Kyiv Under Siege As Russian Forces Move on Ukrainian Capital
Putin "is just simply crazy…to come here and kill Ukrainians,” says former president Poroshenko, vowing a long fight.
Kyiv and the greater Obolon district came under increased fire early Friday as Russian forces continued their advance on Ukraine's capital.
Overnight, Russian forces launched rockets at the city, foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted: “Horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv. Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany.”
Speaking to CNN early Friday, former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said he and the forces with him in central Kyiv had just been warned of another missile attack, one of many air-raid warnings that were ringing out across the country.
“He’s just simply mad, he’s just simply crazy….to come here and kill Ukrainians,” Poroshenko said.
The latest reports from Ukraine come just before NATO is to hold an emergency virtual summit of its member heads of state and government, including President Joe Biden.
“Every inch of NATO territory will be defended,” U.S. permanent ambassador to NATO Julie Smith said on CNN ahead of the meeting.
On Friday, Kremlin officials also officially responded to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s offer to negotiate a “neutral” Ukraine, saying they would be open to talks, CNN’s Matthew Chance reported, reading the statement from the Kremlin live on TV.
"Following Zelenskyy’s proposal to discuss the neutral status of Ukraine, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin can send representatives of the [Russian] Ministry of Defense, the Foreign Ministry, and his administration to negotiations with the Ukrainian delegation," CNN reported, citing the a readout posted to Russian state media RIA Novosti.
China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that President Xi Jinping talked with Putin Friday and supported the idea that the Russian leader should negotiate with Ukrainian officials.
“We’re ready for negotiations at any moment as soon as the armed forces of Ukraine respond to our proposal, stop resisting, lay down their weapons,” Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday, according to Turkey news agency Anadolu.
The Ukrainian defense ministry said that more than 1,000 Russian troops had been killed in the fighting.
“Today the number of losses from the occupying forces of the Russian Federation is more than one thousand,” the ministry tweeted. “Russia has not suffered such a large number of casualties during this period of hostilities in the entire period of its existence in any of the armed conflicts it has started.”
Poroshenko told CNN that 133 Ukrainian troops had been killed.
Russian casualty reports remain unverified, but information coming out of Ukraine initially suggested Ukrainian forces were delivering a more aggressive defense of Ukraine than Russia may have anticipated.
A senior defense official at the Pentagon said Thursday that the multi-front advance on Kyiv is intent on “decapitating” Ukraine’s government.
Ukraine “needs the support of partners more than ever. We demand effective counteraction to the Russian Federation. Sanctions must be further strengthened,” Zelenskyy tweeted, adding that there was heavy fighting “at the entrances to Chernihiv, Hostomel and Melitopol.” Cherniviv is just north of Kyiv, Hostomel is west of the capital city.
"It's our assessment that [Russian forces] have every intention of basically, decapitating the government and installing their own method of governance, which would explain these early moves towards Kyiv," the official said.
Ukraine was already promoting a remarkable audio recording allegedly capturing the heroism of 13 Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island off the country’s southern tip, in the Black Sea. As a Russian warship ordered the soldiers to surrender or face bombardment, a Ukrainian soldier radioed back: “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”
Kuleba also said Russia had attacked a kindergarten.
“Today’s Russian attacks on a kindergarten and an orphanage are war crimes and violations of the Rome Statute,” the foreign minister said. “Together with the General Prosecutor’s Office we are collecting this and other facts, which we will immediately send to the Hague. Responsibility is inevitable.”
Zelenskyy and Poroshenko on Friday urged NATO to send in its response force and impose further sanctions on Russian interests, including blocking Russia from the SWIFT banking messaging system that allows quick financial transactions across borders and is used to facilitate transactions of goods and services in Russia.
President Joe Biden told reporters Thursday that adding SWIFT to the sanctions would not be effective. The United States does not control the network, which is owned by U.S. and European banks and carries 40 million messages daily, according to the BBC. European governments have hesitated to expel Russian banks, a step many believe could hurt the wider international banking system.
Beyond Ukraine, Russia and Western governments continue to spar via non-military punitive measures. On Friday, Moscow banned British aircraft from flying through Russian airspace, as retaliation for the UK’s ban on Aeroflot, Sky News reported.