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Missiles hit Kyiv as fight for capital looms

GreenWatch Desk World News 2022-02-26, 9:57pm

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Russian assaults on Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, have been met with fierce resistance as the Ukrainian military says it fought off several attacks.

The military said in a Facebook post early on Saturday that an army unit managed to repel Russian forces near its base on a major city street.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said: "The occupiers wanted to block the centre of our state... We broke their plan."

Meanwhile, fighting continues near several other Ukrainian cities.

A total of 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed since Russia invaded, said the country's Health Minister, Viktor Lyashko.

According to a report by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, a curfew will start in Kyiv at 17:00 (15:00 GMT) on Saturday and last until 08:00 on Monday.

In an address, Mr Zelensky said: "We are defending the country, the land of our future children. Kyiv and key cities around the capital are controlled by our army.

"The occupiers wanted to block the centre of our state and put their puppets here, as in Donetsk. We broke their plan."

In a self-shot video, Mr Zelensky was earlier seen walking around Kyiv's government district in an apparent effort to dispel rumours he had called on the army to surrender to Russian troops.

"I'm here. We won't lay down our arms. We will defend our state," he said.

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said a missile had hit a block of flats in the city, posting a picture on Facebook showing at least four apartments destroyed.

He added on Telegram that 35 people, including two children, had been wounded as of 06:00 local time (04:00 GMT).

"There are no Russian troops in the city," he claimed, adding that people should stay in shelters as more air attacks were expected.

Kyiv is a city bathed in sunlight and a suffocating layer of tension.

The attack on the apartment building looks like a scene from a disaster movie - a chunk of it ripped away. It seems miraculous that there are no reports of deaths.

"It's no miracle," a local man called Yuri tells me. "Most people were in the shelters or have left already."

In the wreckage, there are fragments of normal lives - a book, a child's photograph, a keyboard.

One family with small children rushes past, struggling with bags and a stroller, then cramming into a van to get away. In this European capital city, there is a real sense that nowhere is safe.

Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine's air force command also reported heavy fighting near the Vasylkiv air base, southwest of Kyiv, adding that it was under attack by Russian paratroopers.

Separately it claimed one of its fighters had shot down a Russian transport plane. The BBC was unable to verify this.

Mr Zelensky acknowledged Russian forces had inflicted casualties, he maintained "the enemy has sustained very serious casualties", too. The BBC cannot verify this claim.

As Russian troops closed in on Kyiv, Ukraine urged the West to take faster and tougher sanctions to punish Moscow for its attack.

Among the demands was an effort to cut off Russia from Swift - the system used for global business transactions.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also urged the West to block Russia from the payments system to "inflict maximum pain on President Putin and his regime".

It comes after Ukraine's defence minister urged anyone able to hold a weapon to join the effort to repel Russia.

Hanna Syva, a mother of two, told the BBC she was prepared to run to the basement in the event of shelling - but was also making plans to defend Ukraine.

As her husband prepares to fight, she lives with a rifle and pistol on a window ledge next to her children's toys.

"I'm scared for my life, for my kids, I'm scared for my country. But this is the fear that is transformed into anger that makes you do something to defend your country and protect yourself," she said.