Ukraine's desperate battle for freedom as intense fighting breaks out

Ukraine’s desperate battle for freedom: Soldier blows himself up on bridge to slow down Russians and ‘saboteurs’ are gunned down in the street after hijacking truck as intense fighting breaks out

  • Brave civilian pictured trying to block Russian military convoy, reminiscent of Tiananmen Square’s ‘tank man’ 
  • Came as Putin’s forces bared down on capital Kyiv, with troops and citizens braced for street-to-street battle
  • Russians thought to be trying to take an airport, allowing them to fly in reinforcements for an all-out assault 
  • It came as they suffered heavy casualties elsewhere in the country, though did capture key bridge in Kherson
  • Putin called on the Ukrainian military to turn on their ‘drug-addict’ leaders, but there seemed little sign of that as civilians lined up to collect rifles and help defend the capital 

Intense fighting has broken out on the streets of Ukraine, with saboteurs gunned down on and a soldier blowing himself up to slow down the advancing Russians.

The desperate resistance is slowing down Vladimir Putin’s forces, a US security official said, due to the bravery of those fighting at close range against the troops in bloody combat.


  • Russia said it is not willing to negotiate with Ukraine’s government until military operation is over
  • Came after Zelensky called for a sit-down with Putin to end the fighting
  • Putin said he would be willing to send a team of negotiators to meet Zelensky – in Belarus, which is helping with the invasion 
  • Russian president then called on Ukrainian military to overthrow the ‘regime’ in Kyiv 
  • China’s President Xi spoke to Putin by phone, called for diplomatic solution to the fighting 
  • Ukraine says Russia has bombed 33 civilian sites in Kyiv in the last 24 hours 
  • Two children have been reported killed in Kyiv bombing overnight 
  • Ukraine has banned men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country to conscript them into armed forces
  • Zelensky has allowed anyone of any age to join the armed forces, and called on Europeans from other countries to come and join the fight 
  • Russia is deploying paratroopers to Chernobyl after capturing it yesterday, Moscow said
  • Ukraine reported ‘anomalous’ radiation levels at the plant amid fears nuclear storage was breached in fighting, but Moscow said readings are normal
  • Russia claims to have destroyed 118 Ukrainian military sites in 30 hours of fighting 
  • PM Boris Johnson pledged more support is coming to Ukraine in the coming days
  • Johnson shared a phone call with Zelensky on Friday morning 

The defence official said: ‘Their momentum, particularly as it comes to Kyiv, has slowed over the last 24 hours.

‘They have not achieved the progress that we believe they anticipated they would.’

Russian forces, which entered Ukraine early Thursday, have yet to seize any major cities, or gain control of airspace, the official said.

Putin’s men seemed set to face bloody street-to-street fighting as Ukrainian troops tasked with the city’s defence began setting up defensive positions across highways, on bridges and on street corners with gunfire and explosions heard in the centre of the capital. Civilians were also being armed with rifles and Molotov cocktails.

Russian forces were sustaining heavy casualties across the country with Ukraine claiming to have killed 2,800 men – as Putin himself made an appeal to Ukrainian forces to turn on their ‘drug-addicted neo-Nazi’ leaders or else lay down their arms and go home.

Stunning feats of resistance include a heroic marine who blew himself up along with a bridge in Crimea to hold off the Russians and allow his battalion to regroup and redeploy. 

Vitaly Shakun was manning the Henichesk bridge in the Kherson region when Russians advanced. 

According to a post on the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s Facebook page, the battalion decided the only way to stop them was to blow up the bridge. It was mined, and he had no time to get out. 

Shakun texted them and told them he was going to blow up the bridge. Seconds later, they heard an explosion, the post said. 

His efforts dramatically slowed down the Russian advance and allowed his comrades to regroup and re-deploy.

He is believed to be among the at least 137 people who died on the first day of the war yesterday. 

A deadly skirmish also broke out on the streets of a Kyiv suburb today between Ukrainian forces and alleged Russian saboteurs.

The clash saw at least two people shot dead in a car park in front of a large apartment block in Obolon, found north of Kyiv.

