vehicles in Zhuliany neighborhood of Kyiv during Russia's military intervention in Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier check vehicles in Zhuliany neighborhood of Kyiv during Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A Ukrainian soldier assembles grenades near burning military trucks, in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A Ukrainian soldier assembles grenades near burning military trucks, in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

An armored vehicle drives along in Zhuliany neighborhood of Kyiv during Russia's military intervention in Ukraine

An armored vehicle drives along in Zhuliany neighborhood of Kyiv during Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen walk by a damaged vehicle, at the site of fighting with Russian troops

Ukrainian servicemen walk by a damaged vehicle, at the site of fighting with Russian troops

Ukrainian first responders stand by a damaged vehicle, at the site of fighting with Russian troops

Ukrainian first responders stand by a damaged vehicle, at the site of fighting with Russian troops

A group of Ukrainian soldiers stand next to burning military trucks in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A group of Ukrainian soldiers stand next to burning military trucks in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers walk around debris of burning military trucks in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers walk around debris of burning military trucks in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A man inspects a broken window, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv

A man inspects a broken window, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv

Debris of a burning military truck on a street, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday after Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine's capital

Debris of a burning military truck on a street, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday after Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine’s capital

A Ukrainian serviceman walks by a damaged vehicle, at the site of a fighting with Russian troops after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

A Ukrainian serviceman walks by a damaged vehicle, at the site of a fighting with Russian troops after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

A soldier walks along Ukrainian armored vehicles blocking a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A soldier walks along Ukrainian armored vehicles blocking a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A Ukrainian servicemen walk by a damaged vehicle, at the site of a fighting with Russian troops, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

A Ukrainian servicemen walk by a damaged vehicle, at the site of a fighting with Russian troops, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier drinks water near grenades and debris of burning military trucks in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier drinks water near grenades and debris of burning military trucks in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine

Smoke is seen rising from buildings on February 26, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Explosions and gunfire were reported around Kyiv

Smoke is seen rising from buildings on February 26, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Explosions and gunfire were reported around Kyiv

A Ukrainian soldier walks past a burnt military truck in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A Ukrainian soldier walks past a burnt military truck in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

A local resident applies sticky tape to their window, at the site of night fighting with Russian troops, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

A local resident applies sticky tape to their window, at the site of night fighting with Russian troops, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a burnt military truck, in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a burnt military truck, in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers investigate debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday

Ukrainian soldiers investigate debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday

A Ukrainian fireman kneels by a damaged vehicle, at the site of a fighting with Russian troops after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

A Ukrainian fireman kneels by a damaged vehicle, at the site of a fighting with Russian troops after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen inspect near a damaged vehicle, at the site of a fighting with Russian troops

Ukrainian servicemen inspect near a damaged vehicle, at the site of a fighting with Russian troops

A man stands on the road near a high-rise apartment block which was hit by shelling in Kyiv on Saturday

A man stands on the road near a high-rise apartment block which was hit by shelling in Kyiv on Saturday

Debris of a burning military truck is seen on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning as Russian troops stormed towards the capital

Debris of a burning military truck is seen on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning as Russian troops stormed towards the capital

Ukrainian service members look for and collect unexploded shells after a fighting with Russian raiding group in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

Ukrainian service members look for and collect unexploded shells after a fighting with Russian raiding group in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv 

A Ukrainian service member holds a cup of tea as he patrol the empty road on west side of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

A Ukrainian service member holds a cup of tea as he patrol the empty road on west side of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

Ukrainian soldiers walk near debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

Ukrainian soldiers walk near debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

Ukrainian soldiers walk past debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday morning

Ukrainian soldiers walk past debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday morning

A satellite image shows queues of trucks and cars waiting in a traffic jam leaving Ukraine, near the Romanian border in Siret

A satellite image shows queues of trucks and cars waiting in a traffic jam leaving Ukraine, near the Romanian border in Siret

 

New satellite images showed the build up of troops to the north, in Belarus. The photos showed approximately 150 transport helicopters and ground troops 20 miles from the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, in southern Belarus.  

Not long after the first troop carrier was shot down, Ukraine’s State Agency for Special Communications said that Ukraine’s air defense had downed a Russian close-support aircraft and a helicopter in Donbas. 

A S-300 surface-to-air missile system destroyed a Russian Sukhoi Su-25 jet and an unspecified helicopter at midnight, they said.

The Russian Air Force currently operates around 250 Su-25s of all variants, and they are considered a staple of Russian ground-attack regiments.  

Opposition was growing in Russia to the carnage in Ukraine.

Communist MP Mikhail Matveev said: ‘I think that the war should be stopped immediately.

‘When I voted for the recognition of the DPR / LPR, I voted for peace, not for war.

‘For Russia to become a shield, so that the Donbas was not bombed, but not for Kyiv to be bombed.’ 

The onslaught came shortly after Ukraine’s president warned that the Russians intend to take Kyiv overnight, urging his countrymen to resist the expected onslaught as Western officials say the city appears surrounded. 

Zelensky, addressing the nation from a secret location in the capital, had a dire warning for his embattled and defiant people on Friday night.

‘Russia will try to break our resistance with all its might,’ he said, in a video posted to social media. 

‘Tonight the enemy will begin storming us. We need to withstand them!’ 

The United States has offered to evacuate Zelensky and his family, but the president is refusing to leave. On Thursday evening he told the country he was aware that he was ‘target number one’ for Russian assassins, but he and his family would not leave.

