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Fierce fighting on the outskirts of Kiev as Russia and Ukraine signal the possibility of negotiations

  • Intense shots could be heard in Kiev as the fighting intensified in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday.
  • Russia unleashed an invasion of Ukraine on Thursday in an attack that threatened to change the order of Europe after the Cold War.
  • Western countries have announced a barrage of sanctions against Russia, but it has not deterred the Russian president.

Russian and Ukrainian forces clashed on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital on Saturday as authorities urged citizens to help defend the city against the advance of Russian forces in the worst European security crisis in decades.

Heavy, frequent artillery fire and intense gunfire, apparently some distance from the city center, could be heard in Kyiv in the early hours, a Reuters witness said. The Ukrainian military said Russian troops were attacking an army base on a main street in Kiev, but the attack was repulsed.

But as the fighting intensified, Russian and Ukrainian governments signaled openness to negotiations, giving the first glimmer of hope for diplomacy since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on Thursday.

“Ukraine’s fate is being decided right now,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Friday in a video address sent to his Telegram channel. “Tonight they will launch an assault. We must all understand what awaits us. We must resist this night.”

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The Air Force command reported heavy fighting near the air base at Vasylkiv southwest of the capital, which it said was under attack from Russian paratroopers.

It also said one of its fighter jets had shot down a Russian transport plane. Reuters could not independently confirm the allegations.

Kyiv residents were told by the Ministry of Defense to make petrol bombs to repel the attackers, as witnesses reported hearing artillery rounds and intense shots from the western part of the city.

Some families have gathered in shelters after Kiev was hit by Russian missiles on Thursday night. Others were desperately trying to get on packed trains heading west, some of the hundreds of thousands who have left their homes to find safety, according to the UN chief of relief.

After weeks of warnings from Western leaders, Putin on Thursday unleashed a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine from the north, east and south in an attack that threatened to change the order of Europe after the Cold War.

“I appeal once again to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: Do not allow neo-Nazis and (Ukrainian radical nationalists) to use your children, wives and the elderly as human shields,” Putin said at a televised meeting with Russia’s security. Council Friday. “Take power into your own hands.”

Putin has cited the need to “de-Nazify” Ukraine’s leadership as one of his main causes of invasion, and accuses it of genocide against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine. Kiev and its Western allies dismiss the accusations as baseless propaganda.

Ukrainians voted overwhelmingly for independence in the fall of the Soviet Union, and Kyiv hopes to join NATO and the EU – hopes that make Moscow furious.

Putin says Ukraine, a democratic nation of 44 million people, is an illegitimate state cut out of Russia, a view that Ukrainians see as aimed at erasing their more than millennial history.

‘READY TO SPEAK’

Western countries have announced a barrage of sanctions against Russia, including blacklisting its banks and banning technology exports. But so far they have stopped forcing it out of the SWIFT system for international bank payments.

The United States imposed sanctions on Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov. The European Union and Britain have in the past frozen all the assets that Putin and Lavrov had in their territory. Canada took similar steps.

However, the continued escalation of economic restrictions has not deterred Putin.

Moscow said on Friday that it had captured Hostomel airfield northwest of the capital – a potential staging post for an attack on Kiev that has been fought over since Russian paratroopers landed there in the early hours of the war.

This could not be confirmed and the Ukrainian authorities reported violent fighting there.

But in the midst of the chaos of the war, a ray of hope came.

A spokesman for Zelenskiy said Ukraine and Russia would consult in the coming hours on the time and place of negotiations.

The Kremlin said earlier that it offered to meet in the Belarusian capital Minsk after Ukraine expressed willingness to discuss declaring itself a neutral country, while Ukraine had proposed Warsaw as a meeting place. That resulted, according to Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in a “break” in contacts.

“Ukraine was and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace,” Zelensky’s spokesman Sergii Nykyforov said in a Facebook post. “We agreed with the proposal of the President of the Russian Federation.”

But State Department spokesman Ned Price said Russia’s offer was an attempt to carry out diplomacy “at gunpoint” and that Putin’s military must stop bombing Ukraine if the negotiations were serious.

ISOLATION

At the UN, Russia vetoed a draft Security Council resolution that would have lamented the country’s invasion, while China abstained, a move that Western countries saw as evidence of Russia’s isolation. The United Arab Emirates and India also abstained, while the remaining 11 members voted in favor.

A picture of what was happening on earth across Ukraine – the largest country in Europe after Russia – was slowly emerging.

Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter that there had been heavy fighting with deaths at the entrance to the eastern cities of Chernihiv and Melitopol as well as at Hostomel.

Witnesses said they had heard explosions and shots near the airport in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, close to Russia’s border. The Ukrainian military said Russian troops had been stopped with heavy losses near the northeastern city of Konotop.

There were also reports of fighting near an air base about 30 km (20 miles) southwest of Kiev.

The British Ministry of Defense said Russian armored forces had opened a new route of advance towards the capital after failing to occupy Chernihiv.

Ukraine said more than 1,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. Russia has not released casualty figures. Zelenskiy said late Thursday that 137 soldiers and civilians were killed in the fighting, with hundreds wounded.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart and condemned reported civilian deaths, including deaths of Ukrainian children, in attacks around Kiev, the State Department said.

The White House asked Congress for $ 6.4 billion in security and humanitarian aid for the crisis, officials said.

Air attack sirens moaned over Kiev for the second day last Friday as residents took shelter in underground metro stations.

Windows were blown out of a 10-story apartment block near the main airport.

“How can we live through this in our time? Putin should burn in hell with his whole family,” Oxana Gulenko said, sweeping shards of glass from her room.

Fierce fighting on the outskirts of Kiev as Russia and Ukraine signal the possibility of negotiations

Source link Fierce fighting on the outskirts of Kiev as Russia and Ukraine signal the possibility of negotiations

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