As the sound of gunshots echoed off the nearby buildings, a tank also crashed into and crushed a civilian car on the road running past the car park.

Miraculously the driver – an elderly person – survived the shocking smash, and rescuers were later able to free the from the wreckage.

The two incidents were initially reported separately, but a new video clip posted to social media has revealed they were in fact linked, and part of the same skirmish.

In a separate act of bravery today, a Ukrainian citizen was pictured standing up to Putin’s troops by trying to block a Russian military convoy – in scenes reminiscent of Tiananmen Square’s ‘tank man’ blocking Chinese forces in 1989. 

The footage, thought to have been filmed in the south of the country close to Crimea, emerged as Russia’s military bared down on Kyiv today in an apparent bid to seize the capital and ‘decapitate’ the government in the hopes of bringing a swift victory for Vladimir Putin. 

Servicemen of the Ukrainian National Guard take positions in central Kyiv, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine

Russian troops move towards Ukraine on the road near Armiansk, Crimea, in what appears to be the convoy that a citizen later tried to stop as it drove down a highway

Ukrainian soldiers take position on a bridge inside the city of Kyiv, as Russian forces advance into the capital

A Russian vehicle with what appear to be corpses of Russian troops laying nearby is seen on the streets of Kyiv on Friday after fighting broke out in the suburbs

Vitaly Shakun was manning the Henichesk bridge in the Kherson region when Russians advanced. According to a post on the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s Facebook page, the battalion decided the only way to stop them was to blow up the bridge

A post on the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s Facebook page detailed his heroic efforts 

The Henichesk bridge in the Kherson region at the Crimean crossing which the Ukrainian forces said was a key area of defense. This image was shared by Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform on Thursday 

The destroyed bridge on Thursday after the heroic soldier blew it up 

A brave Ukrainian citizen has been filmed apparently trying to stop a convoy of Russian Tigr-M fighting vehicles – similar to American Humvees – moving along a highway close to Crimea in scenes reminiscent of Tiananmen Square’s ‘tank man’

Pictured: A tank comes under fire in the car park of an apartment building in a suburb near Kyiv. A man (pictured in the foreground) jumped out of the truck while under fire, but was shot and killed while trying to take cover on the floor

The Pentagon believes Moscow wants to seize control of Kyiv and replace the Western-leaning government with allies of the Kremlin, amid fears the capital could fall this weekend. 

But so far, while Russian forces have focused on military targets, they have not been able to disrupt the Ukrainian military structure.

‘As we see it right now that Ukrainian command and control is intact,’ the official said.

The Pentagon says that Ukrainian air defence systems are still working and the country’s air force is still able to fly and threaten Russian aircraft.

‘They’re meeting more resistance than they expected,’ the official said. ‘We continue to have indications that it’s not going quite the way that they had anticipated.’

Starting with a massive missile barrage, Russia launched its invasion along three axes: the first a push from Belarus directly north toward Kyiv; the second from Russia’s Belgorod region toward the major city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine; and the third, from Crimea in the south towards Kherson.

While Russian forces have reached the outskirts of Kyiv, they have not been able to enter, and fighting remains heavy around Kharkiv, which also has not fallen.

In the south, Russians continue to push to Kherson but are also widening the front, landing amphibious forces to Crimea’s east to threaten Mariupol.

Russians have also sought to take control of the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant on the Dnieper river north of Crimea, launching cyberattacks on the plant, the official said.

The Pentagon would not estimate how many Russian forces had entered Ukraine, after having amassed more than 150,000 along the country’s borders before attacking.