Smoke and flames are seen billowing over Kyiv's Peremohy Avenue in the west of the city, near the zoo, in the early hours of Saturday morning

Smoke and flames are seen billowing over Kyiv’s Peremohy Avenue in the west of the city, near the zoo, in the early hours of Saturday morning

The Ukrainian armed forces tweeted in the early hours of Saturday that the attack from the west, near the city's zoo, had been repressed, stating: 'Russian war criminals attacked one of the military units in Kyiv on Victory Avenue. The attack was repulsed'

The Ukrainian armed forces tweeted in the early hours of Saturday that the attack from the west, near the city’s zoo, had been repressed, stating: ‘Russian war criminals attacked one of the military units in Kyiv on Victory Avenue. The attack was repulsed’

Kyiv was in flames in the early hours of Saturday

Kyiv was in flames in the early hours of Saturday

Significant explosions were seen from Beresteiska metro station in the west of Kyiv

Significant explosions were seen from Beresteiska metro station in the west of Kyiv

Zelensky said that Chernihiv, Symy, Kharkiv, Donbas, and the south could also come under attack.

‘This night will be difficult, very difficult. But the morning will come,’ he said, according to The Kyiv Independent.

The 44-year-old referenced the Russian shelling of a kindergarten in Ukraine that killed at least one child and injured more, saying: ‘What kind of war is that? Were these children neo-Nazi? Or were they NATO soldiers?’ 

Vitali Klitschko, the former world champion heavyweight boxer who is now the mayor of Kyiv, said his city faces a ‘difficult night’. 

The British Ministry of Defence said they believe Kyiv, home to 1.4 million people, is close to being encircled as the Russians advance from all sides. 

Kyiv’s streets were empty on Friday night as people sought shelter in the city’s subway system. Many had fled, with buses and trains out of the city packed with people desperate to escape, and long lines of traffic choking the roads.  

In Cherkasy, home to 270,000 people 120 miles south of Kyiv, video on social media showed people in a basement on Friday night, resolutely singing the national anthem as they awaited the onslaught. 

In New York, on Friday night, a United Nations resolution that called on Moscow to halt its attack on Ukraine and withdraw its troops was vetoed by Russia – a permanent member of the Security Council. China, India and the UAE abstained.

Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, urged Ukraine’s troops on Friday to overthrow their own government and begin to negotiate with the Kremlin. 

‘It looks like it will be easier for us to come to terms with you than with this gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis,’ he said. 

There was little sign that Ukrainian generals were tempted, and Russia appears to have been somewhat taken aback at the scale of Ukrainian resistance and their ability to defend their country.

There was no doubt, however, that Russia’s overwhelming military superiority would soon come into effect.

With 900,000 troops, Russia has the fourth largest military in the world, and more than a decade of reforms and procurement has made it a dangerous opponent.

Ukraine has just 361,000 troops, although Zelensky on Thursday ordered a full mobilization of troops and banned men aged 18-60 from leaving the country, in readiness for a whole-nation effort. 

Ukraine’s highly-motivated infantry have modern weapons and protective gear, including N-LAW and Javelin anti-tank missiles provided by Britain and the US. 

With the Russian advance slower than expected, there were fears on Friday night that Putin could resort to high-power thermobaric weapons – dubbed the ‘father of all bombs’ – as brave Ukrainians resist his attempts to take control of Kyiv.

There are also concerns that units that are running behind schedule as they encounter stiff opposition could resort to indiscriminate shelling as a terror weapon.

Thermobaric weapons – also known as vacuum bombs – are high-powered explosive that use the atmosphere itself as part of the explosion. They are among the most powerful non-nuclear weapons ever developed.  

A thermobaric bomb dropped by the U.S. on Taliban in Afghanistan in 2017 weighed 21,600 pounds and left a crater more than 1,000 feet wide after it exploded six feet above the ground.

Thermobaric weapons were developed by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. In September 2007, Russia detonated the largest thermobaric weapon ever made, which created an explosion equivalent to 39.9 tons.

The U.S. version of the weapon reportedly costs over $16 million each.

‘My fear would be that if they don’t meet their timescale and objectives they would be indiscriminate in their use of violence,’ a Western official said. 

‘They don’t adhere to the same principles of necessity and proportionality and rule of law that Western forces do.’

The bomb works by using oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion, making it far deadlier than a conventional weapon.

While Russian special forces have reached the suburbs of Kyiv, the bulk of Russia’s heavy armor is believed to be still more than 30 miles away from the capital. 

Residents of Kyiv take cover in a bomb shelter in the early hours of Saturday

Residents of Kyiv take cover in a bomb shelter in the early hours of Saturday

Kyiv locals endured a terrifying and sleepless night on Friday, as the bombardment began at around 3am Saturday

Kyiv locals endured a terrifying and sleepless night on Friday, as the bombardment began at around 3am Saturday

Russian troops are now advancing on Kyiv from the north and east, with US intelligence saying the plan is to besiege the city, capture an airport, and fly in paratroopers who would then attack the capital. The aim would be to capture the government and force them to sign a peace treaty handing control of the country back to Russia or a Russian puppet

Russian troops are now advancing on Kyiv from the north and east, with US intelligence saying the plan is to besiege the city, capture an airport, and fly in paratroopers who would then attack the capital. The aim would be to capture the government and force them to sign a peace treaty handing control of the country back to Russia or a Russian puppet

Marine who blew himself up with a bridge to halt advancing Russian troops is made a ‘hero of Ukraine’ by President Zelensky

Volodmyr Zelensky has declared a marine who blew himself up along with a bridge near Crimea to repel advancing Russian forces a hero of Ukraine.

According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Vitaly Shakun was manning the Henichesk bridge in the Kherson region when Kremlin troops advanced and the battalion decided the only way to stop them was to blow up the bridge. 

