Kyiv, Feb 26 (EFE).- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told his compatriots early Saturday in a video that he expected Russian forces to attack Kyiv in the coming hours.
“This night they will launch an assault,” he said in a message transmitted from a secret location in the capital. “The enemy will use all of their power on all fronts to break our defense. This night we have to stand ground. The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now.”
Russian forces are known to be near Kyiv.
The president, who filmed himself on a street in Kyiv on Friday to prove he was still in the capital, said that his principal aim was “to put an end to this massacre.”
He said that Ukrainian forces have killed hundreds of Russian troops in their “heroic” resistance to the assault that began before dawn Thursday with land, air, and sea operations on multiple fronts.
Ukraine’s defense ministry said that 2,800 Russians had died along with around 200 Ukrainians. Russia has not released casualty figures.
Zelenskyy’s message came hours after his spokesman insisted that Kyiv remained in contact with Moscow about the possibility of negotiations to end the fighting.
“Ukraine was and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace,” Sergiy Nykyforov said in a Facebook post. “We agreed to the proposal of the President of the Russian Federation.”
The Kremlin had said that Kyiv had rejected overtures for a meeting on Friday in Minsk, Belarus, and called instead for discussions Saturday in Warsaw.
Zelenskyy said late Thursday that he was “not afraid” to negotiate over a possible declaration of Ukrainian neutrality in exchange for security guarantees.
Russia’s chief demands are the demilitarization of Ukraine and an assurance that Kyiv will never join NATO.
Comments earlier Friday from Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to reflect pessimism about prospects for negotiations with the current government in Kyiv.
“I once again appeal to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: do not allow neo-Nazis and (Ukrainian radical nationalists) to use your children, wives and elders as human shields,” he said during a televised session of Russia’s Security Council.
“Take power into your own hands. 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,” Putin said.
During the course of the day Friday, the European Union and the United States announced initial sanctions against Russia, including ones directed at Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other senior officials.
The spokesperson for Russia’s foreign minister dismissed the moves targeting Putin and members of his government.
The individual sanctions were “a demonstration of the complete impotency of the foreign policy” of the West, Maria Zakharova said on Russian television.
In New York, Russia used its veto to block a US-drafted Security Council resolution condemning Moscow’s actions in Ukraine after the draft was approved by a vote of 11-1 with three abstentions: China, India, and the United Arab Emirates. EFE io-cae/dr