Russian soldiers on the amphibious infantry fighting vehicle BMP-2 move towards mainland Ukraine on the road near Armiansk, Crimea

Russian armour is now advancing on Kyiv from the north and east, with US intelligence saying the plan is to besiege the city, capture an airport, and fly in paratroopers who would then attack the capital. The aim would be to capture the government and force them to sign a peace treaty handing control of the country back to Russia or a Russian puppet

Soldiers tasked with defending Kyiv from advancing Russian troops take up positions underneath a highway into the city 

Ukrainian soldiers take position next to a highway a bridge during an exchange of gunfire inside the city of Kyiv

Widespread damage is seen to apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine, with a Russian assault on the capital expected to take place today

Natali Sevriukova breaks down in tears as she stands in front of the ruins of her Kyiv apartment in the early hours of Friday

Ukraine claimed to have shot down a Russian jet over the outskirts of Kyiv overnight, with wreckage falling on a house and leaving several people injured

A woman walks around the wreckage of an unidentified aircraft that crashed into a house in a residential area 

The wreckage of an unidentified aircraft is seen on the outskirts of Kyiv, having been shot down and crashed into a house

The official said that they had moved ‘about a third of their combat power’ into Ukraine, and the rest remain in place just outside. 

President Zelensky told his men ‘you are all we have’ as he gave a rousing address to defend the country, called on citizens to travel from elsewhere in Europe to join the battle, and hit out at the West for leaving him to face down the might of Russia ‘alone’. 

Ukrainian troops were using armoured vehicles and snowploughs to defend Kyiv and limit movement, and said Russian spies were seeking to infiltrate the city. A truck was pictured riddled with bullets and bodies scattered around it, with Ukraine saying the men were Russian ‘saboteurs’ dressed in Ukrainian uniforms that it had killed.

Meanwhile Russia’s military said it had seized a strategic airport outside Kyiv in what would be a hammer blow to the defence. It is thought the plan is to use one of the city’s airports to fly in tens of thousands of reinforcements. Ukrainian forces did not mention an airport being captured, but Zelensky said fighting had restarted around Gostomel – a key airport where battles raged throughout the day on Thursday.

Russia claimed to have already cut the city off from the west – the direction most of those escaping the invasion are heading in – with lines of cars snaking towards the Polish border.

Intense fire broke out on a bridge across the Dnieper River dividing the eastern and western sides of Kyiv, with about 200 Ukrainian forces establishing defensive positions and taking shelter behind their armoured vehicles and later under the bridge.

The Russian troops are thought to have arrived from the north-west, having pushed down from Chernobyl which was captured late yesterday. More Russian troops and armour are advancing on the capital from Konotop, in the east, having bypassed the city of Chernihiv where they ran into heavy Ukrainian resistance.

Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said today will be the war’s ‘hardest day’.

Once Kyiv is surrounded, US intelligence believes the plan will be for Russian special forces to move in and seize an airport – likely Sikorsky or Boryspil – which would then be used to fly in a much larger force of up to 10,000 paratroopers who would assault the capital.

The job of the paratroopers would be to enter the city, find Zelensky, his ministers, and parliamentarians, before forcing them to sign a peace deal handing control of the country back to Russia or a Moscow-backed puppet regime – effectively ending the war without Putin’s ground forces needing to complete the difficult and bloody task of seizing and occupying the whole country.

It appears the Russians almost pulled off the plan on the first day of the invasion when 20 attack helicopters landed a crack team of troops at Antonov Airport, 15 miles to the north of Kyiv. But Ukrainian national guard units managed to retake the landing strip overnight after heavy fighting, scattering the surviving Russian attackers into the surrounding countryside. 

A Russian attack on the capital would likely be coordinated with a push by troops on southern and eastern fronts – Crimea and Donbass – aimed at pinning down Ukrainian armed forces so they cannot retreat and reinforce the city, officials told author Michael Weiss.

It may also be accompanied by bombing raids and sabotage attacks on power grids and infrastructure to sow panic and force people to flee, snarling up roads and making it difficult for forces already in Kyiv to move around.  

Zelensky pleaded with Moscow to hold talks, and with western powers to act faster to cut off Russia’s economy and provide military help.

‘When bombs fall on Kyiv, it happens in Europe, not just in Ukraine,’ he said. ‘When missiles kill our people, they kill all Europeans.’ His whereabouts were kept secret.

He also offered to negotiate on one of Mr Putin’s key demands: that Ukraine declare itself neutral and abandon its ambition of joining Nato.

