Russian military forces reach Ukrainian capital

February 26, 2022 - 7:27

TEHRAN-Air raid sirens have gone off in Kiev as Russian forces have reportedly closed in on the Ukrainian capital. Loud explosions have been heard across the city amid reports suggesting gunfire near a government district and the city center. There are some reports that Russian forces have entered the Ukrainian capital.

According to Ukrainian media, Russian forces have entered the Obolon district of the capital where the Ukrainian military is fighting them. The district is around ten kilometers away from central Kiev.

Ukraine deputy defense minister says his country’s armed units are defending positions in Kiev on four fronts. The country has decreed a full military mobilization and all men aged 18 to 60 have been told they are forbidden from leaving the country. 

The mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, says the city has entered into a defensive phase as Russian forces advance and look set to enter the capital from different positions. 

A curfew has also been imposed in the Ukrainian capital between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am. This is while members of the volunteer territorial defense battalions, who have received about 10,000 assault rifles, are patrolling the city’s streets.

Russian forces have taken control of Hostomel airport near Kiev, Russian media has reported. 
Russia’s military has said it has blocked Kiev from the western side as it captured the strategic Hostomel airport outside the capital. The Hostomel airfield has been the scene of some of the most intense clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces. The airfield in the airport has a considerably long runway that is capable of allowing heavy transport planes to land. 

The airport is around 25 km to the northwest of Kiev, and could effectively seal off western approaches to the Ukrainian capital.

The Russian defense ministry spokesman also says that more than 200 soldiers from the Ukrainian special units had been killed. Journalists on the ground have reported more Ukrainian military vehicles entering Kiev to defend the capital.

One Russian news agency has cited the country’s defense ministry as saying Russian armed forces will not strike the residential areas of Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine. 

Footage published by Ukrainian media shows buildings under fire reported to be in various cities across the country. 

A UNHCR spokesperson says some 100,000 people in Ukraine have already fled their homes and may be displaced inside the country and several thousand others have sought refuge in neighboring countries. 

Outside the capital, Moscow has confirmed that its paratroopers have taken control of the area around the Chernobyl nuclear plant north of the Kiev region. Ukrainian officials have confirmed losing control of the now decommissioned nuclear site. 

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency says there has been “no casualties or destruction at the industrial site”, when an explosion in 1986 led to the worst nuclear disaster in human history.

Both Kiev and Moscow have confirmed that the Ukrainian Island of Zmiinyi in the Black Sea has been captured by Russian forces. 

The Russian defense ministry also says Russian forces have advanced on the city of Chernihiv. 

Missile strikes and air raid alerts have been reported in a number of other Ukrainian cities. The mayor of the eastern city of Kharkiv has urged residents to head to subway stations, bomb shelters, and basements. The Black Sea port city of Odesa has also been the scene of clashes between the two sides. 
The mayor of Donetsk, says the “bombardment” of the self-declared breakaway republic using Grad multiple launch rocket systems have resulted in civilians’ casualties. 

Alexey Kulemzin says "Donetsk is again under fire” by Ukrainian forces, “as a result of the bombardment with the Grad multiple launch rocket systems, civilians were wounded in the central part of the Kuybyshevsky district”. 

Ukrainian airspace has been closed to all civilian aircraft, according to Eurocontrol, which manages European air traffic. A formal notice to pilots and operators has been sent warning of the "potential hazard for civil aviation”. 

Russian media have cited a defense ministry spokesman as saying that since the start of Russia’s military operations on Thursday morning, the country’s armed forces have destroyed scores of “Ukrainian military ground infrastructure”. 

By Friday morning, the spokesman says Russian troops had disabled 118 Ukrainian military facilities, including 11 military airfields, 13 command and communications points, 36 radar stations, and 14 anti-aircraft missile systems. In addition, 11 Ukrainian aircraft have been downed, 18 tanks and other armored vehicles, seven multiple-launch rocket systems and five gunboats have been destroyed.

The Ukrainian government has already declared martial law across the country with authorities calling on its citizens to fight off Russian forces in the capital and prepare Molotov cocktails and other firebombs. Ukrainian citizens have also been offered the weapon of their choice from a variety of small firearms including automatic weapons. 

President Volodymyr Zelensky has criticized Western allies for leaving his country to fight alone. In a video address, Zelensky asked “who is ready to fight alongside us? I don’t see anyone. Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of freedom NATO membership? Everyone is afraid”. 

Zelensky also said that at least 137 Ukrainians, both military personnel and civilians, have died since the start of the Russian military operation early Thursday, while another 316 have been wounded. Ukrainian officials are expected to revise the casualty figures as Zelensky’s announcement was made before heavy fighting on Friday. 

According to Chinese state media, Russian President Vladimir Putin told China’s President Xi Jinping in a phone call on Friday that Russia is willing to hold high-level talks with Ukraine. 
CCTV says President Xi told his Russian counterpart that Beijing supports Moscow in efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis through dialogue.

According to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence chief, the path forward for Ukraine is “neutrality” after an adviser to President Zelensky suggested Kiev was ready for talks with Moscow, including on adopting a neutral status regarding NATO.
The Kremlin says it has taken note of the statement made by Ukrainian Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak and was in the process of analyzing his comments.

In the meantime, the Kremlin has issued several statements saying Russian “President Putin will address the UN Security Council and hold several international phone calls”. 

Russia will impose retaliatory sanctions on western countries that have hit Moscow with punitive measures. The Kremlin says Western sanctions will cause problems but are solvable since the country has reduced its dependence on foreign imports.

According to reports, the EU will freeze the assets of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov as part of the third round of sanctions against Russia.

The Kremlin also said Moscow recognizes Volodymyr Zelensky as the president of Ukraine. It added that Russia expects relations with the west to normalize once people understand it was forced to act to protect its security. 
The Kremlin made no comment on the duration of the military operations.

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that Russia is ready to send a delegation to the Belarusian capital Minsk for talks with Ukraine. According to Peskov, the delegation of officials could include representatives from both country’s foreign and defense ministries.

NATO promised Ukraine eventual membership back in 2008, drawing sharp anger from Moscow. In the run-up to Russia’s military action, the Kremlin had demanded that the U.S.-led alliance give assurances that Kiev will never be accepted into NATO, accusing the alliance of encroaching on its borders. 

NATO and Washington refused to provide such guarantees to Moscow.