The National Times - Ukraine resists Russian troops in Kyiv as Zelensky vows to stay

Ukraine resists Russian troops in Kyiv as Zelensky vows to stay

Ukraine resists Russian troops in Kyiv as Zelensky vows to stay
Ukraine resists Russian troops in Kyiv as Zelensky vows to stay

Ukrainian forces fought off Russian troops in the capital Kyiv on Friday as President Volodymyr Zelensky defied calls by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for him to be overthrown.

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Putin unleashed a full-scale invasion on Thursday that has forced more than 50,000 people to flee Ukraine in just 48 hours and prompted the European Union to adopt personal sanctions against him.

NATO said Friday it was deploying its rapid response forces to bolster defences on its eastern flank, as fears mounted of a new Cold War in Europe.

In his latest televised address on Friday, Putin described the Ukrainian government as "terrorists" and "a gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis".

"Take power in your own hands," he urged the Ukrainian military.

Zelensky responded by posting a self-shot video on social media of himself on a Kyiv street, vowing to stay and defend the capital.

"We're all here. Our military is here. Citizens in society are here. We're all here defending our independence, our country, and it will stay this way," Zelensky said outside the presidency building.

Zelensky, who is Jewish, had earlier evoked Nazi Germany's 1941 invasion and praised his people for "demonstrating heroism" as Russian forces advanced towards the capital.

The US-led NATO alliance said Friday that Ukrainian forces were putting up resistance against the Russian forces.

"The Ukrainian forces are fighting bravely and are actually able to inflict damage on the invading Russian forces," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said after an emergency summit.

He added that the alliance has 100 jets and more than 120 ships on alert and that additional forces were being sent to eastern member states.

"We are deploying elements of the NATO Response Force on land, at sea, and in the air to further strengthen our posture and to respond quickly to any contingency," Stoltenberg said.

- Body on the pavement -

Earlier on Friday, small arms fire and explosions were heard in Kyiv's northern district of Obolonsky as what appeared to be an advance party of Russia's invasion force left a trail of destruction.

AFP saw a dead man in civilian clothes lying sprawled on the pavement in and, nearby, medics rushed to help another man whose car was crushed under the tracks of an armoured vehicle.

In contrast, the city centre felt like a ghost town.

Intersections around the government district were manned by green armoured vehicles and machine-gun toting soldiers in balaclavas.

Sirens wailed at jarring intervals throughout the day. Booms echoed across the deserted streets.

On Friday Ukrainian forces reported fighting with Russian armoured units in two locations between 40-80 kilometres (25-50 miles) north of Kyiv.

Russian troops were also approaching the capital from the northeast and east, Ukraine's military said.

The Ukrainian defence ministry told civilians to resist.

"We urge citizens to inform us of troop movements, to make Molotov cocktails, and neutralise the enemy," it said.

Ukraine said 137 people, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed so far.

The Ukrainian defence ministry said that 2,800 Russian soldiers had been killed, without providing evidence. Moscow has yet to give a report on casualties.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was ready to talk but only if Ukraine's armed forces "lay down their arms", adding that "nobody intends to occupy Ukraine".

A Kremlin spokesman meanwhile said Putin was ready to send a delegation to Belarusian capital Minsk "for talks with a Ukrainian delegation".

On Friday evening, the UN said that more than 50,000 Ukrainians had fled the country in the past two days, calling for "safe unimpeded access" for aid operations.

Streams of people in cars and on foot were seen crossing into Hungary, Poland and Romania while hundreds camped out in a train station in the Polish border city of Przemysl.

About 100,000 are believed to be internally displaced, and in Kyiv, many residents fled their homes and took shelter in the city's subway system.

- 'Massive' sanctions -

Russia has demanded that Ukraine to drop its ambition to join NATO and has called for the Western military alliance to scale back its presence in Eastern Europe.

As Putin massed over 150,000 troops on Ukraine's borders, Western allies had initially imposed some sanctions on Russia in an effort to stop an invasion.

The European Union then moved to impose "massive" sanctions on Russia's energy and finance sectors on Thursday.

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Friday it had added Putin and Lavrov to the bloc's list of sanctions, along with the remaining members of the Russian parliament.

Despite Zelensky expressly calling on Western allies to expel Moscow from the SWIFT banking transfer system, numerous EU countries including Germany, Hungary and Italy have been reluctant over fears Russia could cut off gas supplies.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Friday called on NATO "leaders to take immediate action against SWIFT to inflict maximum pain on President Putin and his regime".

Zelensky said he discussed "strengthening sanctions, concrete defence assistance and an anti-war coalition" with US President Joe Biden.

Formula One also said it was cancelling the Russian Grand Prix, while the International Olympic Committee called on all sports federations worldwide to cancel events in Russia.

Russia was also barred from participating in this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

And after Britain banned Russia's Aeroflot from flying over the UK -- prompting a reciprocal ban from Moscow -- the Czech Republic and Poland said they will also close their airspace to Russian flights from midnight.