The Russian president’s spokesman said the Kremlin could consider the idea, but foreign minister Sergey Lavrov suggested it may be too late, saying Mr Zelensky had ‘missed the opportunity’ to discuss a non-aligned status for Ukraine when Mr Putin previously proposed it. 

Ukrainian soldiers are pictured forming up across a highway in Kyiv as they prepare to defend the city from Russian attackers, with gunfire and explosions heard in the centre of the capital

Day 2: Russian forces are continuing to push out from positions they opened up during the first day of fighting, making gains in Kherson to the south and pushing into Kyiv in the north – but suffering heavy losses and defeats including in Chernihiv in the north, and Sumy and Kharkiv in the east

Ukrainian soldiers take up positions in downtown Kyiv as the prepare to defend the capital from Russian attackers

An Ukrainian military medic approaches the bodies of Russian servicemen wearing a Ukrainian army uniforms lying beside and inside a vehicle after they were shot during a skirmish in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

A Ukrainian soldier sits injured after an exchange of fire with Russian forces inside the capital Kyiv

A Ukrainian tank parked near Kyiv as troops prepare to defend the city from advancing Russian forces

Natali Sevriukova, a resident of Kyiv, is pictured weeping on the streets of Kyiv after a Russian rocket strike destroyed the apartment block where she lives overnight

Military vehicles are seen along a street in Kyiv as the city prepares to defend itself from advancing Russian forces

Ukrainian servicemen stand on patrol at a security checkpoint in the city of Kyiv, Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen stand on patrol along a bridge in Kyiv

Firemen pick their way through the rubble of a destroyed apartment in Kyiv, as President Zelensky said the Russian military is now targeting civilian areas

A woman with a backpack walks in front of a damaged residential building at Koshytsa Street, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv where a military shell struck

A man dressed in camouflage takes a picture of a crater where a Russian rocket landed, destroying part of an apartment block in Kyiv which is now under heavy attack

Ukrainian defenders have blown up several bridges leading into the capital in an attempt to slow the Russian advance 

Ukraine’s armed forces claimed to have shot down a Russian jet over the outskirts of the city, with flaming wreckage seen falling from the sky, as Zelensky gave a national address, saying Russia has identified him as ‘target number 1’ of the invasion but he and his family were remaining in the city. 

He said invading Russian forces are targeting civilian areas, praising his countrymen for their ‘heroism’ and assuring them that the armed forces are doing ‘everything possible’ to protect them.  

‘They say that civilian objects are not a target for them. But this is another lie of theirs. In reality, they do not distinguish between areas in which they operate,’ Zelensky said in a video.

‘Ukrainian air defence systems are defending our skies,’ he said. ‘Ukrainians are demonstrating heroism’. ‘All our forces are doing everything possible’ to protect people, he added.

The Ukrainian leader called on people to show ‘solidarity’ and help the elderly find shelter and ‘access to real information.’ Zelensky also said that Russia will have to eventually talk to Kyiv to end their war.

‘Russia will have to talk to us sooner or later. Talk about how to end the fighting and stop this invasion. The sooner the conversation begins, the less losses there will be for Russia itself,’ he said.

Switching into Russian in his address, Zelensky acknowledged Russian street protests against Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine that ended with mass arrests Thursday.

‘To the citizens of the Russian Federation that are coming out to protest, we see you. And this means that you have heard us. This means that you believe us. Fight for us. Fight against war.’

Russian police detained more than 1,700 people at anti-war protests across dozens of cities Thursday night.

Zelensky said the government had information that ‘subversive groups’ were encroaching on the city, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kyiv ‘could well be under siege’ in what U.S. officials believe is a brazen attempt by Putin to dismantle the government and install his own regime.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers on a phone call that Russian mechanized forces that entered from Belarus were about 20 miles from Kyiv, according to a person familiar with the call.

The assault, anticipated for weeks by the U.S. and Western allies and undertaken by Putin in the face of international condemnation and cascading sanctions, amounts to the largest ground war in Europe since World War II.

Russian missiles bombarded cities and military bases in the first day of the attack, and Ukraine officials said they had lost control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Civilians piled into trains and cars to flee.

