Update: 11:50 a.m.
Citizens of kyiv have been told to prepare Molotov cocktails in an attempt to resist Russian forces approaching the capital, fearing it will fall on the second day of Moscow’s offensive.
Vladimir Putin’s troops are advancing from the north and northeast, with explosions heard in the capital early on Friday that the embattled Ukrainian government described as “horrific rocket fire”.
When forces from Moscow arrived at Obolonsky in the city, the Defense Ministry urged civilians to resist.
“We urge citizens to inform us of troop movements, make Molotov cocktails and neutralize the enemy,” he said.
Russia’s president on Thursday defied Western warnings to unleash a full-scale ground invasion and air assault that quickly left dozens dead and displaced at least 100,000 people.
The United States and its allies responded with a barrage of sanctions, but Russian forces appeared determined on Friday to press their advantage after a series of key strategic victories on the first day.
How close is Russia to taking kyiv?
The soldiers are trying to “bypass” the northern city of Chernigiv – where they were “repelled” – to attack kyiv, the Ukrainian military said on Facebook.
They were also advancing towards kyiv from the eastern town of Konotop, which is under Russian control, the kyiv army said.
The Ukrainian military said earlier that Russian ground forces had pushed into the western bank of the Dnieper from Belarus.
He said Russian soldiers were “increasingly choosing to target civilian infrastructure and residential buildings,” echoing President Volodymyr Zelensky.
An AFP reporter heard explosions and gunfire in northern Kyiv on Friday, with people running for cover in the city’s Obolonsky district.
Ukraine’s military said on Friday it was fighting Russian forces north of the capital in the villages of Dymer – about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from kyiv – and Ivankiv, about 60 kilometers northwest of the city.
The army claimed to have stopped advancing its forces on the Teteriv River outside Kyiv, adding that it had repelled an attack on the Gostomel airbase.
137 “heroes” killed
At least 137 “heroes” were killed in the first day of fighting, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday, as he called on conscripts and reservists across the country to fight in a general mobilization.
Zelensky said there was now a “new iron curtain” between Russia and the rest of the world, like during the Cold War, adding in a later speech that his nation had been “left alone”.
“Who is ready to fight alongside us? I do not see anyone.
And while the United States moved to impose sanctions on Russian elites and banks, it stressed that American forces would not be heading to Eastern Europe to fight in Ukraine.
NATO said it had activated “defense plans” for allied countries.
But NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said there were no plans to send alliance forces to Ukraine.
“War Against Europe”
Among the most publicized strategic developments on Thursday, Ukraine said Russian forces had seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, prompting concern from international nuclear watchdogs.
Zelensky called the Chernobyl attack a “declaration of war on all of Europe”, while 18 people were killed at a military base near the Black Sea port of Odessa in the deadliest strike reported by kyiv.
Witnesses also told AFP that Russian paratroopers had taken control of the strategic Gostomel airfield, on the northwestern outskirts of kyiv.
“The helicopters came and the fighting started. They were firing machine guns, grenade launchers,” said resident Sergiy Storozhuk.
Russian ground forces initially entered Ukraine from the north, south and east, forcing many Ukrainians to flee their homes as the sound of shelling echoed.
Moscow’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday that its forces had “successfully achieved” their objectives for the day, claiming earlier that they had destroyed more than 70 Ukrainian military targets, including 11 airfields.
Western intelligence confirmed that Moscow had established “complete air superiority” over Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces said they killed “about 50 Russian occupiers” while repelling an attack on a frontline town with Moscow-backed rebels, which could not be immediately confirmed by AFP.
Ukraine also said a military plane with 14 people on board crashed south of kyiv, with officials still determining the number of people killed, while a transport plane crashed in Russia, killing the crew.
Olena Kurilo was among 20 people injured by shards of glass following an explosion in the eastern Ukrainian city of Chugiv.
“Never, under any conditions, will I submit to Putin. It’s better to die,” said the 52-year-old teacher, her face covered in bandages.
In the Ukrainian village of Starognativka near the frontline where the separatists clashed with kyiv forces, official Vladimir Vesyelkin said missiles had rained down since Friday morning and the power was out.
“They are trying to wipe the village off the face of the earth,” he said.
Weeks of diplomacy have failed to deter Putin, who has massed more than 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders in what the West has called Europe’s biggest military buildup since World War II.
Western allies initially imposed sanctions on Russia in a bid to deter Putin, then followed up on Thursday by vowing to try to punish Russia heavily economically.
US President Joe Biden announced export controls on Russia to cut off more than half of the country’s high-tech imports, as well as sanctions on Russian elites he called “corrupt billionaires” and banks.
He will meet his fellow NATO leaders on Friday in an extraordinary virtual summit to later discuss the security situation in and around Ukraine.
The EU moved to impose “massive” sanctions on Russia’s energy and financial sectors, while French President Emmanuel Macron called on Putin to “demand an immediate end” to the offensive – but said the door had to remain open to dialogue.
The fighting has spooked global financial markets, with stocks plunging and oil prices surging above $100.
IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said the unrest carried “significant economic risk” for the world, but Putin insisted he was not seeking to undermine the global economic system.
Demonstrations across Europe
In a televised address, the Russian president justified the assault as a defense of the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine.
The Kremlin said earlier that the leaders of the two breakaway territories had asked Moscow for military aid against kyiv after Putin recognized their independence on Monday.
A conflict between separatists and government forces has dragged on since 2014, killing more than 14,000 people on both sides.
Russia has also long demanded that Ukraine be banned from joining NATO and that US troops be withdrawn from Eastern Europe.
In the Baltics, Lithuania has declared a national emergency. Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have also stopped issuing visas to Russians.
Demonstrators took to the streets in European capitals to condemn the Kremlin, but a small anti-war demonstration in Moscow was quickly halted by police, with more than 1,700 people arrested at rallies across Russia.
The first Ukrainian refugees began pouring into Hungary, Romania and Poland while the UN said 100,000 had been displaced by the fighting.
“All those who can are fleeing,” said Krisztian Szavla, one of the first refugees to arrive in Hungary on Thursday from Ukraine’s Western Transcarpathia region.
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