MOSCOW: Russian armed forces on Friday pressed on with their attack on Ukraine, driving ever closer to Kyiv, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed to stay in the capital as his troops battled advancing forces.
Russia launched its attack by land, air, and sea on Thursday following a declaration of war by President Vladimir Putin. An estimated 100,000 people fled as explosions and gunfire rocked major cities. Dozens have been reported killed.
US and Ukrainian officials say Russia aims to capture Kyiv and topple the government, which Putin regards as a puppet of the United States. Russian troops seized the Chernobyl former nuclear power plant north of Kyiv as they advanced along the shortest route to Kyiv from Belarus to the north.
“(The) enemy has marked me down as the number one target,” Zelenskiy warned in a video message as heavy fighting was reported on multiple fronts. “My family is the number two target. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state.”
“I will stay in the capital. My family is also in Ukraine.”
Putin says Russia is carrying out “a special military operation” to stop the Ukrainian government from committing genocide against its own people – an accusation the West calls baseless. He also says Ukraine is an illegitimate state whose lands historically belong to Russia.
Russian paratroopers inside Gostomel city as Ukrainian forces are trying to recapture the city. pic.twitter.com/HzlBi09QYD— CaucasusWarReport (@Caucasuswar) February 25, 2022
Asked if he was worried about Zelenskiy’s safety, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS: “To the best of my knowledge, President Zelenskiy remains in Ukraine at his post, and of course, we’re concerned for the safety of all of our friends in Ukraine – government officials and others.”
Zelenskiy said 137 military personnel and civilians had been killed in the fighting, with hundreds wounded. Ukrainian officials had earlier reported at least 70 people were killed.
A missile hit a Ukrainian border post in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhya, killing and wounding some guards, the border guard service said.
The United States and other NATO members have sent military aid to Ukraine but there is no move to send troops for fear of sparking a wider European conflict.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pleaded for “more weapons to continue fighting … the amount of tanks, armored vehicles, airplanes, helicopters that Russia threw on Ukraine is unimaginable”.
Some 90 km (60 miles) north of Kyiv, Chernobyl was taken over by forces without identifying marks who disarmed a Ukrainian military unit guarding the station, Ukraine’s state nuclear regulator said.