It was mined, and Shakun had no time to get out. He texted them and told them he was going to blow up the bridge. Seconds later, they heard an explosion, a post on their Facebook page said. Shakun’s efforts dramatically slowed down the Russian advance and allowed his comrades to regroup and re-deploy, the Ukrainian General Staff added.

In an emotional speech to the besieged nation uploaded to Facebook, the Ukrainian President also accused Moscow of attempting to seize Kyiv, overthrow the government and install a ‘puppet’ regime ‘like in Donetsk’, one of two separatist regions which warmonger Vladimir Putin officially recognised before launching an all-out invasion.

Declaring ‘we derailed their idea’, Zelensky added: ‘The fights are going on in many cities and areas of our state. But we know that we are protecting the country, the land, the future of our children. Kyiv and key cities around the capital are controlled by our army.

‘The [Russian] occupants wanted to block the centre of our state and put here their marionette, like in Donetsk. We derailed their idea.’ 

Zelensky pushed for Ukraine’s urgent ascension to the European Union, saying he discussed the issue with the EU leaders. He also urged cutting Russia from the SWIFT international electronic bank payment system, noting that Germany and Hungary should show ‘courage’ and agree to the move.

Briefly switching to Russian, he claimed that thousands of Kremlin troops were killed and hundreds of those who were taken prisoner ‘can’t understand why they were sent into Ukraine to kill and get killed’.  

Thanking Russians who spoke out against the war and asked them to keep up the pressure on the Kremlin, he said: ‘The sooner you say to your government that this war should be immediately stopped, the more of your people will stay alive.’ 

After Ukrainian forces said they had fought off a Russian attack on their capital Saturday, Zelensky shot a selfie-style video outside his office to vow to stay and fight on. He also denounced as disinformation allegations that he had surrendered or fled. 

Wearing olive green military-style clothing and looking tired but determined, he added: ‘A lot of fake information has appeared on the internet saying that I allegedly called on our army to lay down its arms and that evacuation is underway. Our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children and we will protect all of this. This is what I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine!’.

As the video hit social media platforms, the sounds of explosions and air raid sirens could still be heard around the capital, as the Russian military said it had fired cruise missiles at Ukrainian military targets. 

In other developments: 

  • Putin urged Ukrainian military to overthrow the country’s leadership and negotiate peace;
  • Ukraine and Russia discussed a place and time for talks. The Kremlin accepted Kyiv’s offer to hold talks, but it appeared to be an effort to squeeze concessions out of the embattled Zelensky instead of a gesture towards a diplomatic solution;
  • Russia vetoes draft UN Security Council resolution that would have deplored Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. China abstained from the vote;
  • President Joe Biden instructed the US State Department to release $350million in military aid to Ukraine;
  • Canada, the US, Britain and the European Union said they could act to exclude Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system;
  • Ukraine said more than 1,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. Russia did not release casualty figures;
  • NATO allies will provide more weapons to Ukraine and deploy more forces to the eastern part of the alliance;
  • The conflict could drive up to 4million people abroad, the UN warned.
Volodmyr Zelensky has claimed that the country’s army has successfully repelled Russian forces advancing on Kyiv and is in control of the capital after a night of brutal fighting that saw terrified residents seeking shelter underground

Volodmyr Zelensky has claimed that the country’s army has successfully repelled Russian forces advancing on Kyiv and is in control of the capital after a night of brutal fighting that saw terrified residents seeking shelter underground

Vitaly Shakun was manning the Henichesk bridge in the Kherson region when Russians advanced

Vitaly Shakun was manning the Henichesk bridge in the Kherson region when Russians advanced

The Henichesk bridge in the Kherson region at the Crimean crossing which the Ukrainian forces said was a key area of defense. This image was shared by Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform on Thursday

The Henichesk bridge in the Kherson region at the Crimean crossing which the Ukrainian forces said was a key area of defense. This image was shared by Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform on Thursday 

A post on the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine's Facebook page detailed his heroic efforts

A post on the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s Facebook page detailed his heroic efforts 

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 26, 2022

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 26, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers take positions outside a military facility as two cars burn, in a street in Kyiv, February 26, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers take positions outside a military facility as two cars burn, in a street in Kyiv, February 26, 2022

As fighting persisted, Ukraine’s military reported shooting down an II-76 Russian transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles south of Kyiv, an account confirmed by a senior American intelligence official. It was unclear how many were on board, with transport planes able to carry up to 125 paratroopers

As fighting persisted, Ukraine’s military reported shooting down an II-76 Russian transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles south of Kyiv, an account confirmed by a senior American intelligence official. It was unclear how many were on board, with transport planes able to carry up to 125 paratroopers

Volodymyr Zelenskyy: Comic-turned-president forced to manage internal corruption, Covid-induced recession, and Russian invasion of the ex-Soviet republic 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the nation on a live TV broadcast in Kiev, Ukraine, February 22, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the nation on a live TV broadcast in Kiev, Ukraine, February 22, 2022

Before the nation of Ukraine turned to him for guidance and strength in the face of Russian aggression, Volodymyr Zelenskyy pursued a career in comedy and starred as president in TV show Servant of the People.

Born in Kryvyi Rih, a Russian-speaking region in south-east Ukraine, in January 1978, he obtained a degree in law from Kyiv National Economic University before his turn into acting.

Zelenskyy’s candidacy for the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election was originally regarded with bemusement by pundits. But as a political outsider who vowed to tackle corruption in Ukraine, he swiftly became a frontrunner in opinion polls for the election and won the poll with 73.2 per cent of the vote in the second round, beating rival Petro Poroshenko.

As President, Zelenskyy promoted unity between the Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking parts of the country. He also oversaw the lifting of legal immunity for members of Ukraine’s parliament, as well as the country’s response to the Covid pandemic and economic recession which followed.

