Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released a self-shot video from central Kyiv vowing alongside key aides to stay and defend the capital against the Russian invasion of his country.
Outside the presidency building, he said: ‘We’re all here. Our military is here. Citizens in society are here. We’re all here defending our independence, our country, and it will stay this way.’
Russian troops are bearing down on Ukraine’s capital, with gunfire and explosions resonating ever closer to the government quarter, in an invasion of a democratic country that has fuelled fears of wider war in Europe.
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Amid growing casualties – including shelling that sliced through a Kyiv apartment building, bridges and schools – were increasing signs that Moscow may be seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s government, in Vladimir Putin’s boldest effort yet to redraw the world map and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.
It was unclear how much of the country remained under Ukrainian control and how much Russian forces have seized.
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The Kremlin accepted Kyiv’s offer to hold talks, but with Russia in the driving seat, it appeared to be an effort to squeeze concessions out of Ukraine’s embattled president instead of a gesture towards a diplomatic solution.
The US and other global powers slapped ever-tougher sanctions on Russia as the invasion reverberated through the world’s economy and energy supplies, threatening to further squeeze ordinary households.
UN officials said they were preparing for millions to flee Ukraine, sporting authorities sought to punish Russia on global playing fields, and Nato leaders called an urgent meeting to discuss how far they can go to challenge Mr Putin without engaging Russian forces in direct war.
Day two of Russia’s invasion focused on the Ukrainian capital, where Associated Press reporters heard explosions starting before dawn and gunfire was reported in several areas.
Ukrainian authorities used armoured vehicles and snowploughs to defend Kyiv and limit movement, and said Russian spies were seeking to infiltrate the city.
Russia’s military said it had seized a strategic airport outside Kyiv that would allow it to quickly build up forces to take the capital.
It claimed to have already cut the city off from the west – the direction most of those escaping the invasion are heading in, with lines of cars snaking towards the Polish border.
Intense fire broke out on a bridge across the Dnipro River dividing the eastern and western sides of Kyiv, with about 200 Ukrainian forces establishing defensive positions and taking shelter behind their armoured vehicles and later under the bridge.
Ukrainian officials reported at least 137 deaths on the Ukrainian side and claimed hundreds on the Russian one. Russian authorities released no casualty figures.
UN officials reported 25 civilian deaths, mostly from shelling and air strikes, and said 100,000 people were believed to have left their homes and estimated up to four million could flee if the fighting escalates.
Photo Credit: Getty