Russian forces converge on Ukrainian capital

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a late night address to his nation, said more than 130 Ukrainians died in the first full day of fighting, while the country’s Defense Ministry estimated that 800 Russian soldiers were lost. In response to Russian advances, he ordered full military mobilization and banned adult men from leaving the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a “special military operation” of war in a televised address broadcast early Wednesday morning Moscow time. A full-scale invasion followed soon after on several fronts, with missile bombardments on airports and military installations across the country and strikes on arms depots, followed by tanks and heavy armor arriving from Belarus, Crimea and Russian border positions along northeastern Ukraine.

The UK Ministry of Defense said Russia failed to achieve its first-day military objectives, not least because it encountered such resistance from Ukrainian fighters. Analysts noted that Kremlin forces were struggling in areas around Kiev and Kharkiv, but had an easier time operating in eastern and southern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces said they managed to cause heavy “enemy” casualties on the first day of fighting, including destroying 30 tanks, up to 130 armored vehicles, seven planes and six helicopters.

A spokesperson for Zelenskyy told POLITICO he intended to stay and lead his government during the invasion. During his speech on Thursday, Zelenskyy said he had sent his family to an undisclosed location because he was Russia’s main target. He also claimed that Russian “sabotage groups” had entered the capital.

Earlier Thursday, Russian forces captured the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, about 80 miles north of the city, and took staff members hostage. Zelenskyy said Thursday morning that Russia was on an “evil path”, reminiscent of Nazi Germany, and offered to give arms to any citizens willing to help defend their country.

Russia then tried to land troops along the Kiev Reservoir. The battle continued to close in near Hostomel, less than 10 km from the Kyiv city limits early Thursday evening, but Ukrainian officials said it was defending itself against Russian attempts to take Kyiv’s airport. Hostomel.

The Russian leader has shown no signs of de-escalating. Its troops began bombing Kiev in earnest, likely ahead of a larger ground invasion, even as President Joe Biden announced a second, tougher set of sanctions against Russia on Thursday, including technology export blocks, limits to Russia’s ability to finance and develop its military and aerospace sector, and sanctions targeting Russian banks, including VTB, elites and Putin’s inner circle.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC News on Thursday evening that he was “convinced” that Russia would target Kiev. The United States has indicated that the Kremlin could potentially overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government and replace it with a puppet regime.

Biden approved an additional 7,000 US troops on Thursday to be sent to Germany, bringing the total of US forces sent to Europe to 12,000 this month. The president said the troops would not be sent to Ukraine to fight but would be in place to reassure NATO allies.

Putin sent a clear message to the United States and its allies when announcing the invasion, warning foreign governments not to interfere with his operation.

“If you do, you will face greater consequences than you have faced in history,” Putin said. “All relevant decisions have been made. I hope you can hear me.

Alex Ward, Andrew Desiderio and Paul McLeary contributed to this report.


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