His critics allege that he sought to centralise his personal political power by taking power away from the Ukrainian oligarchs. His government also shut down pro-Russian media in the country, and placed main opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk, who boasts of his personal ties to Putin, under house-arrest for alleged treason.

During the current crisis, Zelenskyy has appeared to blow hot and cold over the prospect of a Russian assault.

In a press conference before UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the country several weeks ago, Zelenskyy accused Western governments of creating ‘panic’ by repeatedly warning of an invasion.

Yet in a fiery speech at the Munich Security Conference last week, the Ukrainian President accused the West of ‘appeasing’ Putin.

Last night, the Ukrainian President appealed for a cease-fire and warned in a bleak statement that multiple cities were under attack.

He was urged to evacuate Kyiv at the behest of the US government but turned down the offer, according to a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation. The official quoted the president as saying that ‘the fight is here’ and that he needed anti-tank ammunition but ‘not a ride’. 

For their part, US defence officials believe the Russian offensive has encountered considerable resistance and is proceeding slower than Moscow had envisioned, though that could change quickly. 

As fighting persisted, Ukraine’s military reported shooting down an II-76 Russian transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles south of Kyiv, an account confirmed by a senior American intelligence official. It was unclear how many were on board, with transport planes able to carry up to 125 paratroopers.

A second Russian military transport plane was shot down near Bila Tserkva, 50 miles south of Kyiv, according to two American officials with direct knowledge of conditions on the ground in Ukraine who spoke to the Associated Press. The Russian military has not commented on either plane.

It remains unclear how many people overall have died so far. Ukrainian officials reported at least 137 deaths on their side from the first full day of fighting and claimed hundreds on the Russian one. Russian authorities released no casualty figures.

UN officials reported 25 civilian deaths, mostly from shelling and airstrikes, and said that 100,000 people were believed to have left their homes. They estimate that up to four million could flee if the fighting escalates.

Zelensky tweeted that he and US President Joe Biden spoke by phone and discussed ‘strengthening sanctions, concrete defence assistance and an anti-war coalition’.

Biden subsequently signed a memo clearing the way for the US to expedite up to $600million in emergency military assistance to the Ukrainian government, though it was not immediately clear how quickly the aid would flow.

Zelensky’s whereabouts were kept secret after he told European leaders in a call Thursday that he was Russia’s No 1 target – and that they might not see him again alive.

His office later released a video of him standing with senior aides outside the presidential office and saying that he and other government officials would stay in the capital.

He later appealed for cease-fire and warned in a bleak statement that multiple cities were under attack, but also posted a video just before 8am (6am London) to show he was still alive.

Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution telling Moscow to stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw all troops immediately.

The veto was expected, but the United States and its supporters argued that the effort would highlight Moscow’s international isolation.

The 11-1 vote – with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining – showed significant but not total opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller, militarily weaker neighbour.

The resolution’s failure paves the way for backers to call for a swift vote on a similar measure in the 193-member UN General Assembly, where there are no vetoes. There was no immediate timetable for a potential Assembly vote.

Spearheaded by the US and Albania, the Security Council resolution would have deplored Russia’s ‘aggression’ against Ukraine.

It called for Moscow immediately to pull out its military and stop using force against Ukraine, and to reverse a decision to recognise two separatist areas in eastern Ukraine as independent.

Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they can function as statements of world opinion.

In an Assembly meeting on Wednesday as Moscow’s invasion loomed, dozens of countries condemned Russia or expressed solidarity with Ukraine. Russia and ally Syria defended the Kremlin’s moves.

The US, Britain, the European Union and Canada yesterday doled out further sanctions on Russia on Friday, including against Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called it the ‘harshest’ package ever drawn up by the bloc.

London ordered all assets of both men frozen while the United States and Canada will also impose sanctions on the pair, with Washington including a travel ban. Russia said the sanctions against the pair were ‘a demonstration of the complete impotence of the foreign policy’ of the West. 

Ukrainian service members look for and collect unexploded shells after a fighting with Russian raiding group in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

Ukrainian service members look for and collect unexploded shells after a fighting with Russian raiding group in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv 

Smoke and flames are seen billowing over Kyiv's Peremohy Avenue in the west of the city, near the zoo, in the early hours of Saturday morning

Smoke and flames are seen billowing over Kyiv’s Peremohy Avenue in the west of the city, near the zoo, in the early hours of Saturday morning

Significant explosions were seen from Beresteiska metro station in the west of Kyiv

Significant explosions were seen from Beresteiska metro station in the west of Kyiv

Firefighters extinguish fire in a high-rise apartment block which was hit by recent shelling in Kyiv on Saturday

Firefighters extinguish fire in a high-rise apartment block which was hit by recent shelling in Kyiv on Saturday

A view shows an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

A view shows an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

China, UAE and India ABSTAIN from voting on United Nation’s Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 

China, India and the UAE abstained from voting on a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, in another sign of the widening of the diplomatic split between the West and the East over Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

Moscow, which has a permanent seat on the Security Council, vetoed the resolution demanding that the Kremlin stop its attack on Kyiv and withdraw all its troops.

Friday’s vote was 11-1, with China, India and the UAE abstaining. The US and her allies knew the resolution wouldn’t pass but argued it would highlight Russia’s international isolation. Instead, Beijing’s abstention is likely to be viewed among Western powers as another sign of the deepening ties between Putin and China’s tyrant Xi Jinping.

China has so far refused to call Russia’s action in Ukraine an ‘invasion’ or criticise the Kremlin despite intensifying assaults from Putin’s military. Beijing has also thrown Moscow another sanction-busting lifeline by lifting wheat import restrictions in an economic boost to Moscow despite sweeping sanctions imposed by the West in a bid to stop the war.

