By YURAS KARMANAU, JIM HEINTZ, VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV and DASHA LITVINOVA
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Russia on Friday pressured its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital after launching airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending troops and three-way tanks in an attack that could rewrite global post-Cold War security. order.
The blasts rang out before dawn in Kiev as Western leaders scheduled an emergency meeting and the Ukrainian president called for international help. The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear, but the blasts came amid indications that Ukraine’s capital and largest city were increasingly threatened after a day of fighting that left more than 100 Ukrainians dead.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the government had information that “subversive groups” were invading the city, and the US Secretary of State. dismantle the government and replace it with its own regime.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told lawmakers in a phone call Thursday night that Russian mechanized forces entering from Belarus were about 20 miles from Kiev, according to a person familiar with the call.
The assault, planned for weeks by the United States and Western allies and launched by Putin in the face of international condemnation and cascading sanctions, is the largest land war in Europe since World War II.
Russian missiles bombed cities and military bases on the first day of the attack, and Ukrainian authorities said they had lost control of the dismantled Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Civilians piled on trains and cars to flee and hotel guests were taken to a shelter when explosions sounded in Kiev.
“Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and will not give up its freedom,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter. His increasingly weak understanding of power on Thursday called for even harsher sanctions than those imposed by Western allies and ordered a full 90-day military mobilization.
Zelenskyy said in a video that 137 “heroes”, including 10 military officers, had been killed and 316 people were injured. The dead included border guards on Zmiinyi Island in the Odessa region, which was taken by the Russians.
He concluded with an emotional speech saying that “the fate of the country depends entirely on our army, security forces, all our defenders.” He also said that the country had heard from Moscow that “they want to talk about the neutral status of Ukraine.”
Biden was due to meet on Friday morning with other NATO government leaders in what the White House described as an “extraordinary virtual summit” to discuss with Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden has announced new sanctions against Russia, saying Putin has “chosen this war” and shown a “sinister” view of the world in which nations take what they want by force. Other nations also announced sanctions or said they would do so soon.
“It was always a naked aggression, Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary: intimidating Russia’s neighbors through coercion and corruption, changing borders by force, and ultimately choosing a war without a cause,” Biden said. .
Blinken said in television interviews that he was convinced that Russia intended to overthrow the Ukrainian government, telling CBS that Putin wanted to “reconstitute the Soviet empire” and that Kiev was already “under threat, and could well be besieged.”
Fearing a Russian attack on the capital, thousands of people went underground as night fell, clogging Kiev subway stations.
Sometimes he felt almost cheerful. Families dined. The children played. The adults talked. People brought sleeping bags or dogs or crossword puzzles, anything to ease the wait and the long night ahead.
But the exhaustion was clear on many faces. And worries.
“No one believed that this war would start and that they would take Kiev directly,” Anton Mironov said, waiting for the night at one of the former Soviet subway stations. “I feel mostly tired. None of that seems real.”
The invasion began early Thursday with a series of missile attacks, many on key government and military installations, quickly followed by a three-pronged ground assault. Ukrainian and U.S. officials said Russian forces were attacking from the east toward Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city; from the southern Crimean region, which Russia annexed in 2014; and from Belarus to the north.
Zelenskyy, who had previously cut off diplomatic relations with Moscow and declared martial law, appealed to world leaders, saying that “if you do not help us now, if you do not offer powerful help to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door. “
Although Biden said he had no plans to speak with Putin, the Russian leader did have what the Kremlin described as a “serious and frank exchange” with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Both sides claimed to have destroyed some of the other’s planes and military equipment, although little has been confirmed.
Hours after the invasion began, Russian forces took control of the now unused Chernobyl plant and its surrounding exclusion zone after a fierce battle, Presidential Adviser Myhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said Ukraine had informed him of the takeover, adding that “there were no casualties or destruction at the industrial site.”
The 1986 disaster occurred when a nuclear reactor at the plant 130 kilometers north of Kiev exploded, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe. The damaged reactor was subsequently covered by a protective layer to prevent leakage.
Alyona Shevtsova, an adviser to the commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, wrote on Facebook that members of the staff of the Chernobyl plant had been “taken hostage”. The White House said it was “outraged” by reports of the arrests.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry issued an update saying that although the plant was “probably captured”, the country’s forces had halted Russia’s advance towards Chernihiv and that it was unlikely that Russia would achieve the planned military targets for the first day.
NATO Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said the “brutal act of war” had shattered peace in Europe, joining a chorus of world leaders denouncing an attack that could cause heavy casualties and overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government. The conflict has shaken global financial markets: stocks have fallen and oil prices have skyrocketed amid concerns that heating bills and food prices will skyrocket.
The condemnation came not only from the United States and Europe, but from South Korea, Australia and beyond, and many governments have prepared new sanctions. Even friendly leaders like Hungarian Viktor Orban have sought to distance themselves from Putin.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he intends to cut Russia off from UK financial markets while announcing sanctions, freezing the assets of all major Russian banks and planning to prevent Russian companies and the Kremlin from raising money in British markets.
“Now we see it as it is: a blood-stained aggressor who believes in imperial conquest,” Johnson said of Putin.
U.S. sanctions will target Russian banks, oligarchs, state-controlled companies and high-tech sectors, Biden said, but were designed not to disrupt global energy markets. Russian exports of oil and natural gas are vital sources of energy for Europe.
Zelenskyy urged the United States and the West to go further and eliminate the Russians from the SWIFT system, a key financial network that connects thousands of banks around the world. The White House has been reluctant to immediately cut off Russia from SWIFT, worried that it could cause huge economic problems in Europe and elsewhere in the West.
Although some nervous Europeans have speculated about a possible new world war, the US and its NATO partners have shown no signs of sending troops to Ukraine, fearing a bigger conflict. NATO has strengthened its members in Eastern Europe as a precautionary measure and Biden said the US was deploying additional forces in Germany to strengthen NATO.
European authorities have declared the country’s airspace an active conflict zone.
After weeks of denying plans to invade, Putin launched the operation on a Texas-sized country that was increasingly leaning toward the democratic West and away from Moscow’s dominance. The autocratic leader made it clear earlier this week that he sees no reason for Ukraine to exist, raising fears of a possible wider conflict in the vast space ruled by the Soviet Union. Putin has denied plans to occupy Ukraine, but his ultimate goals remain vague.
Ukrainians were asked to take refuge on the spot and not panic.
“Until the last moment, I didn’t think it was going to happen. I just pushed those thoughts away,” said Anna Dovnya, terrified in Kiev, watching soldiers and police pull shrapnel from a blown projectile. “We have lost all faith.”
As social media amplified a torrent of military claims and counterclaims, it was difficult to determine exactly what was happening on the ground.
Russia and Ukraine have filed conflicting claims about the damage they have caused. Russia’s Defense Ministry says it has destroyed dozens of Ukrainian air bases, military installations and drones. He confirmed the loss of one of his Su-25 attack aircraft, blaming it for “pilot error”, and said an An-26 transport plane crashed due to a technical failure, killing all crew. He did not say how many were on board.
Russia said it was not targeting cities, but journalists saw destruction in many civilian areas.
Isachenkov and Litvinova reported from Moscow. Francesca Ebel in Kiev; Angela Charlton in Paris; Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin; Raf Casert and Lorne Cook in Brussels; Nic Dumitrache in Mariupol, Ukraine, Inna Varennytsia in Eastern Ukraine; and contributed by Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Aamer Madhani, Eric Tucker, Nomaan Merchant, Ellen Knickmeyer, Zeke Miller, Chris Megerian, and Darlene Superville in Washington.
Follow AP coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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