Kyiv residents take shelter as fighting breaks out in streets and Russian troops close in
'We will defend our state,' Ukrainian president vows from capital as Russian invasion enters Day 3
- Canada sanctions Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
- Putin urges Ukraine military to overthrow leaders; Ukraine president rallies citizens.
- Russia vetoes UN Security Council resolution calling for Moscow to withdraw troops.
- Artillery rounds, gunfire heard in Kyiv on Friday evening as Russian troops advance.
- Ukrainian military say Russian troops attacked army base in Kyiv but assault was repelled.
- What questions do you have about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to email@example.com
Russian forces launched co-ordinated missile and artillery attacks on Ukrainian cities on Saturday including the capital, Kyiv, where gunfire erupted near government buildings in the city centre, military officials and a Reuters witness said.
City officials in Kyiv urged residents to seek shelter, to stay away from windows and to take precautions to avoid flying debris or bullets. Many spent the night in basements, underground parking garages and subway stations.
Ukrainian authorities have urged citizens to help defend Kyiv from advancing Russian forces who invaded on Thursday in the worst European security crisis in decades.
But even as the fighting grew more intense, the Russian and Ukrainian governments signalled an openness to negotiations, offering the first glimmer of hope for diplomacy since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion.
Russia's Interfax news agency reported that Russian forces captured the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol on Saturday, but Britain's armed forces minister cast doubt on the report.
Ukrainian officials were not immediately available for comment on the fate of Melitopol, a city of about 150,000 people. If the Interfax report citing the Russian Defense Ministry is confirmed, it would be the first significant population centre the Russians have seized since their invasion began.
However, British armed forces minister James Heappey told BBC radio that it was the British assessment that Russia had so far failed to capture any of its Day 1 targets for its invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces fired cruise missiles from the Black Sea at Mariupol, also in the southeast, as well as Sumy in the northeast and Poltava in the east.
Kyiv authorities said a missile hit a residential building, and a Reuters witness said another hit an area near the airport. There was no immediate word on casualties. Gunfire erupted near city-center government buildings at around dawn, a Reuters witness said. The cause was not clear.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking in a video message from outside his Kyiv office, was defiant.
"We will not put down weapons, we will defend our state," Zelenskiy said.
The Ukrainian military earlier said Russian troops attacked an army base on a main avenue but the assault was repelled.
The air force command also reported heavy fighting near the air base at Vasylkiv southwest of the capital, which it said was under attack from Russian paratroopers.
It also said one of its fighters had shot down a Russian transport plane. Reuters could not independently verify the claims.
Kyiv residents urged to defend city
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the president's office, said the situation in Kyiv and its outskirts was under control.
"There are cases of sabotage and reconnaissance groups working in the city, police and self-defence forces are working efficiently against them," Podolyak said.
Kyiv residents were told by the Defence Ministry to make petrol bombs to repel the invaders.
Ukraine said more than 1,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. Russia did not release casualty figures. Zelensky said late on Thursday that 137 soldiers and civilians been killed with hundreds wounded.
Hundreds of thousands have left their homes to find safety, according to a UN aid official.
After weeks of warnings from Western leaders, Putin unleashed a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine from the north, east and south on Thursday, in an attack that threatened to upend Europe's post-Cold War order.
"I once again appeal to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: do not allow neo-Nazis and [Ukrainian radical nationalists] to use your children, wives and elders as human shields," Putin said at a televised meeting with Russia's Security Council on Friday. "Take power into your own hands."
Putin has cited the need to "denazify" Ukraine's leadership as one of his main reasons for invasion, accusing it of genocide against Russian-speakers in Eastern Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss the accusations as baseless propaganda.
Ukrainians voted overwhelmingly for independence at the fall of the Soviet Union and Kyiv hopes to join NATO and the EU — aspirations that infuriate Moscow.
Putin says Ukraine, a democratic nation of 44 million people, is an illegitimate state carved out of Russia, a view Ukrainians see as aimed at erasing their more than thousand-year history.
Barrage of sanctions
Western countries have announced a barrage of sanctions on Russia, including blacklisting its banks and banning technology exports. But they have so far stopped short of forcing it out of the SWIFT system for international bank payments.
The United States 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.
As well, on Friday, European soccer's governing body moved May's Champions League final from St. Petersburg to Paris, and Formula One cancelled this year's Russian Grand Prix. The European Broadcasting Union shut Russia out of the widely watched Eurovision Song Contest for 2022.
The invasion triggered a flurry of credit rating moves on Friday, with S&P lowering Russia's rating to "junk" status, Moody's putting it on review for a downgrade to junk, and S&P and Fitch swiftly cutting Ukraine on default worries.
But amid the chaos of war came a ray of hope.
A spokesperson for Zelensky said Ukraine and Russia would consult in coming hours on a time and place for talks.
The Kremlin said earlier it offered to meet in the Belarusian capital Minsk after Ukraine expressed a willingness to discuss declaring itself a neutral country while Ukraine had proposed Warsaw as the venue. That, according to Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, resulted in a "pause" in contacts.
"Ukraine was and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace," Zelensky's spokesperson, Sergii Nykyforov, said in a post on Facebook. "We agreed to the proposal of the President of the Russian Federation."
But U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Russia's offer was an attempt to conduct diplomacy "at the barrel of a gun" and that Putin's military must stop bombing Ukraine if it was serious about negotiations.
At the UN, Russia vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution that would have deplored its invasion, while China abstained — a move Western countries viewed as a win for demonstrating Russia's international isolation. The United Arab Emirates and India also abstained, while the remaining 11 members voted in favour.
The White House asked Congress for $6.4 billion US in security and humanitarian aid for the crisis, officials said, and Biden instructed the U.S. State Department to release $350 million US in military aid.
With files from The Associated Press