Imports had been restricted in recent months over concern over Russia’s measures to prevent plant diseases, particularly in agricultural crops. The move to keep the market open was reportedly part of a deal between Moscow and Beijing concluded earlier this month and is the latest sign of growing ties between the two states.

Fears are also growing in the West that Putin’s aggression could set an example to China, which has long sought a takeover of Taiwan.

Putin has now issued a chilling warning to its neighbours Sweden and Finland, saying both nations will face ‘military consequences’ if they join NATO. 

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that such a move in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would have ‘serious military-political repercussions’.

‘Finland and Sweden should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries and their accession to NATO can have detrimental consequences and face some military and political consequences,’ Zakharova said during a news briefing. The foreign ministry later reiterated the threat on Twitter.

‘We regard the Finnish government’s commitment to a military non-alignment policy as an important factor in ensuring security and stability in northern Europe,’ the department wrote. ‘Finland’s accession to @NATO would have serious military and political repercussions.’

Sweden and Finland both border Russia in the Arctic Circle. Putin is widely believed to have attacked the Ukraine after western nations mooted the idea of the country joining NATO, over fears it could end up with a US military presence on its doorstep. A similar move by Sweden or Finland could potentially provoke similar ire.

US intelligence officials are worried the Ukrainian capitol of Kyiv could fall by Saturday afternoon CNN reported, with Russian troops entering the city in the early hours of Saturday morning local time. 

Putin had earlier described the Ukrainian government as ‘terrorists’ and ‘a gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis’, urging the country’s military to topple its president, Volodmyr Zelensky.

The Ukrainian leader responded by vowing to stay and defend the capital.

‘We’re all here. Our military is here. Citizens in society are here. We’re all here defending our independence, our country, and it will stay this way,’ he said in the self-shot video from Kyiv.

A Kremlin spokesman said Putin was ready to send a delegation to Belarusian capital Minsk ‘for talks with a Ukrainian delegation’.

But the US swiftly dismissed the offer. After invading Ukraine, ‘now we see Moscow suggesting diplomacy take place at the barrel of a gun. This is not real diplomacy,’ State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

The UN said that more than 50,000 Ukrainians had fled the country in the past two days, calling for ‘safe unimpeded access’ for aid operations.

Streams of people in cars and on foot were seen crossing into Hungary, Poland and Romania while hundreds camped out in a train station in the Polish border city of Przemysl. About 100,000 people are believed to be internally displaced.

The US-led military alliance NATO said it was deploying its rapid response forces for the first time to bolster defences on the alliance’s eastern flank.

Putin reveals plan to dominate Europe beyond Ukraine: Neighbours Finland and Sweden are warned they will face ‘military and political consequences’ if they join NATO 

Russia has threatened its close Arctic neighbours Sweden and Finland with ‘military consequences’ if they join NATO.

It came as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine intensified today after a night of fighting in the capital of Kyiv especially.

Sweden and Finland are the two closest countries to Russia in the Arctic Circle.

‘Finland and Sweden should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries and their accession to NATO can have detrimental consequences and face some military and political consequences,’ foreign affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a news briefing.

The foreign ministry later reiterated the threat on Twitter.

‘We regard the Finnish government’s commitment to a military non-alignment policy as an important factor in ensuring security and stability in northern Europe,’ the department wrote. ‘Finland’s accession to NATO would have serious military and political repercussions.’

Vladimir Putin is widely believed to have attacked Ukraine after western nations mooted the idea of the country joining NATO, over fears it could end up with a US military presence on its doorstep.

Despite Zelensky calling on Western allies to expel Moscow from the SWIFT banking transfer system, numerous EU countries, including Germany, Hungary and Italy, have been reluctant over fears Russia could cut off gas supplies.

Facebook also unveiled new restrictions, demonetising Russian state media across its platform. 

Ukraine’s president emerged on Saturday morning defiant and determined after an onslaught on his capital city, declaring that Kyiv would resist the Russian advance.

Zelensky captioned the video, posted on Twitter, ‘Don’t believe the fakes’.

He condemned the false claims that he had surrendered and told his compatriots to lay down arms, and insisted his country would not give in to Russian aggression.

‘Recently, fake info was spread about me ordering our army to lay down arms and evacuate,’ Zelensky said. ‘It’s untrue. I’m here, we are not laying down, we will protect our state. This is our land, our country, our kids, and we will defend them.’

The 44-year-old, who has been widely praised for his courage in the face of Russia’s aggression, said on Thursday that he knew he was ‘target number one’ for Putin’s assassins.

‘There’s a lot of fake information online that I call on our army to lay down arms, and that there’s been an evacuation ordered,’ he said. ‘I’m here. We won’t lay down our arms. We will defend our state.’

On the third day of Putin’s war, Russian troops are pressing toward Ukraine’s capital after a night of explosions and street fighting that sent Kyiv residents seeking shelter underground. It was not clear how far Russian troops had advanced. Ukrainian officials reported some success in fending off assaults, but fighting persisted near the capital.

Russia’s Interfax news agency claimed Moscow had captured the southeastern city of Melitopol. Ukrainian officials were not immediately available to comment on the fate of Melitopol. If the Interfax report about Melitopol, which cited Russia’s defence ministry, is confirmed, it would be the first significant population centre that the Kremlin has seized.

Britain’s armed forces minister James Heappey cast doubt on the report, saying the city of some 150,000 people was still in Ukrainian hands and that fighting in the capital was so far confined to ‘very isolated pockets of Russian special forces and paratroopers’ and that ‘the main armoured columns approaching Kyiv are still some way off’.  

