Street fighting begins in Ukraine’s capital Kiev: NPR

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian troops landed in the Ukrainian capital early Saturday, and street fighting broke out as city officials urged residents to take shelter. The president of this country rejected the Americans’ request to evacuate, insisting that he would stay. “The fight is here,” he said.

The clashes lasted two days of fighting that resulted in hundreds of casualties and the collapse of bridges, schools and apartment buildings. American officials believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to overthrow the Ukrainian government and replace it with a regime of his own.

The attack represents Putin’s boldest attempt at redrawing the world map and reviving Cold War Moscow’s influence. It triggered new international efforts to end the invasion, including direct sanctions on Putin.

As his country faced explosions and gunfire, and as Kyiv’s fate stood in the balance, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for a ceasefire and warned in a somber statement that many cities being attacked.

“We have to stand our ground tonight,” he said. “Ukraine’s fate is being decided right now.”

Zelenskyy had been urged to evacuate Kyiv by order of the US government but declined the offer, according to a senior US intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation. The official quoted the president as saying that “the war is here” and that he needed anti-tank ammunition but “not a trip”.

City officials in Kyiv advised residents to take shelter, stay away from windows and watch out for flying debris or bullets.

The Kremlin has accepted Kyiv’s offer to hold talks, but it appears to be an attempt to squeeze concessions to the embattled Zelenskyy rather than a gesture towards a diplomatic solution.

Russian troops continue to advance, making claims to the city of Melitopol, southern Ukraine. However, it remains unclear in the fog of war, Ukraine is still under Ukrainian control and how much or less Russian forces have captured.

As fighting continued, the Ukrainian military said it shot down a Russian II-76 transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles (40 km) south of Kyiv, a love official said. American newspaper confirmed. It is not clear how many people were on board. The transport plane can carry up to 125 paratroopers.

A second Russian military transport plane was shot down near Bila Tserkva, 50 miles (85 km) south of Kyiv, according to two US officials with direct knowledge of conditions on the ground in Ukraine.

The Russian military has not yet commented on either plane.

The United States and other global powers have imposed increasingly harsher sanctions on Russia as the invasion wreaks havoc on the world’s economy and energy supplies, threatening to cripple Russia. more to ordinary households. United Nations officials say millions of people could flee Ukraine. Sports federations have chastised Russia and even Eurovision’s popular song contest banned it from the May finals in Italy.

Through it all, Russia remained undeterred, vetoing a UN Security Council resolution demanding that it stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw its troops immediately. A veto is expected, but the US and its supporters argue that the effort will highlight Moscow’s international isolation. The January 11 vote, with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining, showed considerable but incomplete opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbour, militarily weaker.

Meanwhile, NATO decided to send parts of the alliance’s response force to help defend its member states in the east for the first time. NATO did not say how many troops it would deploy but added that it would involve land, sea and air power.

The second day of Russia’s invasion, the largest land battle in Europe since World War Two, centered on the Ukrainian capital, where Associated Press reporters heard the explosion beginning before dawn. Gunfire was reported in some areas.

A loud explosion was heard in the evening near Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the square in central Kyiv, the epicenter of protests that led to the 2014 ouster of the Kremlin-friendly president. instantly.

Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said five explosions occurred near a large power plant on the eastern outskirts of Kyiv. There was no word on what caused them, and no outages were immediately reported.

It is not clear how many people have died overall. Ukrainian officials reported at least 137 deaths to their side in the first day of fighting, and hundreds more to the Russian side. Russian authorities did not disclose the number of casualties.

United Nations officials reported 25 civilians killed, mainly from shelling and air strikes, and said 100,000 people are believed to have fled their homes. They estimate that up to 4 million people could flee if fighting escalates.

Zelenskyy tweeted that he and US President Joe Biden spoke by phone and discussed “strengthening sanctions, specific defense support and an anti-war coalition.”

Late Friday, Biden signed a memorandum of understanding authorizing up to $350 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total amount of security assistance approved to Ukraine to $1 billion over the past year. It was not immediately clear how quickly aid would flow.

Zelenskyy’s whereabouts were kept secret after Zelenskyy told European leaders in a call on Thursday that he was Russia’s No. 1 target – and they probably won’t see him alive again. His office later released a video of him standing with senior aides outside the president’s office and saying that he and other government officials would stay in the capital.

Zelenskyy had previously offered to negotiate at Putin’s key request: Ukraine declare its neutrality and give up its ambitions to join NATO. The Kremlin said Kyiv initially agreed to talks in Minsk, then said it preferred Warsaw and subsequently halted communication. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later said that Kyiv would discuss prospects for talks on Saturday.

The attack had been predicted for weeks by the US and its Western allies and denied by Mr Putin for taking that long. He said the West left him with no other choice by refusing to negotiate on Russia’s security requirements.

In a window on how Putin has grown increasingly isolated about Ukraine’s views and its leadership, he called on the Ukrainian army to surrender, saying: “We will find it easier to agree with you than with the ice.” Drug addicts and neo-Nazi groups tried in Kyiv and took the entire Ukrainian people hostage.”

Drawing on Russians’ nostalgia for World War II heroism, the Kremlin equates members of Ukraine’s far-right groups with neo-Nazis. Zelenskyy, a Jew, angrily denied those claims.

Putin has not revealed his final plans for Ukraine. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a suggestion, saying, “We want to allow the Ukrainian people to decide their own fate.” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia recognized Zelenskyy as president, but did not say how long the Russian military operation could last.

Ukrainians suddenly adapted to life under fire, after Russian forces invaded the country from three sides as they gathered some 150,000 troops nearby.

Residents of an apartment complex in Kyiv woke up screaming, smoke and dust billowing. What the mayor identified was Russian shelling that tore off part of the building and caused the fire.

“What is this? What is this?” resident Yurii Zhyhanov asked Russian forces. Like countless other Ukrainians, he grabbed whatever belongings he could, took his mother and fled, the alarm in the car behind him.

Elsewhere in Kyiv, the body of a dead soldier lies near a tunnel. The wreckage of a downed plane smokes among the brick houses of a residential area. Black plastic is coated on the body parts found next to them. People climb out of bomb shelters, basements and subways to face another day of upheaval.

“We are all scared and worried. We don’t know what to do, what will happen in the next few days,” said Lucy Vashaka, 20, a worker at a small hotel in Kyiv.

At the Pentagon, press secretary John Kirby said the United States believes the attack, including the one on Kiev, has been slower than Moscow planned, noting that Ukrainian forces have resisted. . However, he also said the military operation was in its early stages and circumstances could change rapidly.

The Biden administration on Friday said it would freeze the assets of Putin and Lavrov, after the European Union and Britain directly sanctioned Russia’s top leadership.

Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, called the sanctions against Putin and Lavrov “an example and a demonstration of the utter helplessness” of the West.

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