As explosions sounded in Kyiv early Friday, guests of a hotel were directed to a makeshift basement shelter. Air raid sirens also went off.

‘Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and won’t give up its freedom,’ Zelenskyy tweeted. His grasp on power increasingly tenuous, he called Thursday for even more severe sanctions than the ones imposed by Western allies and ordered a full military mobilization that would last 90 days.

Zelenskyy said in a video address that 137 ‘heroes,’ including 10 military officers, had been killed and 316 people wounded. The dead included border guards on the Zmiinyi Island in the Odesa region, which was taken over by Russians.

He concluded an emotional speech by saying that ‘the fate of the country depends fully on our army, security forces, all of our defenders.’ He also said the country had heard from Moscow that ‘they want to talk about Ukraine’s neutral status.’

Biden was to meet Friday morning with fellow leaders of NATO governments in what the White House described as an ‘extraordinary virtual summit’ to discuss Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced new sanctions against Russia, saying Putin ‘chose this war’ and had exhibited a ‘sinister’ view of the world in which nations take what they want by force. Other nations also announced sanctions, or said they would shortly.

‘It was always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary – by bullying Russia’s neighbors through coercion and corruption, by changing borders by force, and, ultimately, by choosing a war without a cause,’ Biden said.

Blinken said in television interviews that he was convinced that Russia was intent on overthrowing the Ukrainian government, telling CBS that Putin wants to ‘reconstitute the Soviet empire’ and that Kyiv was already ‘under threat, and it could well be under siege.’

Fearing a Russian attack on the capital city, thousands of people went deep underground as night fell, jamming Kyiv’s subway stations.

At times it felt almost cheerful. Families ate dinner. Children played. Adults chatted. People brought sleeping bags or dogs or crossword puzzles – anything to alleviate the waiting and the long night ahead.

But the exhaustion was clear on many faces. And the worries.

‘Nobody believed that this war would start and that they would take Kyiv directly,’ said Anton Mironov, waiting out the night in one of the old Soviet metro stations. ‘I feel mostly fatigue. None of it feels real.’

The invasion began early Thursday with a series of missile strikes, 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 region of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014; and from Belarus to the north.

The Ukrainian military on Friday reported significant fighting in the area of Ivankiv, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Kyiv, as Russian forces apparently tried to advance on the capital from the north. It said one bridge across a small river had been destroyed.

‘The hardest day will be today. The enemy’s plan is to break through with tank columns from the side of Ivankiv and Chernihiv to Kyiv. Russian tanks burn perfectly when hit by our ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles),’ Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Telegram.

Zelenskyy, who had earlier cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law, appealed to global leaders, saying that ‘if you don’t help us now, if you fail to offer a powerful assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door.’

Though 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.

Russia sanctioned by the world: How world leaders putting the financial thumbscrews on Putin 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a wave of sanctions as global leaders seek to ramp up pressure on the Kremlin and punish ‘blood-stained aggressor’ Vladimir Putin, in the words of Boris Johnson.

The United States, Britain, Japan, Canada, Australia and the European Union have unveiled more sanctions on Moscow on top of penalties earlier this week, including a move by Germany to halt a gas pipeline from Russia.

In the UK, the Prime Minister announced the ‘largest and most severe’ package of sanctions Russia has ever faced including measures to hit five further oligarchs, including the Russian president’s former son-in-law.

Britain will also target more than 100 businesses and individuals, and Mr Johnson said he was sanctioning ‘all the major manufacturers that support Putin’s war machine’ and will freeze the assets of all major Russian banks.

Mr Johnson also imposed a ban on Aeroflot flights, but Russia’s civil aviation authority Rosaviatsiya reacted hours later by saying all flights by UK carriers to Russia as well as transit flights had been banned from today.

Elsewhere, US President Joe Biden delivered further measures to target Russian banks, oligarchs and high-tech sectors, while the EU unveiled its own new package including financial, energy and technological sanctions.

Russia is one of the world’s biggest energy producers, and both it and Ukraine are among the top exporters of grain – with war and sanctions expected to disrupt economies around the world. Oil prices are soaring and stock markets have dropped as investors brace for the impact of trade bans on major crude exporter Russia.

