Russian troops moved closer to the Ukrainian capital on Saturday after a night of explosions and street fighting that sent Kyiv residents seeking refuge or fleeing the city.
The country’s leader claimed that Ukrainian forces repelled the assault and vowed to continue the fight.
“The real fighting for Kyiv is ongoing,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message, accusing Russia in a video message of hitting infrastructure and civilian targets.
“We are going to win,” he said.
Central Kiev appeared calm on Saturday and reported skirmishes on the outskirts of the city suggested small Russian units were trying to clear a path for the main forces.
The British Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that the bulk of Russian forces were 30 km from the center of the city.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko extended the curfew he imposed two days ago from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.
He said “all civilians on the streets during the curfew will be considered members of the enemy’s sabotage and reconnaissance groups.”
Russia says its assault on Ukraine only targeted military targets, but bridges, schools and residential neighborhoods have been hit since the invasion began on Thursday with airstrikes and missiles and Russian troops entering in Ukraine from the north, east and south.
Ukraine’s health minister announced on Saturday that 198 people, including three children, had been killed and more than 1,000 others injured in Europe’s biggest ground offensive since World War II. It was unclear whether the figure included both military and civilian casualties.
In Kyiv, a missile hit a high-rise building in the southwestern outskirts near one of Kyiv’s two passenger airports, leaving a jagged hole of ravaged apartments on several floors. A rescue worker said six civilians were injured.
The conflict has driven thousands of Ukrainians from their homes in search of safety.
UN officials said more than 120,000 Ukrainians had left the country for Poland, Moldova and other neighboring countries.
In the fog of war, it was unclear how much of Ukraine was still under Ukrainian control and how much Russian forces had seized.
Western governments have claimed that strong Ukrainian resistance has slowed the Russian advance and that Russia does not yet control Ukrainian skies.
Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said a Russian missile was shot down before dawn on Saturday as it headed towards the dam of the vast water reservoir that serves Kiev, and Ukraine said a military convoy Russian had been destroyed near the town early on Saturday.
In addition to Kiev, the Russian assault appeared to be focused on Ukraine’s coastline, stretching from the Black Sea port of Odessa in the west near the border with Romania to the Sea port of Azov. from Mariupol to the east.
If Russian troops are successful, Ukraine will be cut off from all of its seaports, which are vital to its economy. In Mariupol, Ukrainian soldiers were guarding bridges and blocking people from the coastal area, fearing that the Russian navy would launch an assault from the sea.
The Russian military said on Friday it claimed control of Melitopol, about 22 miles inland from the Sea of Azov.
Western officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to overthrow the Ukrainian government and replace it with his own regime. The invasion represented Mr Putin’s boldest effort yet to redraw the map of Europe and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.
Mr Zelensky posted a provocative video recorded on a street in downtown Kiev on Saturday, saying he was staying in the city and that claims that the Ukrainian military would lay down their arms were false.
“We are not going to lay down our arms. We will protect the country,” the Ukrainian president said. “Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of this.
The US government urged Mr Zelensky early on Saturday to evacuate Kiev, but he refused the offer, according to a senior US intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have moved, seeking safety in the west of the country or beyond.
Kyiv city officials have urged residents to take shelter, stay away from windows and take precautions to avoid flying debris or bullets.
“We are all scared and worried. We don’t know what to do then, what will happen in a few days,” said Lucy Vashaka, 20, a worker at a small hotel in Kiev.
The United States and other NATO allies have sent arms and other aid to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
NATO member countries have also boosted their troops in allied countries in Eastern Europe, but have ruled out deploying troops to fight Russia.
Instead, the United States, the European Union and other countries imposed far-reaching sanctions on Russia, freezing the assets of Russian companies and individuals, including Mr Putin and his Minister of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs.
French maritime authorities seized a Russian-flagged freighter carrying cars for possible sanctions violations and took it to a port for investigation.
Russia has remained adamant, vetoing a UN Security Council resolution calling on it to stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw its troops immediately.
The 11-1 vote, with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining, showed significant opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller and militarily weak neighbor.
A senior Russian official ignored sweeping sanctions the United States, European Union and other allies imposed on Russia on Saturday, reflecting Western “political impotence”.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, has warned that Moscow could respond to sanctions by withdrawing from the latest nuclear arms pact, freezing Western assets and cutting diplomatic ties with Western nations.
“There is no particular need to maintain diplomatic relations,” Medvedev said. “We can look at each other through binoculars and sights.”