Volodymyr Zelensky also claimed that it is the Ukrainian army that controls the country’s capital and that Russian military forces ‘have not gained any advantage’.
The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, declared on Saturday, 26, that he “dismantled the plan” of invasion of Russia and launched an appeal for the defense of the capital Kiev, which has become the main target of Moscow’s forces. On the third day of the offensive launched by the Russian president, Vladimir Putinat least 198 Ukrainian civilians, including three children, were killed, and 1,115 people were injured in the Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian Minister of Health, Viktor Lyashko. “We stood our ground and successfully repelled enemy attacks. Fighting continues in many cities and regions of the country (…) but it is our army that controls Kiev and the main cities around the capital,” Zelensky said in a video posted on Facebook. “The occupiers wanted to block the center of our state and place puppets, as in Donetsk. We managed to dismantle their plan,” added Zelensky, noting that the Russian army “had no advantage.”
He also accused Russian troops of attacking residential areas and trying to destroy electrical installations. In an appeal to Western countries to harden their stance against Russia, the president said that Ukraine “has the right to obtain its membership of the European Union”. He also addressed the Russians, calling on them to ask their government to “stop the war immediately.” Washington has accused Moscow of wanting to take control of Kiev to “behead the government” of Ukraine and thus install a power that is favorable to it. The Kremlin accused Ukraine, in turn, of having ruined a truce by refusing to negotiate. “In line with the expected negotiations, yesterday afternoon the Russian president ordered to halt the advance of the main forces” of the Moscow troops, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, adding that, “as the Ukrainian side rejected the negotiations, Russian forces resumed the advance this afternoon.”
Zelensky assured that “weapons and equipment from partners are on their way to Ukraine”, referring to an “anti-war coalition”, after a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron. The Dutch Ministry of Defense said it would deliver 200 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine “as soon as possible”. Prague has announced that it will donate weapons worth 7.6 million euros to Kiev. And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has just announced new military assistance to Ukraine worth $350 million. “This package will include more lethal defensive assistance to help address the armored, air and other threats facing Ukraine today,” Blinken said in a statement.
Clashes in Kiev
In Kiev, now a ghost town abandoned by its inhabitants, fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces takes place on Victoria Avenue, one of the capital’s main arteries. Today, the mayor of the capital, Vitali Klitschko, stated that anyone on the street between 5pm and 8am will be treated as an enemy. Ukrainian soldiers on patrol assured the AFP that Russian forces were in firing position a few kilometers away. Under a blue sky, the wreckage of a military truck hit by a missile was still smoking, while detonations were heard in the distance. Kiev’s subway is at a standstill and now serves as an air-raid “shelter” for residents, Mayor Klitschko announced on the messaging app Telegram.
A large residential building was hit by missiles early on Saturday, according to Ukrainian authorities, who did not report any casualties. The night was “difficult”, said the mayor of Kiev, assuring that “sabotage units” from Moscow are in the city, but that there are still no regular Russian army units. On Facebook, the Ukrainian Army reported that it had destroyed a column of five military vehicles, including a tank, on Avenida da Vitória. During the night, authorities reported a Russian attack on a power station in the Troieshchyna neighborhood in the northeast of the capital. So far, the Russian Defense Ministry has not mentioned the offensive in Kiev, citing only cruise missile fire against military infrastructure, advances in the east – where the army supports separatists in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk – and in the south, where Russian troops entered the Crimean peninsula on Thursday, annexed by Moscow in 2014.
Russian units were identified at Borodianki (70 km northwest of Kiev); in Butcha, on the northwestern outskirts of the capital; and in Vyshgorod in the north, the Ukrainian Army said on Facebook. Russian forces “continue their attack to block Kiev from the northeast (of the country), but have been contained by the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” he declared. Across the country, dozens of Ukrainian soldiers died in the fighting, according to the Ukrainian army, which also claims to inflict heavy losses on the Russian army. Moscow does not provide information on its casualties.
On the road between Kramatorsk and Dnipro, two cities in eastern Ukraine, journalists from AFP observed the presence of a large number of Ukrainian military convoys. Military checkpoints were set up at the entry and exit points of every major city in this area. Poland says 100,000 Ukrainians have crossed the Polish border since Thursday. Nine reception centers were created. “We left the house very, very quickly, because we were afraid of a massive attack,” Dania told AFP, among the refugees. In total, more than 116,000 Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries – such as Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania – a “growing number”, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tweeted on Saturday.
On Friday, Russia vetoed a resolution at the UN Security Council, of which it is a permanent member, criticizing its “aggression against Ukraine” and calling for the immediate withdrawal of its troops. The text was supported by 11 of the 15 countries that comprise it. Putin appears determined to continue his offensive until ousting those he describes as “drug addicts” and “neo-Nazis” from power in Kiev. He also encouraged the Ukrainian Army to stage a military coup. According to Moscow, it is a “special military operation” of “peacekeeping” to “demilitarize” and “denazify” a country accused of an alleged genocide of the Russian-speaking populations of the east of this territory.
The Russian Communications Industry Regulatory Agency (Roskomnadzor) has ordered the national media to remove from its content any reference to civilians killed by the Russian army in Ukraine, as well as the terms “invasion”, “offensive”, or “declaration of war”. In recent days, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has repeated that it will not send troops to this country, but its member countries have decided to mobilize additional troops in Europe, in particular in the eastern countries. Yesterday, representatives of the members of the Atlantic Alliance met by videoconference to address the crisis.
The Ukrainian president on Saturday called on Berlin and Budapest to approve Russia’s exclusion from the Swift international banking system, a sanction considered an “economic nuclear weapon” and scrutinized by the European Union (EU). The head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kouleba, had already called on the West to “completely isolate Russia” and “destroy its economy”. For now, the Western camp is focused on tightening sanctions on Russia, after having restricted its access to financial markets and technology.
With Washington in the lead, Western powers took another step forward on Friday by imposing – a rare and symbolic event – sanctions on Putin himself and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Also on Friday, a commercial vessel suspected of belonging to a Russian company targeted by EU sanctions was intercepted in the English Channel, French authorities said. Russia, in turn, announced the closure of its airspace to planes from Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic, in retaliation for a similar measure adopted by these countries.