Reports of heavy fighting in the suburbs of Kyiv as citizens urged to resist Russian forces
Gunfire has been heard in central Kyiv and there are reports of heavy fighting in the city’s northern suburbs as Russian forces close in on the Ukrainian capital.
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, called on the Ukrainian army to overthrow the government, describing its leaders as “terrorists” and “a gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis”.
Russia is ready to send a delegation to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, for talks with Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. Ukraine has said it is willing to discuss declaring itself a neutral country.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, insisting “no one is planning to occupy Ukraine”, also said Moscow was ready for talks if Ukrainian forces laid down their arms.
The EU is preparing to freeze the assets of Putin and Lavrov as part of a third round of sanctions. Amid Ukrainian anger at the bloc’s reluctance to cut Russia out of the Swift international payments system, EU foreign ministers are to approve further measures on Friday afternoon.
Russian troops have taken control of Hostomel airfield near Kyiv, according to the defence ministry in Moscow, and the capital’s mayor has said it has entered a “defensive phase”.
The defence ministry urged citizens to resist when Russian forces entered Kyiv, telling residents to inform authorities of all troop movements, and “make molotov cocktails and neutralise the enemy”.
Guards fired warning shots to prevent a stampede at Kyiv’s central station as thousands of people tried to force their way on to evacuation trains.
Explosions rocked Kyiv in the early hours in preparation for the Russian advance, with Ukraine claiming it had shot down a Russian military aircraft over the capital. Officials said a tower block had been set on fire.
Russian forces have taken the city of Sumy in north-eastern Ukraine, according to a resident who said there were Russian military vehicles in the streets.
Russia banned UK flights from its airspace after the British government said Russia’s national carrier, Aeroflot, would be banned from British airspace as part of the UK’s package of sanctions.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called for Nato defence support and tougher sanctions against Russia.
Ukraine decreed a full military mobilisation against the Russian invasion. Ukrainian men aged 18-60 are forbidden to leave Ukraine. Zelenskiy has declared martial law.
The president said he would remain in Kyiv, despite saying he was Russia’s primary target. “We are not afraid. We are not afraid of anything,” he said.
Thousands attempted to flee Kyiv by car, leading to large traffic queues. Pictures have emerged of Kyiv residents crowding into underground metro stations where they are taking shelter from further Russian attacks.
Anti-war protests attracted thousands of people in cities across Russia, with local authorities swiftly cracking down on the unsanctioned rallies. Police made at least 1,702 arrests in 53 Russian cities on Thursday night.
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