The Ukrainian health minister said 198 people have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded in the Russian offensive. Viktor Lyashko said there were three children among those killed. His statement was unclear whether the casualties included military and civilians. He said another 1,115 people, including 33 children, were wounded in the Russian invasion. Russian authorities released no casualty figures.   

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitchsko said a missile hit a high-rise building on the city’s southwestern outskirts. He posted an image showing a gaping hold in one side of the building that ravaged apartments on several floors. Firefighters said at least six civilians were injured, and 80 were evacuated. 

Ukraine’s military is far inferior to its Russian counterpart with an air defence system and air force dating back to the Soviet era. Few expect Kyiv to emerge victorious from what is almost certain to be a prolonged, bloody and vicious war. 

Ex-actor who’s inspired a nation… and shamed the West: How President Zelensky exemplifies the openness of Ukraine’s political system – in stark contrast to Russia where Putin is president-for-life

By EDWARD LUCAS for the DAILY MAIL

As his Ukraine teetered on the abyss, Volodymyr Zelensky delivered the speech of his life in the early hours of Thursday morning. He vowed unflinching resistance to Russian invaders.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine needed a war, he said. ‘Not a cold war, not a hot war. Not a hybrid one.

‘But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and lives of our children, we will defend ourselves.

‘When you attack us, you will see our faces. Not our backs, but our faces.’

They were stirring words. He even switched from Ukrainian to Russian, addressing the Russian people directly in the hope of piercing the toxic fog of propaganda spread by the Kremlin’s lie machine.

The Kremlin lie machine - headed by Vladimir Putin - has been claiming Ukraine is a Nazi-run puppet state of the West

The Kremlin lie machine – headed by Vladimir Putin – has been claiming Ukraine is a Nazi-run puppet state of the West 

Zelensky's only previous political role was in TV show 'Servant of the People' (pictured) playing a history teacher who is unintentionally elected as the president of Ukraine, after a video of his character giving an anti-corruption rant goes viral

Zelensky’s only previous political role was in TV show ‘Servant of the People’ (pictured) playing a history teacher who is unintentionally elected as the president of Ukraine, after a video of his character giving an anti-corruption rant goes viral

It depicts Ukraine as a Nazi-run puppet state of the West, bent on persecuting ethnic Russians in Ukraine and advancing Nato’s aggressive agenda. Too many believe it.

Volodymyr Zelensky’s mere presence in office dispels that vile slur. Not only is he a native Russian-speaker, who grew up in the country’s heavily Russified south- eastern region. He is Jewish.

Indeed, for a time Ukraine was the only country other than Israel to have both a Jewish head of state and a Jewish prime minister, the president’s ally Volodymyr Groysman.

And Zelensky exemplifies the openness of Ukraine’s political system – in stark contrast to Russia where Putin is president-for-life.

A former actor and political novice, his campaign for election started as a joke but struck a chord with millions of ordinary Ukrainians. In April 2019 he defeated the veteran incumbent and scandal-plagued president, Petro Poroshenko, with an astonishing 72 per cent of the vote.

Pictured: Ukrainian comedian, and Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky reacts at his campaign headquarters following a presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 21, 2019

Pictured: Ukrainian comedian, and Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky reacts at his campaign headquarters following a presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 21, 2019

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, pictured, is an native Russian speaker from the south-eastern region of the country. He is also Jewish - which dispels Putin's lie about Nazism

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, pictured, is an native Russian speaker from the south-eastern region of the country. He is also Jewish – which dispels Putin’s lie about Nazism

And this week Mr Zelensky’s unflinching rhetoric has again inspired his country – and shamed the West.

As the invaders cut Ukraine in two, closing on the capital, Kyiv, yesterday morning, the 44-year-old president, dressed in military style T-shirt, warned that Russian death squads were aiming to assassinate him and his family as a way of destroying ‘Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state’.

His wife, Olena, and their two children are at an undisclosed location in the country.

He also issued a mordant rebuke to the West for its inaction. ‘Who is willing to fight alongside us?’ he asked. Ukraine’s darkest hour is its leader’s most shining one.

And it marks an astonishing turnaround. Only a few weeks ago, Zelensky’s presidency was languishing, beset by allegations of sleaze and incompetence.

As the invaders cut Ukraine in two, closing on the capital, Kyiv, yesterday morning, the 44-year-old president, dressed in military style T-shirt, warned that Russian death squads were aiming to assassinate him and his family as a way of destroying ‘Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state’

As the invaders cut Ukraine in two, closing on the capital, Kyiv, yesterday morning, the 44-year-old president, dressed in military style T-shirt, warned that Russian death squads were aiming to assassinate him and his family as a way of destroying ‘Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state’

Pictured: Ukrainian comedian, and Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky reacts at his campaign headquarters following a presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 21, 2019

Pictured: Ukrainian comedian, and Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky reacts at his campaign headquarters following a presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 21, 2019

His attempts to reform Ukraine’s horrendous corruption had become bogged down.

His rating had plunged to a record low. His attempts to win international diplomatic support in the West were perceived to have failed, and so too had the attempt to defuse tensions with Russia.

His inner team combined inexperience and highly questionable judgment. It seemed that his presidency was fizzling as quickly as it flared.

For it is only four years ago that Zelensky, a law graduate who turned to showbusiness, was a middle-ranking actor in a popular political satire — in a British context somewhere between Monty Python and Yes Minister. Called Servant of the People, it starred him as a humble, harassed but idealistic schoolteacher whose televised rant about corruption goes viral, leading to his unexpected election as president.

This fanciful-seeming plot was trumped by reality.

