Chris Lange, FISM News
Missiles pummeled Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv Friday as Russian forces advanced into the city’s outskirts with alarming speed in what Kyiv authorities say is a calculated execution of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to overthrow Ukraine’s government. A senior Ukrainian official said troops are defending positions on four fronts, though they are outnumbered by Russian forces, according to an AP report.
Ukraine’s death toll has risen to 137, with 316 wounded. Pre-dawn explosions and gunfire erupted in several areas near Kyiv as Russian troops and tanks advanced into Ukraine from three sides. The defense ministry urged Kyiv residents not to leave their homes and to arm themselves with molotov cocktails as some sheltered in basements, subways, and bunkers.
“Until the very last moment, I didn’t believe it would happen. I just pushed away these thoughts,” Kyiv resident Anna Dovnya told AP. “We have lost all faith.”
Russian forces also captured the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, raising the specter of an ecological disaster similar to a 1986 explosion at the plant that resulted in a deposition of radioactive materials throughout many parts of Europe.
“The Chernobyl zone — the exclusion zone — and all installations of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have been taken under control of Russian armed groups,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a televised statement.
Ukraine’s State Emergencies Service reported that in the Luhansk region, Russian forces took control of the villages of Horodyshche and Milove. Near Kyiv, Russian troops seized control of the Antonov Airport situated about 10 miles northwest of the capital city. Video footage captured images of Russian helicopters launching an air assault on the airport. Ukraine’s national guard shot down only three out of around 34 Russian helicopters but eventually managed to regain control of the airport.
Russia said it was not targeting cities, but journalists said they witnessed destruction in many civilian areas of Kyiv, including a multistory apartment building and a school.
The Ukrainian military on Friday reported significant fighting near Ivankiv, situated roughly 40 miles northwest of Kyiv as Russian forces made their way to the capital from the north. Russian troops also entered Sumy, a city through which a highway connects Russia to Kyiv from the east.
“The hardest day will be today. The enemy’s plan is to break through with tank columns from the side of Ivankiv and Chernihiv to Kyiv,” said Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko.
The assault represents the largest ground war in Europe since World War II. Western leaders scheduled an emergency meeting as they face the stark reality that Russia is poised to rewrite the international post-Cold War security order. A NATO summit will convene today with 30 Allied nations and partners represented, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Blinken told CBS News late Thursday.
Kyiv “could well be under siege” in what U.S. officials say is a brazen attempt by Putin to install his own regime.
“This is the opening salvo of a massive invasion, and we see this continuing and threatening Kyiv and threatening other major cities in Ukraine,” Blinken said.
President Biden on Thursday announced additional sanctions on Russia that target banks, oligarchs, high-tech sectors, and state-controlled companies. He added that the measures were imposed in such a way as to not disrupt global energy markets. Both the U.S. and Europe rely on Russia’s natural gas exports.
“Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,” Biden said.
The President sent 7,000 additional U.S. troops into Germany and Poland and deployed ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to Allied countries Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.
“The United States and our Allies and partners will emerge from this stronger, more united, more determined, and more purposeful,” Biden said. “And Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will end up costing Russia dearly — economically and strategically.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who remains in the capital, appealed to global leaders for defense assistance and even more severe sanctions than those already imposed by Western allies.
“If you don’t help us now, if you fail to offer a powerful assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door,” Zelensky said.
The leader also called out NATO for ignoring Ukraine’s repeated requests to join the alliance. Membership would have guaranteed Allied military support for Ukraine; instead, the country is largely defenseless against the might of Russian forces, though it is putting up an impressive resistance.
“Today, I have asked 27 European leaders whether Ukraine will be in NATO. I have asked directly – everyone is afraid, no one answers,” Zelensky said. “But we are not afraid, we are not afraid of anything. We are not afraid to defend our country, we are not afraid of Russia, we are not afraid to talk to Russia, we are not afraid to talk about anything, about security guarantees for our country, we are not afraid of talking about neutrality, we are not NATO members at the moment. But what guarantees will we get? And most importantly which countries will give us those guarantees?
Zelensky also assured Ukrainians that, despite the target on his head, he will not abandon Kyiv.
“I remain in the capital, my family is also in Ukraine, my children are in Ukraine,” he said. “According to the information we have, the enemy has marked me as target No. 1, my family as target No. 2. They want to damage Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state.”