Russia-Ukraine crisis

Russian forces pound Ukraine for third day, Kyiv still in Ukrainian hands

Reuters
Russian forces pound Ukraine for third day, Kyiv still in Ukrainian hands

Smoke and flames rise over during the shelling near Kyiv, as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine February 26, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Gleb Garanich/Reuters

(3rd UPDATE) At least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed and 1,115 people wounded so far in Russia's invasion, Interfax quoted Ukraine's Health Ministry as saying. It is unclear if the numbers make up only civilian casualties.

KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces pounded Ukrainian cities with artillery and cruise missiles on Saturday, February 26, for a third day running but a defiant President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the capital Kyiv remained in Ukrainian hands.

As hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fled westwards towards the European Union, top Russian security official and ex-president Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow’s military operations would be waged relentlessly until their goals were achieved.

Ignoring weeks of warnings from Western leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine on Thursday from the north, east and south, an assault that threatens to upend Europe’s post-Cold War order.

In a significant ratcheting up of Russia’s rhetoric, Medvedev said on social media that new Western sanctions had helped unite Russians and hinted at a severing of diplomatic ties with Western nations, saying it was time to “padlock the embassies.” He said Moscow might also restore the death penalty.

After a night of airstrikes, there were some signs of panic in center of Kyiv. Reuters reporters saw Ukrainian soldiers with guns and a group of women running along the street. Nearby, Ukrainian soldiers forced a man in civilian clothes to lie down on the pavement.

Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said there was currently no major Russian military presence in Kyiv, but added that saboteur groups were active. The metro system is now serving only as a shelter for citizens and trains have stopped running, he said.

Klitschko said 35 people, including two children, had been wounded overnight.

At least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed and 1,115 people wounded so far in Russia’s invasion, Interfax quoted Ukraine’s Health Ministry as saying. It was unclear whether the numbers comprised only civilian casualties.

Must Read

Ukraine invasion: What the West needs to do now – expert view

Ukraine invasion: What the West needs to do now – expert view

“We have withstood and are successfully repelling enemy attacks. The fighting goes on,” Zelenskiy said in a video message posted on his social media. “We have the courage to defend our homeland, to defend Europe.”

Britain said the bulk of Russian forces were now 30 km (19 miles) from the centre of Kyiv and said Russia had yet to gain control of Ukraine’s airspace.

‘Resistance’

Ukraine, a democratic nation of 44 million people, won independence from Moscow in 1991 and wants to join NATO and the EU, goals Russia opposes. Putin says Ukraine is an illegitimate state carved out of Russia, a view Ukrainians see as aimed at erasing their distinctive history and identity.

Western intelligence sources say Russian forces have encountered far stronger Ukrainian resistance to their invasion than they had expected to their invasion.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces had captured Melitopol, a city of 150,000 in southeastern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials were not immediately available to comment and Britain cast doubt on the report.

If confirmed, it would be the first significant population center the Russians have seized.

Ukraine said more than 1,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. Russia did not release casualty figures.

Putin has said he must eliminate what he calls a serious threat to his country from its smaller neighbour and has cited the need to “denazify” Ukraine’s leadership, accusing it of genocide against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine – a charge dismissed by Kyiv and its Western allies as baseless propaganda.

Zelenskiy signaled on Friday a readiness to discuss a ceasefire and peace talks, as did the Kremlin, but tentative diplomatic contacts have so far produced no results.

About 100,000 people have crossed into Poland from Ukraine since Thursday, including 9,000 who have entered since 7 am on Saturday, Polish Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Szefernaker told a news conference.

At Medyka in southern Poland, refugees described a 30-kilometer (19-mile) line at the border. Ukrainians were also crossing the borders into Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.

Ukraine has evacuated its embassy staff in Moscow to Latvia, the Baltic country’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.

The mayor of Chernihiv, some 150 km (93 miles) northeast of Kyiv, told citizens on Saturday: “We need to prepare for street combat. Those of you who know and understand what I am talking about, prepare the petrol bombs.”

Fighting was also underway on Saturday in the northeastern city of Sumy, the municipal administration said.

Sanctions

Western nations have announced a raft of sanctions on Russia, including blacklisting its banks and banning technology exports.

Must Read

EXPLAINER: The new US export rules designed to freeze Russian tech

EXPLAINER: The new US export rules designed to freeze Russian tech

They have stopped short of forcing Russia out of the SWIFT system for international bank payments, but the governor of a central bank in the euro zone told Reuters on Saturday such a decision was “just a matter of time, very short time, days”.

“Is it sufficient? No. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Sanctions only make sense if there are costs for both sides and this will be costly,” the central banker said.

Zelenskiy said he hoped “Germany and Hungary will have the courage to support” such a decision, which would cause economic disruption to Western countries reliant on Russian energy as well as to Moscow.

Russia’s Medvedev said sanctions showed the West’s impotence to change Moscow’s course. Moscow will respond symmetrically to the seizure of money of Russian citizens and companies abroad by seizing the funds of foreigners in Russia, he said.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov. The European Union and Britain earlier froze any assets Putin and Lavrov held in their territory. Canada took similar steps. – Rappler.com