The latest as of 7.15 a.m. ET Saturday:
- A curfew in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, has been extended from 5 pm until 8 am every day
- At least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed and 1,115 people wounded so far, according to Ukraine’s Health Ministry
- Russia’s defence ministry says its troops have captured the city of Melitopol in Ukraine’s southeast; Ukraine has not confirmed.
- A residential building in Kyiv was hit by a munition Saturday, with photos and video showing a gaping hole more than halfway up the tower. Officials say there were no casualties and the building was being evacuated.
- Two other missiles hit areas southwest of the Kyiv city center Saturday morning, a Reuters correspondent reported.
- Fighting was underway on Saturday near the southern Ukrainian cities of Mariupol, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odesa, an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office said.
- President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a video on social media outside his office in Kyiv, where he assured Ukraine will not put down its weapons and he would not leave the capital.
Ukraine’s military says the capital of Kyiv was held overnight Saturday after hours of intense fighting with Russian troops, but several other areas of the country were under attack as the invasion entered its third day.
Fighting was underway on Saturday near the southern Ukrainian cities of Mariupol, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odesa, an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office said. The military said Russian cruise missiles had also launched from the Black Sea.
“Heavy fighting is taking place near Mariupol,” Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser, told a briefing. “But there is no chance that Mariupol will surrender or be captured.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a video outside his offices in Kyiv to insist he would not be leaving, amid reports the U.S. had offered to evacuate him. Those reports said Zelenskyy refused the offer.
“We will not put down weapons, we will defend our state,” Zelenskyy said in the video.
Russia’s defence ministry claimed its troops had taken control of the city of Melitopol in Ukraine’s southeast, where intense fighting had been reported earlier Saturday. Ukraine has yet to verify the claim.
Kyiv remains in the key target in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his democratic neighbour, which has killed hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and citizens since it was launched on Thursday. Ukraine and the West have said Putin aims to topple the Ukrainian government by force.
Zelenskyy had warned the nation just after midnight Saturday that Russia would launch a powerful offensive on the capital, urging citizens to pick up arms and join the fight. He promised that “the night will be very difficult, but the morning will come.”
Heavy fighting was reported across the capital early Saturday, with explosions and artillery blasts heard in several neighbourhoods and on the outskirts of the city before the sun rose.
The city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said dozens of people were wounded in overnight fighting in Kyiv, including two children. He added there was no major Russian military presence remaining in Kyiv, although “saboteur” groups were still active.
Kyiv’s government shared a picture of damage to what it said was a residential building in the Solomianskyi district of the city. The state emergency agency said there were no casualties and the building was being evacuated.
Two other missiles hit areas southwest of the Kyiv city center later Saturday morning, a Reuters correspondent reported.
Ukraine’s military said it stopped a Russian attack on a military base in the capital of Kyiv early Saturday morning. Separately, the military also said it shot down two more Russian aircraft, as well as a drone that had targeted a Ukrainian border guard ship in the Black Sea.
But the relative calm in Kyiv as day broke was not felt across the rest of the country. Air raid sirens were heard in multiple cities, including Kharkiv, Odesa, Lviv and Lutsk, and fighting was reported in several other areas of Ukraine.
The West, which had already imposed severe sanctions on Russia’s economy and members of Putin’s inner circle, went after the Russian leader himself on Friday. Canada, the United States, Britain and the European Union sanctioned Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, cutting them off from Western financing and business.
“We want to make sure that we’re suffocating the Russian regime. That’s our goal,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly.
For their part, U.S. defense officials believe the Russian offensive has encountered considerable resistance and is proceeding slower than Moscow had envisioned, though that could change quickly.
Ukraine’s military said over 3,500 Russian fighters had been killed and nearly 200 more taken prisoner, which has not been independently verified. Moscow has not admitted to a single casualty.
On Friday, explosions rocked Kyiv throughout the day as Russian forces closed in on the city. Air raid sirens wailed over the capital of three million people, where some residents sheltered in underground metro stations while officials urged citizens to prepare Molotov cocktails to defend the city.
Kyiv city council warned residents in the city’s Obolon district, near Hostomel, to stay indoors because of “the approach of active hostilities.” Ukrainian military vehicles were in Kyiv to defend it against approaching Russian troops, Ukraine’s interior ministry said.
Russia’s defence ministry later claimed Friday its forces secured the Hostomel aerodrome and landed paratroopers in the area. It could not immediately be confirmed and the Ukrainian authorities reported heavy fighting there.
It said the Russian military had blocked access to Kyiv from the west, and separatist forces in eastern Ukraine had attacked Ukrainian army positions with Russian army support.
As the conflict unfolds, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Russia is ready to send a delegation to the Belarusian capital Minsk for talks with Ukraine. He told Russian news agencies Moscow was willing to send a delegation including foreign and defence ministry officials.
Ukraine has said it is willing to discuss declaring itself a neutral country, and Peskov said demilitarization would need to be an essential part of that. That indicates Zelenskyy would be willing to negotiate dropping his country’s bid to join NATO, as Russia has demanded.
However, Reuters has reported that there is disagreement over where to hold the talks, with Ukraine opting for Warsaw, Poland. That disagreement has resulted in a “pause” in contacts, according to Peskov.
