What you should know if Russian forces attack Kiev

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VIENNA (AP) – Russian forces closed in on the Ukrainian capital on Saturday after a spate of airstrikes on cities and military bases across the country. The city warned of street fighting and urged residents to stay indoors and take cover.

Amid mounting signs that Russia wants to overthrow him, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to “stand firm”, saying that “Ukraine’s fate is being decided”. According to a senior US intelligence official, he refused American help to exit the country.

Zelenskyy said in a video released on Saturday that Russian attempts to invade Kiev were repelled and Moscow’s plan to seize the capital quickly and install a puppet government was thwarted.


Ukrainian officials reported some success in repelling attacks, but fighting continued near the capital. Skirmishes reported on the outskirts of town indicated that small Russian units were attempting to clear a path for the main forces.

However, US defense officials said they believe the Russian offensive has met significant resistance and is advancing more slowly than Moscow had envisioned, although that could change quickly.

Interesting facts about the conflict and security crisis in formerly Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe:

RUSSIAN TROOPS MARCH ON

Kiev officials are warning residents that street fighting is ongoing against Russian forces. They advised residents to stay in shelters or at home to avoid going near windows or onto balconies and to take precautions to avoid being hit by debris or bullets.

The Ukrainian military said a battle was underway near a military unit west of the city center. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said fresh blasts had rocked the area near a major power plant that the Russians were trying to attack.

A rocket had hit a high-rise building on the south-western outskirts of Kiev, Klitschko said on Saturday. He said rescue workers were on their way and posted a picture on a messaging app showing a gaping hole in one side of the building.

Russian troops tried to advance on the city from several directions.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov claimed on Saturday that his military had hit 821 Ukrainian military installations, 87 tanks and other targets since the start of the Russian attack.

Konashenkov did not say how many Ukrainian troops were killed or mention casualties on the Russian side. Neither his claims nor Ukraine’s claims that its forces killed thousands of Russian troops could be independently verified.

Konashenkov claimed the Russian military had taken complete control of the southern town of Melitopol, about 35 kilometers inland from the Azov Sea coast, and said Russian-backed separatists had made significant gains in the eastern Donbass region.

CIVILIANS IN DANGER

Russia claims its attack on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets, but civilians have been killed and injured during Europe’s biggest ground war since World War II.

Ukraine’s Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said Saturday that the Russian offensive killed 198 people and wounded more than 1,000 others. It was not clear if the number in his statement included both military and civilians.

He said another 1,115 people, including 33 children, were injured in the Russian invasion.

A rocket hit a high-rise apartment building on the southwestern outskirts near one of Kiev’s two passenger airports, Mayor Klitschsko said, leaving a craggy hole of devastated apartments over several stories. A rescue worker said six civilians were injured.

On Friday after 8 p.m., a loud bang was heard near Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the square in central Kiev. And the mayor said five blasts occurred near a large power plant outside the city. The causes of the explosions were not immediately known.

ESCAPE TO SAFETY

The conflict has already displaced hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians from their homes. UN officials said more than 120,000 Ukrainians left the country for Poland, Moldova and other neighboring countries.

The number quickly rose as Ukrainians grabbed their belongings and rushed to escape a deadly Russian attack on their nation.

“Nearly 116,000 have crossed international borders so far. That can go up, it’s changing every minute,” said Shabia Mantoo, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “It’s very fluid and changes every hour.”

The agency reckons that up to 4 million Ukrainians could flee if the situation continues to deteriorate.

Since men of military age were forbidden to leave the country, most of those who crossed the borders were women, children and the elderly.

Cars were backed up for miles at some border crossings as authorities in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova mobilized to take in the Ukrainians and provide them with shelter, food and legal aid. These countries also eased their usual border procedures, including COVID-19 testing requirements.

HINTS TO TALKS TO END THE BATTLES

Hopes for a negotiated end to the war rose, then dimmed on Friday after a tentative agreement to discuss Zelenskyy’s bid to make Ukraine a non-aligned country appeared to collapse.

The Kremlin initially said it was ready to send a delegation to Belarus, but later backtracked, saying the Ukrainian government indicated it preferred to meet in Warsaw and then cut off communications. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also questioned the sincerity of the Ukrainian president’s offer, saying Zelenskyy should have agreed to the talks earlier.

But late Friday, Sergii Nikiforov, Zelenskyi’s spokesman, wrote on Facebook that the two sides were consulting on the time and place for the talks.

RUSSIA TURNS THE SCREW

The West has taken a military option off the table in Ukraine, but world leaders – with the exception of Moscow ally China – are preparing measures aimed at hurting Russia’s economy and its leaders, including Putin himself .

The US, Britain, Canada and the European Union said on Friday they would sanction Putin and Lavrov, his foreign minister. The EU unanimously agreed to freeze its assets.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki hinted that US sanctions would include a travel ban.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the sanctions show the West’s “total helplessness”. “Who are you going to talk to? … A nuclear power, a great country; Who did you decide to play with?” Zakharova said in a televised address.

EU ministers have said other sanctions are still possible, including kicking Russia out of SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions.

Asian and Pacific countries have joined the West in taking punitive measures against Russia, including export controls aimed at starving its industries and military of semiconductors and other high-tech products.

And in pop culture, the hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest also excluded Russia from the May finals in Turin, Italy.

SPORT WORLD IS TURNING ITS BACK

Poland is refusing to play its World Cup qualifier against Russia next month in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the president of the Polish Football Association said on Saturday. The game was scheduled for March 24th.

In addition, Russia was banned from hosting the Champions League final by UEFA, St Petersburg was replaced by Paris and Formula 1 skipped this year’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in September.

The flagship final of the European men’s football season will still be played on May 28, but at the Stade de France with 80,000 spectators.

The International Ski Federation announced that Russia will not host any more World Cup events this winter, and the European curling championships scheduled for November in Perm, Russia, will also be rescheduled, the sport’s international governing body said on Friday.

The International Tennis Federation has also canceled all events taking place in Russia indefinitely.

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Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of Russia-Ukraine tensions at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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