But India, which has close ties with Moscow and is a major purchaser of Russian weapons, has refrained from joining the sanctions – and China is also not imposing sanctions, saying they have never resolved any problems.

Meanwhile the Daily Telegraph reported that Italian prime minister Mario Draghi successfully lobbied for Italian luxury goods to be left out of the EU’s package of economic sanctions against Russia. One source told the newspaper: ‘Apparently selling Gucci loafers to oligarchs is more of a priority than hitting back at Putin.’

As Russia’s military closed in on Kyiv today, here are some of the sanctions heaped on Moscow so far:


Russia intends to take the whole of Ukraine but failed to deliver it main objectives on the first day of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said. 

‘It’s definitely our view that the Russians intend to invade the whole of Ukraine,’ Wallace told Sky. 

‘I certainly think he has gone full tonto,’ he added, suggesting the Russian leader may have lost his mind. ‘No-one else in their right mind would do what we are seeing on our telly screens today.’ 

Wallace said the Russian army had failed to deliver any of its key objectives, directly contradicting the Russian defence ministry which said it had achieved all of its main aims on the first day of the military operation.

‘Contrary to great Russian claims, and indeed President Putin’s sort of vision that somehow the Ukrainians would be liberated and would be flocking to his cause, he’s got that completely wrong, and the Russian army has failed to deliver, on day one, its main objective,’ Wallace said.

Russia, Wallace said, had lost more than 450 personnel so far. Ukraine put the figure closer to 800. Neither number has been independently verified.

After Britain unveiled its toughest sanctions yet on Russia, Wallace said London was pushing reluctant allies to cut off Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system.

‘We would like to go further, we’d like to do the SWIFT system,’ he said. ‘If not every country wants them to be thrown out of the SWIFT system, it becomes difficult.’

British Airways owner IAG is now avoiding Russian airspace for overflights and cancelled its flight to Moscow on Friday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned Russia’s flagship airline Aeroflot from Britain, CEO Luis Gallego said.

Britain has prohibited all scheduled Russian airlines from entering British airspace.


Both sides claimed to have destroyed some of the other’s aircraft and military hardware, though little of that could be confirmed.

Hours after the invasion began, Russian forces seized 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 it was told by Ukraine of the takeover, adding that there had been ‘no casualties or destruction at the industrial site.’

The 1986 disaster occurred when a nuclear reactor at the plant 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Kyiv exploded, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe. The damaged reactor was later covered by a protective shell to prevent leaks.

Alyona Shevtsova, adviser to the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, wrote on Facebook that staff members at the Chernobyl plant had been ‘taken hostage.’ The White House said it was ‘outraged’ by reports of the detentions.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense issued an update saying that though the plant was ‘likely captured,’ the country’s forces had halted Russia’s advance toward Chernihiv and that it was unlikely that Russia had achieved its planned Day One military objectives.

The chief of the NATO alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, said the ‘brutal act of war’ shattered peace in Europe, joining a chorus of world leaders decrying an attack that could cause massive casualties and topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government. The conflict shook global financial markets: Stocks plunged and oil prices soared amid concerns that heating bills and food prices would skyrocket.

Condemnation came not only from the U.S. and Europe, but from South Korea, Australia and beyond – and many governments readied new sanctions. Even friendly leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban sought to distance themselves from Putin.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he aimed to cut off Russia from the U.K.’s financial markets as he announced sanctions, freezing the assets of all large Russian banks and planning to bar Russian companies and the Kremlin from raising money on British markets.

‘Now we see him for what he is – a bloodstained aggressor who believes in imperial conquest,’ Johnson said of Putin.

Unsurprisingly, repressive regimes elsewhere in the world came to Russia’s support. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who retook his own country with Russian assistance, came out in support – as did the military junta in Myanmar which deposed the democratic government in a 2020 coup. 

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said Moscow’s military had ‘carried out what is justified for the sustainability of their country’s sovereignty’.

‘Russia shows its position to the world as a world power,’ he added in the statement, which was also released in Russian.