Before the invasion, the West rejected the demand to keep Ukraine out of NATO. Putin claimed the refusal to discuss keeping Ukraine out of NATO prompted him to order a military action in Ukraine to “demilitarize” it.
U.S. state department spokesperson Ned Price said Russia’s offer for talks with Ukraine was an attempt to conduct diplomacy “at the barrel of a gun,” adding Moscow must stop its bombing in Ukraine if it is serious about diplomacy.
Later on Friday, a draft U.N. Security Council resolution deploring the invasion was vetoed by Russia while 11 members voted in favour and China, the United Arab Emirates and India abstained.
The draft resolution is now expected to be taken up by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly.
In a televised meeting with Russia’s security council on Friday, Putin called on the Ukrainian military to seize power in their country a day after ordering the wide-ranging attack.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began early Thursday, and has already resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries. The West has responded with crippling sanctions and is promising more, but is holding back on sending its militaries to join the fight.
While the Kremlin acknowledged the economic sanctions may create problems, the Russian government claimed they won’t cut the country off at the knees.
“The main goal … was to ensure complete self-sufficiency and complete import substitution if necessary,” Peskov said. “To a large extent this goal has been achieved. Undoubtedly there will be problems, but they will not be insurmountable.”
Zelenskyy said the missile strikes on Friday were aimed at both military and civilian targets. He claimed Russian ground troops were being held back at multiple points across the country.
In his midnight address, he accused Russia of targeting schools, housing and orphanages. There were reports a kindergarten was shelled Friday, killing at least one child and injuring more.
“What is this war against Ukrainian children in a kindergarten,” Zelenskyy asked, looking haggard. “Who are they? Are they neo-Nazis from kindergarten as well?”
Putin has said his goal is to demilitarize and “deNazify” Ukraine. Zelenskyy is Jewish, with relatives who were killed during the Holocaust.
On Friday evening, Zelenskyy shared a video on social media later alongside his senior aides in the streets of Kyiv to reassure the nation as Russian troops closed in on the capital.
“Our troops are here, citizens are here,” Zelenskyy said, adding that “All of us are here protecting our independence of our country. And it will continue to be this way. Glory to our defenders, Glory to Ukraine, Glory to Heroes.”
U.S. and Ukrainian officials say Russia aims to capture Kyiv and topple the government, which Putin regards as a puppet of the United States.
Russian troops on Thursday seized the Chernobyl former nuclear power plant north of Kyiv as they advanced along the shortest route to Kyiv from Belarus to the north.
Ukrainian officials confirmed a Russian aircraft had been shot down by anti-aircraft missiles, causing the object to crash into a residential building in Kyiv and set it on fire.
It was unclear whether the aircraft was manned or whether it could be a missile, and reports of casualties varied. Kyiv municipal authorities said at least eight people were injured when the object crashed into the apartment block.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Twitter that three people were hurt, one of them critically, due to a rocket fragment hitting the city.
The military said Friday morning a bridge across a river had been destroyed in the area of Ivankiv, about 60 kilometres northwest of Kyiv, amid significant fighting as Ukraine works to keep Russian forces back.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the last time Kyiv had experienced such “horrific” missile strikes was in 1941 during the Second World War, when it was attacked by Nazi Germany.
“Ukraine defeated that evil and will defeat this one,” he said on Twitter.
Air raid sirens were also heard in the city of western Ukrainian city of Lviv, while a missile hit the airport in the city of Rivne in western Ukraine, its mayor said.
Separately, Ukraine’s border guard agency said a missile strike hit a border post in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhya, killing and wounding some guards. The region has no land border with Russia, but is located on the coast of the Azov Sea, which the neighbors share.
The military also said it was involved in intense fighting in the city of Sumy in Ukraine’s northeast.
In the separatist region of Luhansk, Ukraine’s state emergency agency said one person had died and buildings were damaged from Russian strikes in the city of Starobilsk.
On Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “Ukrainian forces are fighting bravely and are actually able to inflict damage on the invading Russian forces.”
Stoltenberg added the alliance will continue to send weapons to Ukraine, including air defences.
Even Pope Francis relayed his concerns to the Russian embassy to the Holy See on Friday over the country’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the Vatican. It’s the first time a pope has expressed concerns directly at an embassy in the midst of a conflict.
The pope spent about 30 minutes at the embassy, according to a Vatican spokesperson.
The Ukraine representative to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, has called for a special emergency session of the UN General Assembly. Kyslytsya called for the meeting in the coming days to discuss Russia’s actions toward Ukraine.
Canadian Ambassador to the UN Bob Rae said that he was on board with the motion.
“Canada supports emergency UNGA debate,” Rae tweeted.
The United States and other NATO members have sent military aid to Ukraine but there is no move to send troops for fear of sparking a wider European conflict.
Kuleba pleaded for “more weapons to continue fighting … the amount of tanks, armored vehicles, airplanes, helicopters that Russia threw on Ukraine is unimaginable.”
Zelenskyy said he is appealing to eastern European NATO members, including Poland, for an “anti-war coalition” to force Russia to sit at the negotiating table.
He said in his national address that Russia “will have to talk to us sooner or later” about ending hostilities, but vowed to defend Ukraine until those talks occur.
The Kremlin later said it had noted Zelenskyy’s willingness to discuss a neutrality pledge — first floated by one of his advisors — but said Moscow’s views of Kyiv remained unchanged.
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press.