Kyiv: street violence begins, residents are asked to take refuge

Kyiv street violence begins
In this handout photo taken from video released by Ukrainian Police Department Press Service released on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, firefighters inspect the damage at a building following a rocket attack on the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Photo: Ukrainian Police Department Press Service via AP

Early Saturday, Russian troops pushed toward Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, sparking street fighting as city officials warned citizens to seek shelter.

The country’s president rejected an American evacuation offer, stating that he would remain. “The battle has begun,” he stated. The skirmishes came after two days of fighting in which hundreds of people were killed and bridges, schools, and apartment buildings were destroyed. US authorities believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is hell-bent on deposing Ukraine‘s government and installing his own administration.

Putin’s assault was his most audacious attempt yet to rewrite the world map and reintroduce Moscow’s Cold War-era power. It sparked further international efforts to put a halt to the invasion, including the imposition of direct sanctions on Putin. As his country faced explosions and gunfire, and as the destiny of Kyiv hung in the balance, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy begged for a cease-fire and warned that many cities were under attack in a somber statement. “This evening, we must maintain our resolve,” he stated. “Right now, Ukraine’s fate is being decided.”

According to a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation, Zelenskyy was persuaded by the US government to escape Kyiv but declined.

According to the official, the president stated that “the conflict has arrived” and that he required anti-tank munitions but not “a ride.”

Kyiv city officials warned citizens to seek cover, avoid windows, and take steps to avoid being struck by flying debris or gunfire.

The Kremlin welcomed Kyiv’s invitation to speak, but it appeared to be an attempt to extract concessions from the embattled Zelenskyy rather than a move toward a diplomatic settlement.

The Russian troops advanced further Friday, claiming the southern Ukraine city of Melitopol. Nonetheless, the fog of war obscured how much of Ukraine remained under Ukrainian control and how much or how little Russian forces gained. As the battle continued, Ukraine’s military claimed to shoot

down a Russian II-76 transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city located 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Kyiv, according to an American intelligence official. It was unknown how many passengers were on board.

Transport planes are capable of transporting up to 125 paratroopers.

According to two American sources with firsthand knowledge of the situation on the ground in Ukraine, a second Russian military transport plane was shot down in Bila Tserkva, 50 miles (85 kilometers) south of Kyiv.

Russian military officials have made no remark on either plane.

The US and other international powers imposed ever-tougher penalties on Russia as the invasion reverberated through the global economy and energy supply, threatening to wreak havoc on ordinary households. According to United Nations officials, millions of people could evacuate Ukraine.

Sports leagues have imposed sanctions on Russia, and the popular Eurovision singing contest has barred the country from its May finals in Italy.

Throughout, Russia remained unflinching, vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding that it immediately cease assaulting Ukraine and evacuate soldiers. Although the veto was anticipated, the US and its allies contended that the move would underscore Moscow’s international isolation. The 11-1 vote, with China, India, and the United Arab Emirates abstaining, demonstrated substantial but not unanimous opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller, militarily weaker neighbor. Meanwhile, NATO has decided to send portions of its response force to assist its member nations in the east for the first time. NATO did not specify the number of troops that will be deployed but did state that the operation would entail land, sea, and air power.

The second day of Russia’s invasion, Europe’s largest ground combat since World War II, was centered on the Ukrainian capital, where Associated Press correspondents heard explosions beginning before sunrise. Numerous localities have been reported as having witnessed gunfire. In the evening, a loud boom was heard in Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central Kyiv square that was the epicenter of protests that culminated in the 2014 fall of a Kremlin-friendly president. The cause was unknown at the time. Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said five explosions occurred near a big power plant in Kyiv’s eastern suburbs. There was no information on what triggered them, and there were no immediate reports of electrical outages. It was unknown how many people had died in total. Ukraine’s officials reported at least 137 casualties on their side on the first full day of fighting, while Russia claimed hundreds. Russian authorities made no mention of casualties. United Nations officials confirmed 25 civilian casualties, largely as a result of shelling and bombing, and estimated that 100,000 people had fled their homes.

According to them, up to 4 million people could evacuate if the war worsens.

Zelenskyy tweeted that he spoke on the phone with US Vice President Joe Biden about “strengthening sanctions, concrete defense support, and an anti-war coalition.”

Biden signed a document late Friday allowing an additional $350 million in security aid to Ukraine, increasing the total approved for Ukraine to $1 billion over the last year. It was not immediately clear how swiftly assistance will be distributed. Zelenskyy’s location was concealed after he informed European leaders during a teleconference Thursday that he was Russia’s No. 1 target – and that they might never see him alive again.

His administration then produced a video showing him standing outside the presidential office with senior aides and declaring that he and other government officials would remain in the capital.

Zelenskyy previously volunteered to negotiate on a crucial Putin demand: that Ukraine declare its neutrality and renounce its NATO ambitions. According to the Kremlin, Kyiv initially agreed to hold discussions in Minsk but later stated that it preferred Warsaw and thus suspended relations. Later in the day, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that Kyiv would consider Saturday’s chances for negotiations.

The US and Western allies have been anticipating the assault for weeks, but Putin has denied it for nearly as long. He contended that the West forced him into this position by refusing to negotiate Russia’s security demands. Putin pushed Ukraine’s troops to surrender, saying: “We would find it easier to agree with you than with that gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis who have holed up in Kyiv and seized the entire Ukrainian people hostage.” The Kremlin, capitalizing on Russian nostalgia for World War II valor, has associated members of Ukrainian right-wing groups with neo-Nazis.

Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, vehemently refutes the allegations.

Putin has not revealed his long-term intentions for Ukraine. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hinted, stating, “We want to give the Ukrainian people the opportunity to select their own destiny.” Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, said Russia recognizes Zelenskyy as president but would not speculate on the duration of the Russian military operation. Ukrainians were forced to adapt rapidly to living under fire after Russian forces entered the country from three directions, massing an estimated 150,000 troops nearby. Residents of a Kyiv apartment complex awoke to the sounds of shouting, smoke, and flying dust. What the mayor identified as Russian shelling ripped a section of the building apart and set fire to it. “How are you? What exactly is this? “Yurii Zhyhanov, a resident, contacted Russian forces. As countless other Ukrainians have done before him, he gathered what possessions he could, took his mother, and escaped, car alarms screeching behind him.

Elsewhere in Kyiv, a deceased soldier’s body was discovered near an underpass. Fragments of a downed airplane smoked in a residential area’s brick dwellings. Black plastic had been wrapped over body pieces discovered nearby. People emerged from bomb shelters, basements, and subways, bracing themselves for another day of disruption. “We are all fearful and concerned. We have no idea what to do then, or what will happen in a few days “Lucy Vashaka, a 20-year-old employee at a tiny Kyiv hotel, confirmed this. At the Pentagon, press secretary John Kirby stated that the US believes the attack, particularly its push on Kiev, has progressed more slowly than Moscow intended, noting that Ukrainian forces have responded. However, he added that the military effort is still in its infancy and that circumstances might change swiftly.

The Biden administration announced Friday that it would seek to freeze Putin and Lavrov’s assets, following the European Union and the United Kingdom in penalizing top Russian officials directly.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, described the penalties against Putin and Lavrov as “an example and demonstration of the West’s absolute weakness.”