Ukraine says 137 killed in Russian assault
Kyiv/Moscow, Feb 24 (EFE).- Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that 137 people have died in the multipronged Russian attack on the country.
“According to preliminary data, regrettable we have already lost 137 of our heroes, our citizens, 10 of them officers,” he said in an address to the nation.
Another 316 people were injured, Zelenskyy said.
“Today Russia attacked the entire territory of Ukraine. And today our defenders have done a great deal,” the president said.
“The enemy attacks not only military installations, as they affirm, but also civilians. They kill people and transform peaceful cities into military objectives. This is vile and will never be forgiven,” the president said.
Russia’s defense ministry said that its efforts are directed exclusively to “incapacitating” Ukrainian military infrastructure.
Zelenskyy denied reports that he had fled Kyiv.
“I am in the capital, my family is also in Ukraine,” he said. “I remain in the governmental quarter with all of those who are necessary for the work of the central government.”
The president urged the roughly 3 million residents of Kyiv to observe the 10:00 pm-7:00 am curfew imposed by the municipal government.
Noting accounts that Russia remains interested in negotiations that would see Ukraine agree to proclaim itself a neutral country, Zelenskyy said he had no fear of talking to Moscow.
“We are not afraid to talk with Russia. We are not afraid to discuss security guarantees for our security. We are not afraid to talk about neutral status,” he said. “But we will have security guarantees? Which countries will give them to us?”
The president said early Thursday that he severed diplomatic ties with Russia in response to the offensive.
“Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in World War II. As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history. Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself,” he said.
Though Zelenskyy may be determined to stay at his post in the capital, the roads heading out of Kyiv were jammed Thursday with people trying to flee.
“People want to go west, to cities where there are no airports and military installations,” a public employee identifying herself only as Olga said.
Russian forces have seized control of Hostomel, an international cargo airport 35 km (22 mi) from Kyiv, and of the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukrainian officials said.
The Russian defense ministry neither confirmed nor denied that report.
The ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said only that Russian forces “disabled” 83 facilities of Ukraine’s ground military infrastructure and destroyed four planes.
“All tasks for today, set before the Russian troops, have been successfully fulfilled,” he said late Thursday.
In televised pre-dawn address, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had “taken the decision to carry out a special military operation,” with a goal “to defend people who for eight years have been suffering persecution and genocide by the Kyiv regime.”