Ukraine’s capital under threat as Russia presses invasion; Putin hit w…
KYIV, Ukraine — Russian troops bore down on Ukraine’s capital Friday while the president grimly expected that the conflict would soon strengthen and fears of wider war in Europe triggered new international efforts to make Moscow stop, including direct sanctions on President Vladimir Putin.
Amid reports of hundreds of casualties — including shelling that sliced by a Kyiv apartment building and pummeled bridges and schools — there also were growing signs that Russia may be seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s government, which U.S. officials have described as Putin’s ultimate objective. It would be his boldest effort however to redraw the world map and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.
His country fending off explosions and gunfire, Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenskyy appealed for a cease-fire and warned in a bleak statement that multiple cities were under attack. “This night they will storm,” he said. For their part, U.S. defense officials believe the Russian offensive has encountered important resistance and is proceeding slower than Moscow had conceived, though that could change quickly.
The Kremlin accepted Kyiv’s offer to keep up talks, but it appeared to be an effort to squeeze concessions out of the embattled Zelenskyy instead of a gesture toward a diplomatic solution. Ukraine nonetheless remains “ready to discuss a cease-fire and peace,” said Zelenskyy spokesman Sergii Nikiforov.
The Russian military continued its improvement, laying claim Friday to the southern Ukraine city of Melitopol. nevertheless, it was unclear in the fog of war how much of Ukraine is nevertheless under Ukrainian control and how much or little Russian forces have seized.
As fighting persisted, Ukraine’s military reported shooting down an II-76 Russian transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles south of Kyiv, an account confirmed by a senior American intelligence official. It was unclear how many were on board. Transport planes can carry up to 125 paratroopers.
The U.S. and other global powers slapped ever-tougher sanctions on Russia as the invasion reverberated by the world’s economy and energy supplies, threatening to further hit ordinary households. U.N. officials said millions could flee Ukraine. Sports leagues moved to punish Russia and already the popular Eurovision song contest banned it from the May finals in Italy.
by it all, Russia remained unbowed, vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that it stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw troops closest. The veto was expected, but the U.S. and its supporters argued that the effort would highlight Moscow’s international isolation. The 11-1 vote, with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining, showed meaningful but not total opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller, militarily weaker neighbor.
NATO, meanwhile, decided to send parts of the alliance’s response force to help protect its member nations in the east for the first time. NATO did not say how many troops would be deployed but additional that it would include land, sea and air strength.
Day Two of Russia’s invasion, the largest ground war in Europe since World War II, focused on the Ukrainian capital, where Associated Press reporters heard explosions starting before dawn and gunfire was reported in several areas.
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