The Russians are pushing towards the Ukrainian capital; Residents take shelter | world news

By YURAS KARMANAU, JIM HEINTZ, VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV and JAMES LaPORTA, Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Kyiv residents braced for another night sheltering underground on Saturday as Russian troops closed in on the Ukrainian capital and skirmishes were reported on the outskirts. Ukraine’s leader, meanwhile, claimed the country’s forces had repelled the Russian onslaught, and he vowed to continue the fight and appealed for more help from the outside world.

“The real fighting for Kyiv is ongoing,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message in which he accused Russia of hitting infrastructure and civilian targets.

“We are going to win,” he said.

Central Kiev appeared calm on Saturday, although sporadic gunfire could be heard. And the fighting on the outskirts of the city suggested that small Russian units were trying to clear a path for the main forces. The British Ministry of Defense said the bulk of the Russian forces were 30 kilometers from the center of the city.

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Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko extended the curfew he imposed on Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. He said “all civilians on the streets during curfew will be considered members of enemy sabotage and reconnaissance groups.”

Russia says its assault on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets, but bridges, schools and residential neighborhoods have been hit since the invasion began on Thursday with airstrikes and missiles and Russian troops entering in Ukraine from the north, east and south.

Ukraine’s health minister announced on Saturday that 198 people, including three children, had been killed and more than 1,000 injured in Europe’s largest ground war since World War II. It was unclear whether the figure included both military and civilian casualties.

In Kyiv, a missile hit a high-rise building in the southwestern outskirts near one of Kyiv’s two passenger airports, leaving a jagged hole of ravaged apartments on several floors. A rescue worker said six civilians were injured.

The conflict has driven thousands of Ukrainians from their homes in search of safety. UN officials said more than 120,000 Ukrainians had left the country for Poland, Moldova and other neighboring countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine after spending weeks denying that was what he intended, while building up a force of nearly 200,000 troops along the countries’ borders. He says the West has not taken Russia’s security concerns about NATO, the Western military alliance that Ukraine aspires to join, seriously. But he also expressed his contempt for Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent state.

Putin did not reveal his ultimate plans for Ukraine or say how long the Russian military operation might last. Western officials believe Putin is determined to overthrow the Ukrainian government and replace it with his own regime, redrawing the map of Europe and reviving Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.

In the fog of war, it was unclear how much territory Russian forces had seized. Western governments have claimed that strong Ukrainian resistance has slowed the Russian advance and that Russia does not yet control Ukrainian skies.

Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said a Russian missile was shot down before dawn on Saturday as it headed towards the dam of the vast water reservoir that serves Kiev, and Ukraine said a military convoy Russian had been destroyed near the town early on Saturday. Footage shows soldiers inspecting burnt-out vehicles after Ukraine’s 101st Brigade reported destroying a column of two light vehicles, two trucks and a tank. The request could not be verified.

In addition to Kiev, the Russian assault appeared to be focused on Ukraine’s coastline, stretching from the Black Sea port of Odessa in the west near the border with Romania to the Sea port of Azov. from Mariupol to the east.

If Russian troops are successful, Ukraine will be cut off from all of its seaports, which are vital to its economy. In Mariupol, Ukrainian soldiers guarded bridges and blocked people from the shore, fearing that the Russian navy would launch an assault from the sea.

Fighting also raged in two territories in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Donetsk city authorities said the hot water supply to the city of around 900,000 people had been suspended due to damage to the system from Ukrainian shelling. It was unclear how long system repairs would take.

The US government urged Zelenskyy early Saturday to evacuate Kiev, but he refused the offer, according to a senior US intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation. Zelenskyy posted a provocative video recorded on a street in downtown Kyiv early Saturday claiming he had stayed in the city.

“We are not going to lay down our arms. We will protect the country,” the Ukrainian president said. “Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of this.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have moved, seeking safety in the west of the country or beyond. The UN estimates that up to 4 million people could flee if the fighting intensifies.

Refugees arriving in the Hungarian border town of Zahony said men between the ages of 18 and 60 were not allowed to leave Ukraine.

“My son was not allowed to come. I’m so sick to my stomach, I’m shaking, I can’t calm down, they didn’t let it come,” said Vilma Sugar, 68.

Both Hungary and Poland have opened their borders to Ukrainians with or without travel documents. At the Polish Medyka crossing point, some said they traveled 15 miles (35 kilometers) to reach the border.

“They had no food, no tea, they were standing in the middle of a field, on the road, the children were freezing,” said Iryna Wiklenko as she waited on the Polish side for her grandchildren and his daughter-in-law. to get him across.

Kyiv city officials have urged residents to take shelter, stay away from windows and take precautions to avoid flying debris or bullets. Many spent Friday night in basements, underground parking lots and subway stations, and prepared to do the same again on Saturday.

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

The United States and other NATO allies sent arms and other aid to Ukraine and reinforced troops on NATO’s eastern flank, but ruled out deploying troops to fight Russia .

Instead, the United States, the European Union and other countries imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia, freezing the assets of Russian companies and individuals, including Putin and his foreign minister. .

French maritime authorities seized a Russian-flagged freighter carrying cars for possible sanctions violations and took it to a port for investigation.

Zelenskyy called for tougher sanctions, urging recalcitrant European countries to agree to exclude Russia from the SWIFT international payments system.

Russia has remained adamant, vetoing a UN Security Council resolution calling on it to stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw its troops immediately. The 11-1 vote, with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining, showed significant opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller and militarily weak neighbor.

A senior Russian official ignored the sanctions on Saturday, reflecting Western “political impotence”.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, has warned that Moscow could respond to sanctions by withdrawing from the latest nuclear arms pact, freezing Western assets and cutting diplomatic ties with Western nations.

“There is no particular need to maintain diplomatic relations,” Medvedev said. “We can look at each other through binoculars and sights.”

Diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed appear to have failed. Zelenskyy on Friday offered to negotiate a key Russian demand: that Ukraine declare itself neutral and give up its ambition to join NATO.

The Kremlin said it accepted Kiev’s offer to hold talks, but it appeared to be an effort to extract concessions from embattled Zelenskyy instead of a move toward a diplomatic solution.

Isachenkov reported from Moscow. LaPorta reported from Boca Raton, Florida. Francesca Ebel, Josef Federman and Andrew Drake in Kyiv; Mstyslav Chernov and Nic Dumitrache in Mariupol, Ukraine; Jill Lawless in London; Angela Charlton in Paris; Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin; Raf Casert and Lorne Cook in Brussels; Vanessa Gera in Warsaw; Matt Sedensky in New York; Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations; and Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Aamer Madhani, Eric Tucker, Nomaan Merchant, Ellen Knickmeyer, Zeke Miller, Chris Megerian and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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