Moscow/Kyiv, Feb 26 (EFE).- The Ukrainian army was clashing with Russian forces in the streets of Kyiv on Saturday, while the mayor’s office urged residents of the capital to be cautious and to remain calm.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who on Friday said he was Russia’s “number one target”, has rejected offers from the United States to leave the country and remains in his post.
In New York, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine, while China abstained, as more members of the international community joined the political, economic and social sanctions against Russia.
The Ukrainian Army is fighting in the streets of Kiev with Russian units, which reportedly shelled a military garrison to the west of the capital.
Ukraine says the enemy attack has been pushed back after a convoy of Russian tanks and other military vehicles tried to enter the heart of Kyiv from the west.
According to Ukrainian authorities, Russian airborne forces have landed at an airfield in the town of Vasilkov, less than 40 kilometers from the capital.
Around 100 Russian armored vehicles were advancing towards Kyiv from the north, local media reported Saturday.
Explosions have been heard in the Ukrainian capital which local authorities said were from a Russian attack on a thermal power plant in Troieshchyna. The CHP-6 combined heat and power plant is the largest in Ukraine.
The office of Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko has advised the city’s residents not to go outside and stay away from windows and balconies, while air raid sirens have sounded calling on city residents to take shelter.
Ukraine has confirmed at least 198 deaths since the invasion began, including 3 children, while 1,115, 33 of whom are minors, were wounded.
The Pentagon said Friday that Ukraine’s armed forces were successfully defending their territory and that Russia had suffered “setbacks” in its invasion of Ukraine that began on Thursday morning.
Russia, however, said it has hit over 820 Ukrainian military targets with cruise missiles, defense ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said, adding that Russian forces had shot down or destroyed dozens of Ukrainian aircraft and military vehicles and had taken over the southern city of Melitopol.
The spokesman also highlighted the advance of the separatist militias of Luhansk and Donetsk, with Russian military support.
The Ukrainian defense ministry, on the other hand, said that the Russians had lost more than 3,000 troops since the invasion began on Thursday.
None of these claims can be independently verified.
ZELENSKYY FIGHTS ON
In a defiant message to the nation early on Saturday morning, Zelenskyy called on the army not to lose control of the capital city.
The fate of Ukraine was being decided, he said, adding that his main goal “is to put an end to this massacre.”
The US government has reportedly offered to help Zelenskyy flee the country to avoid being captured or killed by the approaching Russian forces.
But the Ukrainian president has rejected the prospect of an evacuation and denied that he has ordered the army to lay down its arms in the face of the Russian offensive.
THE WORLD WATCHES
As expected, Russia on Friday wielded its veto to block a United Nations resolution condemning its invasion of Ukraine and demanding the withdrawal of its troops.
The resolution was supported by the majority of the UN Security Council, but China – which recently signed a partnership agreement with Russia and has refused to denounce Moscow’s incursion into Ukraine – abstained.
US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that while Russia can veto this resolution, “Russia cannot veto our voices, Russia cannot veto the truth, Russia cannot veto our principles, Russian cannot veto the Ukrainian people. And Russia will not veto accountability.”
Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said that while Beijing defends every country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, it blamed the West for not addressing Russia’s “legitimate” security concerns.
“Against the background of five successive rounds of Nato expansion, Russia’s legitimate security aspirations should have been addressed and adequately responded to,” said Zhang, who insisted that the priority should be finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Moscow has said that Kyiv has refused offers to negotiate, a claim which Ukraine has denied.
On Friday, Putin called on the Ukrainian army to topple its own government, saying “it will be easier for us to agree with you than this gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis who have settled in Kyiv and are holding the entire Ukrainian people hostage.”
The United States joined the European Union on Friday in announcing more economic sanctions against Putin and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
Unlike the European sanctions, Washington’s will bar Putin from traveling to the United States.
But the sanctions stop short of excluding Russia from the SWIFT payment system that underpins international banking or of applying trade restrictions on imports of gas and luxury goods.
It is very rare for the US or EU to impose sanctions against a head of state or government. It has only done so in the past against the presidents of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and Belarus, Alexandr Lukashenko, as well as the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, the US Treasury Department said in a statement.
Moscow, meanwhile, dismissed the sanctions against Putin and Lavrov with foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova calling them “a demonstration of the total impotence” of Western countries.
Russia launched the invasion on Thursday morning after failing to secure guarantees from Nato that it would not allow Ukraine or other former Soviet satellites to join the alliance. EFE
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