The U.S. sanctions will target Russian banks, oligarchs, state-controlled companies and high-tech sectors, Biden said, but they were designed not to disrupt global energy markets. Russian oil and natural gas exports are vital energy sources for Europe.

Zelenskyy urged the U.S. and West to go further and cut 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 Russia from SWIFT, worried it could cause enormous economic problems in Europe and elsewhere in the West.

While some nervous Europeans speculated about a possible new world war, the U.S. and its NATO partners have shown no indication they would send troops into Ukraine, fearing a larger conflict. NATO reinforced its members in Eastern Europe as a precaution, and Biden said the U.S. was deploying additional forces to Germany to bolster NATO.

European authorities declared the country’s airspace an active conflict zone.

After weeks of denying plans to invade, Putin launched the operation on a country the size of Texas that has increasingly tilted toward the democratic West and away from Moscow’s sway. The autocratic leader made clear earlier this week that he sees no reason for Ukraine to exist, raising fears of possible broader conflict in the vast space that the Soviet Union once ruled. Putin denied plans to occupy Ukraine, but his ultimate goals remain hazy.

Ukrainians were urged to shelter in place and not to panic.

‘Until the very last moment, I didn’t believe it would happen. I just pushed away these thoughts,’ said a terrified Anna Dovnya in Kyiv, watching soldiers and police remove shrapnel from an exploded shell. ‘We have lost all faith.’

With social media amplifying a torrent of military claims and counter-claims, it was difficult to determine exactly what was happening on the ground.

Russia and Ukraine made competing claims about damage they had inflicted. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had destroyed scores of Ukrainian air bases, military facilities and drones. It confirmed the loss of one of its Su-25 attack jets, blaming ‘pilot error,’ and said an An-26 transport plane had crashed because of technical failure, killing the entire crew. It did not say how many were aboard.

Russia said it was not targeting cities, but journalists saw destruction in many civilian areas.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy makes a statement in Kyiv, saying he is ‘target number one’ of the Russian invasion but will not be leaving the capital

People donate blood at the Zakarpattia Regional Blood Transfusion Station, Uzhhorod, western Ukraine

People donate blood at the Zakarpattia Regional Blood Transfusion Station in Uzhhorod, western Ukraine

A Russian plane crashed near Voronezh on Thursday in what is believed to have been a technical failure. All those on board perished – it is unclear how many 

Ukrainian forces detain servicemen of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic who were captured during the morning attack on the town of Schast’ye, in eastern Ukraine

Twenty million dollars in U.N. humanitarian funds for Ukraine. A raft of new, stronger sanctions against Russia from Japan, Australia, Taiwan and others. And a cascade of condemnation from the highest levels.

As Russian bombs and troops pounded Ukraine during the invasion’s first full day, world leaders on Friday began to fine-tune a response meant to punish the Russian economy and its leaders, including President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

While there’s an acute awareness that a military intervention isn’t possible, for now, the strength, unity and speed of the financial sanctions – with the striking exception of China, a strong Russian supporter – signal a growing global determination to make Moscow reconsider its attack.

‘Japan must clearly show its position that we will never tolerate any attempt to change the status quo by force,’ Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Friday while announcing new punitive measures that included freezing the visas and assets of Russian groups, banks and individuals, and the suspension of shipments of semiconductors and other restricted goods to Russian military-linked organizations.

‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an extremely grave development that affects the international order, not only for Europe but also for Asia,’ Kishida said.

Countries in Asia and the Pacific have joined the United States, the 27-nation European Union and others in the West in piling on punitive measures against Russian banks and leading companies. The nations have also set up export controls aimed at starving Russia’s industries and military of semiconductors and other high-tech products.

The moves follow Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s forces conducted airstrikes on cities and military bases, and his troops and tanks rolled into the nation from three sides. Ukraine’s government pleaded for help as civilians fled. Scores of Ukrainians, civilians and service members alike, were killed.

‘An unthinkable number of innocent lives could be lost because of Russia’s decision,’ New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. She announced targeted travel bans against Russian officials and other measures.

