Russian Missile Strikes Target Kyiv As Troops Close In On Capital

Russian Missile Strikes Target Kyiv As Troops Close In On Capital

BY VOA,26TH FEB,2022-Russia pounded Kyiv with missile attacks as Ukrainian and Russian forces fought on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital Friday, the second day of Russia’s invasion of the country as diplomatic efforts to quell the violence continued and Western nations moved to shore up allied defenses.

Explosions were reported in the Ukrainian capital early Friday, as was gunfire in several areas. The New York Times reported it had “verified” video showing “fiery debris” falling on Kyiv. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry urged people in the capital of three million to stay indoors and “prepare Molotov cocktails” to defend the city.

“The city has gone into a defensive phase. Shots and explosions are ringing out in some neighborhoods. Saboteurs have already entered Kyiv,” said Kyiv’s mayor, former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitchko.

Russia’s military said Friday it took control of the strategic Hostomel airport northwest of Kyiv that enables it to quickly mobilize forces to seize the capital. Russia’s claim was not immediately confirmed but Ukrainian authorities reported heavy fighting there.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba denounced “horrific rocket strikes” on Kyiv, some of which hit civilian areas. The windows were blown out in a 10-story apartment building near Kyiv’s main airport, where a two-meter crater showed where a missile had hit before dawn.

After meeting Friday with foreign ministry officials from the separatist-controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that Russia was “ready for talks at any moment” with Ukraine once Ukrainian forces “stop their resistance and lay down their arms.”

Ukraine’s Office of the President said earlier it is ready to open negotiations with Russia to agree on “neutral status,” but it want security guarantees in return. “We should stop this war,” an adviser to the president said. In response to Ukraine’s offer, the Kremlin said Friday that Russia is ready to send a delegation to Belarus for talks with Ukrainian officials.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO heads of state and government hold a virtual meeting Friday morning. Earlier U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will join a virtual meeting with leaders of the Bucharest Nine – a grouping of NATO members on the eastern flank of the alliance.

NATO has activated its defense plans for member states in the region. The U.S. has not deployed any troops to Ukraine, but it has sent forces to NATO member countries. Ukraine is not a NATO member but wants to join the alliance – something Russian President Vladimir Putin vehemently opposes.

At the United Nations, Security Council members plan to vote Friday on a resolution that would condemn Russia for invading Ukraine and reaffirm the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. It will also call on Russia to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw troops from Ukraine.

A senior U.S. official said they expect Russia to use the veto power it holds as a permanent council member. Diplomats are expected to then move quickly to the General Assembly, where it could be adopted without a threat of veto and with strong moral backing — but would not be legally binding.

In northern Ukraine, Russian troops took control of the Chernobyl power plant Thursday. “This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe,” Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said.

Chernobyl is the site of the world’s worst nuclear power plant explosion. Chernobyl and its surrounding area have remained uninhabitable since the 1986 disaster.

Anti-war protesters staged demonstrations across Russia, including in Moscow and St. Peterburg, Thursday. Officials say at least 1,700 people were arrested.

“[Russian President Valdimir] Putin is the aggressor,” Biden said at the White House after meeting virtually Thursday with leaders of the G-7 nations and NATO. “Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences.”

The new U.S. sanctions target Russian banks, oligarchs and high-tech sectors and also include export controls. Biden said these measures will “squeeze Russia’s access to finance and technology for strategic sectors of its economy and degrade its industrial capacity for years to come.”

NATO allies, including Britain and the European Union, also imposed more sanctions Thursday.

The effect was felt almost immediately on global markets, where stocks slumped and commodity prices surged. Biden acknowledged that Americans will see higher gasoline prices.

However, Biden said, “This aggression cannot go unanswered. America stands up for freedom. This is who we are.”

He rebuked Putin for saying in recent weeks that he was interested in negotiating with the United States and its allies over his security concerns. Putin repeatedly said the U.S.-led NATO military alliance, formed after World War II, poses a threat to Russia and demanded that Ukraine be barred from joining the alliance.

“This was never about security,” Biden said. “This was always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire.”

Now, Biden said, “Putin will be a pariah on the world stage.”

But Zelenskyy said Friday that it is clear sanctions have not swayed Russia’s decision to attack Ukraine.

An International Criminal Court prosecutor warned Friday that the court may investigate whether Russia has committed any possible war crimes, following its invasion of Ukraine.

“I remind all sides conducting hostilities on the territory of Ukraine that my office may exercise its jurisdiction and investigate any act of genocide, crime against humanity or war crime committed within Ukraine,” (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan said Friday in a statement

This invasion is the biggest test of Europe’s security since the end of World War II. In a pre-dawn television address from the Kremlin, Putin termed it a “special military operation” aimed at the “demilitarization and denazification” of its neighbor, once a Soviet republic but an independent country since 1991.

The first volley struck at Ukrainian forces in the country’s east early Thursday and was followed by rocket strikes at several airports. As night fell in Europe, Ukraine’s Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said 57 Ukrainians had been killed and 169 wounded.

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