Russian troops and armoured vehicles advanced into Kyiv’s northern suburbs on Friday as the city’s population was urged to take up arms, threatening a surge in violence as Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine shifts to urban warfare, international media reported.
A steady advance by the Russian military supported by cruise missile strikes and Special Forces assaults during the first 24 hours of the invasion brought troops into Kyiv on Friday morning, forcing many of its 3mn inhabitants to seek shelter.
“We should be very fearful of high levels of violence in Kyiv,” Financial Times quoted a senior western intelligence official as saying. He also warned of “an incredibly brutal and lethal suppression campaign” in the capital, as residents reported the sounds of explosions around the city.
Russian troops and armoured vehicles rolled into the city’s residential district of Obolon on Friday, less than 15km from Kyiv’s centre.
The report said that Moscow is pushing for a rapid seizure of the capital, which has been the core initial objective of its invasion, alongside a sustained assault on Ukrainian army positions in the east of the country.
Pedestrians ran for safety as small arms fire and explosions erupted in the Obolonsky district in Kyiv’s north. Larger blasts could be heard in the city centre, where residents endured a first tense night under curfew and the sounds of bombing, news agency AFP reported.
The Ukrainian ministry of defence said the clash had been provoked by “an enemy sabotage and reconnaissance group”.
Russian forces first arrived on the outskirts of Kyiv on Thursday when waves of helicopter-borne troops assaulted the Gostomel airfield just outside the city, close to Obolonsky.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to stay in Kyiv as his troops battled Russian invaders in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two. “(The) enemy has marked me down as the number one target,” Zelensky warned in a video message. My family is the number two target. I will stay in the capital. My family is also in Ukraine,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today Moscow wants to “free Ukraine from oppression”. Russian President Vladimir “Putin took the decision to conduct a special military operation to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine,” Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow.
Russian forces said they had taken control of a vital canal to supply water to Moscow-annexed Crimea, which has been suffering from shortages for the past eight years.
Crimea received most of its water from Ukraine’s Dnieper River via the North Crimean Canal until 2014, when Moscow annexed the peninsula and Kyiv authorities blocked the waterway.
The invasion of Ukraine has invited severe economic sanctions on Russia. In a speech from the White House, US President Joe Biden said four more banks- including the two biggest, Sberbank and VTB- would be hit with sanctions by Western sanctions.
In addition, export controls slapped on sensitive components will “cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports.” The penalties will be severe, and will have lasting impact on Russia’s economy, Biden said.
The US President confirmed that for now there was no attempt to put sanctions directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is widely reported to have amassed a huge, secret fortune during his two decades in power.
The US will have consultations with India on the crisis in Ukraine, he said. India has a historic and time-tested friendship with Russia. At the same time, its strategic partnership with the US has grown at an unprecedented pace over the last decade and half, NDTV reported.
Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin late Thursday, appealing for an “immediate cessation of violence”. The conversation came hours after Ukraine’s urgent appeal to India for intervention.