Kyiv, Feb 25 (EFE).- Russian forces have reached Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv, Ukraine’s defense ministry said Friday.
Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to launch an invasion early on Thursday morning, with airstrikes hitting several Ukrainian cities and Russian tanks crossing into Ukrainian territory.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry called on citizens to report any movement of enemy war equipment and to prepare Molotov cocktails to fight back and “neutralize the occupier”.
The Ukrainian Army said Friday that clashes broke out in the locality of Ivanki, 80 kilometers from Kyiv, and Russian tanks were advancing towards the capital from areas surrounding the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
“Ukrainian forces blew up a bridge to stop the Russian column,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said, according to local media.
In a televised address to the nation on Friday, president Volodomyr Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian forces had scuppered Russia’s planned invasion.
“Our boys and girls, all the defenders of Ukraine, did not allow the enemy to carry out the operational plan of the invasion on the first day,” said the head of state, who added that Russian troops coming from most directions had been stopped amid ongoing heavy fighting.
Loud explosions were heard around the capital on Friday morning, which interior ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko attributed to anti-aircraft fire defending the city.
Kyiv’s anti-aircraft defense shot down a Russian aircraft, which landed next to a residential building, according to deputy defense minister Hanna Malyar.
The Ukrainian Land Army and Malyar also said a line of Russian forces that had appropriated Ukrainian vehicles and were moving at high speed had been blocked from entering the center of Kyiv.
“The Russian Army seized two vehicles of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, dressed in the uniform of the Ukrainian Army and moved at high speed to the center of Kyiv from Obolon”, which “were followed by a column of Russian military trucks,” they said.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Friday that the personal safety of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is “in doubt” and offered his country’s help “if necessary.”
His statements came after Zelenskyy said that he is the “No. 1 target” of the Russian military, although he denied reports that he had fled.
“I am in the capital, my family is also in Ukraine,” he stressed. “According to our information, I am the enemy’s number one target. My family is the second. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state,” the president said.
In his televised speech, Zelenskyy slammed Western sanctions imposed against Russia on Thursday as “insufficient.”
He also said that Russia was attacking Ukrainian cities with missiles on Friday. “They say that civilian infrastructures are not targeted: lies!”, the Ukrainian leader emphasized.
“The enemy attacks not only military installations, as they claim, but also civilians. They kill people and transform peaceful cities into military objectives. This is vile and will never be forgiven,” the president said.
“According to preliminary data, unfortunately we have already lost 137 of our heroes, our citizens, 10 of them officers. 316 were wounded,” the head of state said.
At a press conference in Moscow on Friday, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said his country was not aiming to occupy Ukraine but just to “demilitarize” it, insisting that Moscow “has always stood for a diplomatic solution.”
Lavrov, who was meeting with representatives of the two pro-Russian separatist territories in eastern Ukraine which Moscow formally recognized shortly before launching the invasion, also denied that Ukraine could be considered a democratic government, repeating Vladimir Putin’s claim that Ukraine was guilty of “genocide” against its own people living in the eastern Donbas region.