Ukrainians were fed up with Mr Poroshenko, a confectionery tycoon whose patriotic rhetoric was undermined by persistent allegations of corruption.

They wanted change. Mr Zelensky’s platform – he called his party Servant of the People after his TV show – lambasting corruption and criticising narrow-minded Ukrainian nationalism – seemed to offer it. Yet the script soon soured as Zelensky’s promised sleaze- busting proved selective at best.

His main backer was Igor Kolomoisky, a tycoon accused by the FBI of involvement in a multi- billion-pound banking fraud.

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky was heaped with praise today after giving a moving speech in which he vowed Vladimir Putin's forces would 'see our faces, not our backs' if they chose to attack - hours before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of his country

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky was heaped with praise today after giving a moving speech in which he vowed Vladimir Putin’s forces would ‘see our faces, not our backs’ if they chose to attack – hours before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of his country

Mr Kolomoisky, known for displaying his ‘pet’ shark as a means of intimidating visitors, has always denied wrongdoing. Ukraine’s corruption – worse than Russia’s in many eyes – has deep roots.

Power and wealth are deeply intertwined. Among the public, mistrust of a predatory state is entrenched, and all too justified.

Oligarchs run media empires, with politicians and officials on the payroll. The judicial system is a festering mess where arrests, prosecutions and verdicts are used as score-settlers between political and commercial rivals. Senior positions are bought and sold.

Healthcare and education are plagued by kickbacks. The security service, the SBU, is infested with intrigue and sleaze – and penetrated by Russian agents of influence.

Mr Zelensky’s team, mostly showbiz pals, stumbled through this minefield. They found that satirising corruption was much easier than uprooting it.

Exasperated voters deserted his party in droves, as criticism from international human rights groups and from foreign governments intensified.

For the tragic truth is that Mr Zelensky is only the last in a line of leaders who have promised much but delivered little during Ukraine’s three decades of independence.

The brave, adaptable Ukrainian people have survived and even thrived despite the incompetence and corruption of their rulers.

Mr Zelensky’s stirring rhetoric and personal bravery are the focus of national unity now. But they do not compensate for his own failures – and those of the rest of Ukraine’s political class.

‘Will we declare war on Russia? No’: Armed Forces Minister James Heappey insists NATO troops will not be sent in to Ukraine as he admits ‘ultimate economic sanction’ of removing Russia from the SWIFT system will require ‘further diplomacy’

NATO troops will not set foot in the Ukrainian theatre of war as Britain presses ahead with its plans to enact the ‘ultimate economic sanction’ and boot Russia out of the SWIFT international payment network.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey warned that any further financial penalties were being held up in the courts and reiterated the Government’s desire to see Russia expelled from the international SWIFT banking system. 

Speaking during his media round of interviews on Saturday morning, Mr Heappey also stopped short of committing sending NATO troops to fight in Ukraine.

‘You’re asking me if we will declare war on Russia? No,’ was his answer when pressed by veteran journalist Martha Kearney on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

In later comments to the BBC, Mr Heappey said the Government’s position on removing Russia from the international SWIFT financial servers was clear.

‘The reality is that SWIFT is not a unilateral decision the UK can take. If it were, the Government’s position is clear and we will push ahead with every means at our disposal.

‘Clearly, it’s the ultimate economic sanction. It’s the one the UK government wants to see enacted.’ 

It was also revealed that the Government will continue to supply arms in its efforts to aid the Ukrainian’s attempt to repel the Russian invasion and the Ministry of Defence is working on plans to potentially support a resistance movement and a government in exile if Ukraine was finally overrun. 

It comes as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last night chaired a donors conference with 25 nations, some of whom pledged to send arms and other humanitarian aid.

‘We know what the Ukrainians want. We are doing our best to get it to them,’ Mr Heappey told Sky News. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also tweeted on Saturday: ‘Yesterday I urged NATO and Nordic partners to do all they can to support Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

‘I am pleased even more allies have come forward with defensive and humanitarian aid. We must stand with the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and democracies everywhere.’

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey reiterated NATO troops will not be entering the Ukrainian theatre of war

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey reiterated NATO troops will not be entering the Ukrainian theatre of war

Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers walk around debris of burning military trucks in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, February 26

Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers walk around debris of burning military trucks in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, February 26

Mr Heappey made clear that heavy bombardment of Ukrainian cities remained a 'very real possibility' if Vladimir Putin feared his initial advance was stalling

Mr Heappey made clear that heavy bombardment of Ukrainian cities remained a ‘very real possibility’ if Vladimir Putin feared his initial advance was stalling

SWIFT (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is the main vehicle for financing international trade and operates as the main secure messaging system used by banks to make instantaneous cross-border payments. 

In 2020, there were approximately 38 million transactions sent via SWIFT each day. 

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey claimed that further financial penalties were being delayed because of ‘due diligence’, and reiterated the Government’s desire to see Russia expelled from the international SWIFT banking system.  

The developments come as Britain’s plan to hit Putin’s inner circle with hard-hitting sanctions is being held up in the courts due to ‘well-lawyered-up’ Russia oligarchs, a minister has warned. 

London law firms are said to be delaying sanctions levelled against key Russian clients by threatening to drag a challenge to the measures through Britain’s courts, Liz Truss told MPs on Friday.  

Ms Truss had been asked why the sanctions process had not been moving more quickly, and she told MPs it was ‘because they had to be very careful that when they sanctioned somebody it was legally watertight because these oligarchs’ lawyers in London are very litigious, and she had already had several warning letters from them’.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw called for the law firms in question to be named in the first instance, but also potentially subject to sanctions themselves.

‘(They should be) not only named and shamed, but any law firm or any British institution that works on behalf of any sanctioned Russian should themselves be subjected to the same sanctions,’ he said.

