Ukraine is expecting Putin’s tanks to attack Kyiv and citizens have been 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 after Ukraine said it expected a Russian armoured attack on the capital and its outskirts on Friday.
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”.
Explosions rocked Kyiv in the early hours in preparations for the Russian advance, with Ukraine claiming it had shot down a Russian military aircraft flying 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’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said “no one is planning to occupy Ukraine”, adding that Moscow was ready for talks if Ukrainian forces laid down their arms.
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 US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, warned that “all evidence suggests that Russia intends to encircle and threaten” Kyiv. Russian troops entered the country from the north, east and south on Thursday.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, confirmed reports of Russian missile strikes in a national address early on Friday, also calling for Nato defence support and tougher sanctions against Russia. Late on Thursday, he said 137 people inside Ukraine had been killed and 316 wounded.
Russian troops have seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the north of Ukraine and there were credible reports they were holding staff there hostage, the White House said.
Ukraine decreed a full military mobilisation against the Russian invasion. Ukrainian men aged 18-60 are now 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, 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 have attracted thousands of people in cities across Russia, with local authorities swiftly cracking down on the unsanctioned rallies. Police had made at least 1,702 arrests in 53 Russian cities.
The US president, Joe Biden, and the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, imposed more sanctions on Russia, including pushing to end Russia’s use of the Swift international payment systems.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, voiced his anger as EU leaders appeared to hold back from imposing the potentially most damaging sanction on Russia. Kuleba warned that European and US politicians would have “blood on their hands” if they decided against the sanction.