At the United Nations, officials set aside $20 million to boost U.N. humanitarian operations in Ukraine. Separately, the U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution condemning Russia and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all its forces. Moscow, however, is certain to veto it.

U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said the $20 million from the U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund will support emergency operations along the contact line in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk and in other areas of the country, and will ‘help with health care, shelter, food, and water and sanitation to the most vulnerable people affected by the conflict.’

The West and its allies have shown no inclination to send troops into Ukraine – a non-member of NATO – and risk a wider war on the continent. But NATO reinforced its member states in Eastern Europe as a precaution against an attack on them, too.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency, meanwhile, extended to 200 nautical miles the airspace it considers risky, and warned of ‘the threat of missile launches to and from Ukraine.’

Protests by Ukrainians and their supporters were held Friday in Taiwan, Mongolia, Australia and elsewhere. Public buildings, sports stadiums and landmarks in the Australian city of Melbourne were illuminated in Ukraine’s national colors of blue and yellow.

The building of the Security Service of Ukraine is pictured on fire in Chernihiv after being shelled with Russian forces

Aftermath of the shelling in Starobilsk, Luhansk region, as pro-Moscow rebel forces push out from their enclave

Aftermath of the shelling in Starobilsk, Luhansk region, is shown in images taken by Ukrainian emergency response

Ukrainian prisoners of war caught by pro-Russian forces near Volnovakha, Donetsk

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a meeting with representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics in Moscow

Russian tanks with overhead armour to protect against American javelin missiles move across the town of Armyansk, northern Crimea, on their way into Ukraine

Japan’s new sanctions follow an earlier set of measures that include the suspension of distributing and issuing new Russian government bonds in Japan – a move aimed at cutting funding for Russia’s military – a trade ban with two Ukrainian separatist regions and the freezing of their assets and visas.

Japan, which has long sought to regain control of Russian-held northern islands seized at the end of World War II, took a milder stance toward Moscow during Russia’s 2014 Crimea annexation. Tokyo’s response to the current invasion has been considered tougher and faster, something that may be linked to a deep worry in Tokyo over China’s increasingly assertive military actions in the region.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his nation will join international sanctions, but won’t consider unilateral sanctions.

South Korea’s comparative caution is likely because its economy is heavily dependent on international trade. It also worries that strained ties with Moscow could undermine efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis. Russia is South Korea’s 10th largest trading partner, and Moscow is a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council and maintains friendly ties with North Korea.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi phoned Putin late Thursday and appealed for an ‘immediate cessation of violence,’ his office said in a statement.

India’s permanent U.N. representative pushed for ‘urgent de-escalation’ through ‘sustained and focused diplomacy,’ but stopped short of either condemning Russia or acknowledging Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The cautious statement reflects India’s delicate position. It relies heavily on Russia, a historic partner, for military equipment but has sought to strengthen ties with the West over the years.

Taiwan announced Friday that it would join in economic sanctions against Russia, although it did not specify what type of measures those would be. Sanctions could potentially be focused on export control of semiconductor chips, local media reported. Taiwan is the dominant manufacturer of such chips, a critical component used in technologies from cars to laptops to cellphones.

While most nations in Asia rallied to support Ukraine, China has continued to denounce sanctions against Russia and blamed the United States and its allies for provoking Moscow. Beijing, worried about U.S. power in Asia, has increasingly aligned its foreign policy with Russia to challenge the West.

‘At a time when Australia, together with the United Kingdom, together with the United States and Europe and Japan, are acting to cut off Russia, the Chinese government is following through on easing trade restrictions with Russia and that is simply unacceptable,’ Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday.

‘You don’t go and throw a lifeline to Russia in the middle of a period when they’re invading another country,’ he added, referring to a report in The South China Morning Post that China had announced it was fully open to Russian wheat imports.

In Tokyo, Ukraine’s top diplomat for Japan urged China to join international efforts to stop the Russian invasion.

‘We would very much welcome that China will exercise its connection with Russia and talk to Putin and explain to him it is inappropriate in the 21st century to do this massacre in Europe,’ Ambassador Sergiy Korsunsky told reporters.

Source: Read Full Article