Currently, eight oligarchs have been named and shamed as part of British sanctions, while more than 100 other individuals, entities and subsidiaries were hit with tough measures. 

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey (pictured) warned that any further financial penalties were being held up in the courts and reiterated the Government's desire to see Russia expelled from the international SWIFT banking system

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey (pictured) warned that any further financial penalties were being held up in the courts and reiterated the Government’s desire to see Russia expelled from the international SWIFT banking system

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also tweeted on Saturday: 'Yesterday I urged NATO and Nordic partners to do all they can to support Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 'I am pleased even more allies have come forward with defensive and humanitarian aid. We must stand with the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and democracies everywhere.'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also tweeted on Saturday: ‘Yesterday I urged NATO and Nordic partners to do all they can to support Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. ‘I am pleased even more allies have come forward with defensive and humanitarian aid. We must stand with the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and democracies everywhere.’

Tory MPs have also discussed the possibility of a ‘no-fly zone’ to protect countries from aerial incursions west of the Dnieper River, which runs through Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Tobias Ellwood, Conservative chairman of the Defence Committee, said there are ‘many ways’ Ukraine can be assisted other than ‘putting in boots on the ground’.

The MP told ITV News: ‘We need to reconsider this no-fly zone, let’s say west of the , because that would change the optics here.’

Mr Ellwood added: ‘If we don’t stand our ground now, where will this go? And don’t forget there are other adversaries around the world, namely China, watching very carefully how the West reacts here.’

He said if the West is seen to be ‘timid’ or ‘risk-averse’ then China ‘will take full advantage of that weakness too’.

Mr Heappey also said Britain and other Western allies would continue to support the Ukrainians in every way they could.

‘The more the Ukrainians successfully resist, the more I think they will be emboldened. People are rallying to the flag,’ he told ITV.

‘There is every chance President Putin has bitten off more than he can chew.

‘We, like Ukraine’s other allies in the West, will continue to support them in every way we reasonably can but we have to be very clear-eyed about the size of the Russian force he has amassed against them.’

Mr Heappey said the Government were looking at the ‘next phases’ of sending essential supplies of helmets, protective jackets and medical aid. 

But he stopped short of committing any NATO troops setting foot in the Ukrainian theatre of war when pressed. 

However, ministers face pressure from Tory backbenchers to do more to support the Ukrainians in the face of Russia’s attempt to dismember a European state.

World watches on as Ukraine REFUSES to surrender in bloody war: Videos show Russian missile strike a high-rise Kyiv flat block and a 21-year-old soldier break down as he guards a footbridge

More remarkable footage emerged this morning as the war in Ukraine entered its third day. 

Locals and cameramen captured the latest developments in the bloody conflict in eastern Europe, as Ukraine refuses to surrender amid an onslaught of Russian attacks.

It comes as the president emerged on Saturday morning defiant and determined in the face of Russian advances on his capital city, vowing to fight Vladimir Putin‘s forces.

Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the false claims that he had surrendered and told his compatriots to lay down arms, and insisted his country would not give in to Russian aggression.   

Here, MailOnline looks at the most iconic videos of the battle from both sides today: 

Russian missile strikes high-rise apartment block in Kyiv

A high-rise apartment block in Kyiv was hit by a devastating missile this morning as fighting continues to rage in the capital between Russian attackers and Ukrainian forces.

Emergency services said the number of victims was ‘being specified’ and that an evacuation was underway. Images show the tower block with a hole covering at least five floors blasted into the side and rubble strewn across the street below.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the missile slammed into a high-rise building on the southwestern outskirts of Kyiv near Zhuliany airport on Saturday. He said rescue workers were heading there.

 Footage from inside building reveals extent of devastation

Dramatic CCTV images show the inside of the Kyiv apartment block moments before it was attacked by a Russian missile.

A huge explosion can then be seen as the missile connects with the apartment and the extent of the devastation is revealed. 

 The apartment window smashes and a plume of smoke billows through the room.

Ukrainian family suffers a flat tyre as they flee homeland 

As the sound of of artillery rages in the background, one Ukrainian family suffered an obstacle in their bid to flee to safety at the worst possible time.

A woman, Elena, and her loved ones suffered a flat tyre on the road out of Kyiv, as she told the whole family is ‘very afraid’ and can’t now go back to their home. 

Soldier, 21, guarding Kyiv footbridge admits his fears

While some Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline of this war will have decades of experience to call upon, that is not the case for many others.

Sergiy Petroshenko, aged just 21, and having fired just 16 rounds of ammunition in his life, has been tasked with guarding a Kyiv footbridge.

He told Sky News: ‘There are Russians based in my village. From my village they’re going to go here to Kyiv to capture it. It’s really scary and terrifying. 

‘I called my parents and they are really scared. There’s Russians in our village – enemies – there are tanks, heavy vehicles. I hope they will be fine.’ 

Fierce Ukrainian challenges Russian paratrooper invaders

A video shows a furious Ukrainian resident in Melitopol, challenging two Russian paratrooper invaders, telling them they have no business in his country.

‘I am [ethnic] Russian, too,’ he tells the heavily armed troops. ‘Don’t you have your own problems in your country?

Russian tank runs out of fuel on Ukrainian road

Footage shows four soldiers standing around a tank which has been abandoned in the middle of the road.

A car pulls up alongside and the driver begins what appears to be a friendly conversation with the fighters.

The soldiers are understood to have said that they were out of gas, to which the driver jokingly offers to tow them back to Russia.

The Russians then ask for news on how they are doing in the war, to which the driver tells them Ukraine is winning, Russians are surrendering and implies they should too. 



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