Russian president Vladimir Putin called on the Ukrainian military to seize power in their country on Friday, a day after Moscow launched an invasion of its southern neighbor.
“I once again appeal to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: do not allow neo-Nazis and (Ukrainian radical nationalists) to use your children, wives and elders as human shields,” Putin said at a televised meeting with Russia’s security council. “Take power into your own hands, it will be easier for us to reach an agreement.”
Putin added that Russian servicemen in Ukraine were acting “bravely, professionally and heroically.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian military vehicles are entering the country’s capital Kyiv to defend it against approaching Russian troops, Ukraine’s interior ministry said on Friday.
According to a reporter for the Kyiv Independent, the Ukrainian military is entering the city for urban warfare against Russian troops, with tens of thousands of people getting firearms and Molotov cocktails.
Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Friday the Ukrainian capital “has entered into a defensive phase” as Russian troops brought the sounds of war to the city. “The city has gone into a defensive phase. Shots and explosions are ringing out in some neighborhoods saboteurs have already entered Kyiv. The enemy wants to put the capital on its knees and destroy us,” he told a news briefing.
Over 1,000 Russian soldiers have been killed on the second day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine’s Armed Forces claimed the same day as the Russian military blocked capital Kyiv from the west.
However, the Russian defense ministry has vowed not to strike residential areas, TASS reported. Despite that, the Ukrainian foreign minister claimed on Twitter that Russia is targeting Ukrainian kindergartens and orphanages.
Ukraine is collecting information on the attacks, which foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba called “war crimes,” to be sent to the International Criminal Court in Hague, Kuleba said.
In the first two days of the invasion, Russian forces have lost up to 80 tanks, 516 armored combat vehicles, 10 aircrafts and seven helicopters, Ukraine’s defense ministry said.
Britain said on Friday that Russian armored forces had opened a new route of advance towards Kyiv, and that the bulk of troops remained more than 50km from the center of the city.
“Russian armored forces have opened a new route of advance towards Kyiv having failed to capture Chernihiv,” The Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update. “The bulk of Russian forces advancing on Kyiv remain more than 50km from the center of the city.”
The cargo ship Namura Queen, sailing under the flag of Panama, was hit by a rocket off the shore of Ukraine in the Black Sea on Friday, causing a fire on board, a local shipping agent said.
“According to the information of the traffic control and the service of the Harbor Master at 12:55 at anchorage point No.358 a rocket hit the stern of the mv ‘NAMURA QUEEN’,” Ukrainian shipping agent Stark Shipping said.
“The ship flying the flag of Panama was heading to the Pivdennyi port (ex. Yuzhny) to load grain … There was a fire on the ship, the P&O STAR tug moved to the rescue. The situation is under control,” it added.
Earlier on Friday, Russian forces captured the strategic Hostomel aerodrome outside the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and landed paratroopers in the area. The defense ministry further stated that Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine have struck Ukrainian army positions with Russian support, and that the Russian army has fully blocked off the northern city of Chernihiv. Russia intends to take the whole of Ukraine but the Russian army failed to deliver on the first day of its invasion, British defense secretary Ben Wallace said.
Gunfire was heard near the government district in Kyiv, according to RIA citing the Associated Press, following reports that Russian forces have entered the city. Ukraine expects a Russian tank attack on its capital, Kyiv, later on Friday which could become the hardest day in the war, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister said.
Anton Herashchenko, the adviser, said the defenders of Kyiv were ready with anti-tank missiles supplied by foreign allies. Ukraine’s chiefs of staff said that Russia was using the Gomel Airfield in Belarus for their assault on Kyiv.
Russian forces were stopped from advancing further into Ukraine from most directions, President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier Friday morning.
Ukrainian troops are fighting Russian forces in the towns of Dymer and Ivankiv near Kyiv, having destroyed a bridge crossing the Teteriv river and halting the Russian advance, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
A column of armored Russian vehicles was destroyed by Ukrainian artillery near Hostomel, a city northwest of Kyiv, as they attempted to cross the Aidar river, apparently in an attempt to flank defenders from behind.
Another group of armored Russian vehicles attempted to break through Ukrainian defenses around Trokhizbenka, near Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, but were stopped by Ukrainian troops, who destroyed two Russian tanks and forced them to retreat, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
According to Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Ukrainian troops are defending their positions on four different fronts despite being outnumbered.
The governor of Russia’s southern Belgorod province said that seven residential buildings in the region had been damaged by shelling from Ukraine, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.
Danger in the air
Ukraine’s western city of Lviv has introduced a curfew, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reported on Friday citing a city official.”The curfew is introduced from 22:00 to 06:00. We will provide passes to residents of the region employed in critical infrastructure,” Interfax quoted the head of local military administration Maxim Kozitsky as saying.
Sirens were heard in Lviv and Kyiv came under attack on Friday morning, while a missile hit the airport in the city of Rivne in western Ukraine, its mayor said. However, Russia denied launching missile attacks against Kyiv, and UNICEF.
The Ukrainian president said that Russian rocket strikes have resumed as of 4 a.m. local time and are being fired at both military and civilian targets.
Ukrainian forces downed an enemy aircraft over Kyiv in the early hours of Friday, which then crashed into a residential building and set it on fire, said Herashchenko. A series of explosions were heard in Kyiv earlier which Herashchenko said were the sounds of air defenses firing at the aircraft.
Authorities said intense fighting was underway on Friday morning in the city of Sumy in the country’s northeast, while a border post in the southeastern Zaporizhzhya region had been hit by missiles, causing deaths and injuries among border guards. Russian forces also struck targets near the city of Kropyvnytskyi in central Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
A Ukrainian serviceman sits on the ground at combat positions on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022.
Ukraine wants peace and is ready for talks with Russia, including on neutral status regarding NATO, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters.
“If talks are possible, they should be held. If in Moscow they say they want to hold talks, including on neutral status, we are not afraid of this,” he said via a text message. “We can talk about that as well.”
“Our readiness for dialogue is part of our persistent pursuit of peace.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow would be ready to hold talks with Kyiv, but only once Ukraine’s military had laid down its arms. He also said that Moscow did not want “neo-Nazis” to govern Ukraine.
Lavrov added that Russia wants the Ukrainian people to be independent and have the possibility to freely define their destiny, and said Zelensky was lying when he said he was ready to discuss the neutral status of Ukraine.
Lavrov also said Russia will ensure the demilitarization of Ukraine but sees no possibility of recognizing the current Ukrainian government as democratic.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in a call on Friday that Russia is willing to hold high-level talks with Ukraine, China’s foreign ministry said. China has refused to call Russia’s action in Ukraine an “invasion” or criticize Moscow despite intensifying assaults from Russia’s military.
Putin told Xi that the United States and NATO had long ignored Russia’s legitimate security concerns, repeatedly reneged on their commitments, and continued to expand military deployment eastward, challenging Russia’s strategic bottom line, according to a statement on the Chinese foreign ministry website.
According to RIA, Russia is also ready to send a delegation to Minsk to negotiate with Ukraine and said that it considers the demilitarization of Ukraine as an essential part of neutrality.
The Kremlin said later it had offered to hold talks with Ukraine in the Belarusian capital Minsk after Ukraine said it was willing to discuss declaring itself a neutral country, but said Ukraine had instead proposed Warsaw as a venue.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Ukrainians had then taken what he described as quite a long time-out and that there was now a “pause” in contacts. During that pause, he said Ukrainian nationalists had deployed missile systems in residential areas in big cities.
He did not provide evidence to back the assertion but said it was a very dangerous development.
There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian authorities.