Ukrainian forces managed to repel multiple Russian attacks overnight on the capital. Russian army claims it has conquered city in southeastern Ukraine.
A long and hard night of fighting was expected in Kyiv and that is precisely what happened in the last hours of Friday and the first hours of this Saturday. But contrary to Russian prospects, who hoped to have already managed to conquer or, at least, obtain their surrender, Ukraine’s capital is still, for now, in the hands of its Armed Forces.
“We are stopping the [Russian] horde using all available means. Army soldiers and citizens control Kyiv,” Oleksii Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told Lb.ua, quoted by the Guardian, on Saturday morning.
“There is a lot of false information online [that says] I asked our Army to lay down their arms and that there is an evacuation. I am here. We will not lay down our weapons. We are going to defend our State”, confirmed President Volodymyr Zelenskii, in a video published in which he was filmed on the streets of Kyiv.
Attacked on several fronts, the capital is no longer just a target of bombing and missile and artillery attacks and is now a stage of urban warfare, fought on the streets, on the main access roads to the city centre, at airports and other infrastructures. important structures located on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Authorities are running videos and media advertisements teaching residents how to make homemade bombs and are recruiting anyone who wants to join the army.
Among the most impressive images that arrived at dawn, one that shows the impact of a missile on a residential building stands out.
Many of those who have not yet fled the capital in recent hours have taken refuge overnight in shelters and underground metro stations.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 120,000 have left Ukrainian territory in recent days, heading to neighboring countries such as Poland, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia or Hungary. The Polish government says that around 100,000 Ukrainians entered its territory alone.
The total number of victims is, of course, still unknown. The official count by Ukrainian authorities, which reports to the entire country, puts 198 dead – including three children – and 1,115 injured.
On the Russian side there is no official accounting. Ukrainians speak, however, of more than a thousand dead soldiers; but the war of disinformation and discrediting the adversary is also being waged all the time. Internet connection problems in recent hours in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine will certainly contribute to the worsening of this media battle.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, the situation is also serious, with advances of Russian troops in different points and regions of cities such as Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Odessa, Kherson or Mikolaiv.
According to the Russian agency Interfax, citing the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian army on Saturday took control of its first important city in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion. This is Melitopol, with about 150,000 inhabitants, located in the Southeast of the country, close to Crimea.
The siege of Melitopol began as early as Thursday and was supported by Russian warships deployed in the Black Sea.
James Heappey, British Secretary of State for Defense, however, cast doubt on this achievement and argued that Russia is missing all the military objectives it had set for the first days of this operation.
“Even in Melitopol, which the Russians say they conquered, we can’t see anything substantial; is still in Ukrainian hands,” he told the BBC.
But Melitopol residents seem to confirm the achievement, sharing photos on social media that show a Russian flag flying at one of the city’s main police stations.
This demonstration of the apparent resilience of Ukrainian soldiers in Kyiv is an important message that Zelenskii and the Ministry of Defense are trying to convey to units fighting elsewhere in the territory, given Vladimir Putin’s calls for Ukrainian troops to overthrow their own political leadership – and expel the “drug junkies and neo-Nazis” that comprise it, in the words of the President of Russia – in exchange for Russian peace and protection.
At the same time, the Kremlin is also proposing to the Ukrainian government that negotiations for a ceasefire begin, and Sergii Nikiforov, Zelenski’s spokesman, reported Kyiv’s availability for these meetings.
Russia demands, however, that the negotiations take place in Minsk, Belarus – an ally of the Russians – and that they serve for Ukraine to commit to “demilitarize”, to abdicate a request for membership of NATO and to assume as “neutral state”. Conditions that are unlikely to be accepted by the Ukrainian President, who has even revealed details about Moscow’s plans to assassinate him.
“Now we see Moscow suggesting diplomacy at the barrel of a rifle, or with its rockets, mortars and artillery targeting the Ukrainian population. This is not true diplomacy,” criticized Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department.
On Friday, Russia also threatened Finland and Sweden with “serious political and military repercussions” if the two Nordic countries decide to join NATO. The announcement was made by the Kremlin after the secretary-general of the Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, invited the two nations to participate as observers in the organization’s latest extraordinary meeting.
What is certain is that, regardless of the greater or lesser ability shown by the Russian Federation to fulfill its military objectives in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Army says that it urgently needs help.
Zelenski, who had criticized NATO and Western countries for leaving Ukraine to fend for itself “alone”, this Saturday was already more relieved by the material and financial aid promised to him by the US, UK, France and Germany.
Joe Biden, President of the United States, announced that the US State Department will allocate up to US$250 million (€222 million) in general aid to Ukraine and up to US$350 million (€310.5 million) in “Defense articles and services”, including military education and training.
The US also joined the EU, the UK and Canada in promising to impose sanctions on President Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The EU measure – which is mostly symbolic – entails freezing the financial assets of the two Russian political leaders in their member states.
The possibility remains open for Western countries to move towards the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT global banking and financial communications system.
As far as diplomacy is concerned, the last few hours were marked by the expected blockade by Moscow of a resolution presented at the United Nations Security Council – where Russia is one of the five permanent members – that condemned Russian military aggression against Ukraine.
China, which has not condemned the Russian invasion and which has insistently called for dialogue, abstained. Just like India and the United Arab Emirates. The remaining 11 members voted in favor of the motion, but the Russian veto power overturned any chances of success of the initiative.
Source: with agencies