Russian forces pound Ukraine for third day, Kyiv still in Ukrainian hands


(Reuters) – Russian forces pounded Ukrainian cities with artillery and cruise missiles on Saturday for a third day running but a defiant President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the capital Kyiv remained in Ukrainian hands.

As hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fled westwards towards the European Union, top Russian security official and ex-president Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow’s military operations would be waged relentlessly until their goals were achieved.

Ignoring weeks of Western warnings, President Vladimir Putin launched a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, saying the “neo-Nazis” in power in Kyiv threatened Russia’s security. The assault threatens to upend Europe’s post-Cold War order.

In a significant ratcheting up of Russia’s rhetoric, Medvedev said new Western sanctions were a sign of the West’s impotence in the standoff and hinted at a severing of diplomatic ties, saying it was time to “padlock the embassies”.

After a night of airstrikes, there were some signs of panic in Kyiv. Reuters reporters saw Ukrainian soldiers and a group of women running along the street. Nearby, Ukrainian soldiers forced a man in civilian clothes to lie down on the pavement.

Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said there was currently no major Russian military presence in Kyiv, but added that saboteur groups were active. The metro system is now serving only as a shelter for citizens and trains have stopped running, he said.

Klitschko said 35 people, including two children, had been wounded overnight. He later announced the extension of a night-time curfew, which will now run from 5 pm until 8 am.

At least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed and 1,115 people wounded so far in Russia’s invasion, Interfax quoted Ukraine’s Health Ministry as saying. It was unclear whether the numbers comprised only civilian casualties.

“We have withstood and are successfully repelling enemy attacks. The fighting goes on,” Zelenskiy said in a video message posted on his social media. “We have the courage to defend our homeland, to defend Europe.”

Britain said the bulk of Russian forces were now 30 km (19 miles) from the centre of Kyiv and said Russia had yet to gain control of Ukraine’s airspace.

The Kremlin said Putin had ordered troops to stop advancing on Friday but that they were moving forwards on Saturday after Kyiv refused to negotiate. Both Moscow and Kyiv had previously raised the possibility of peace talks but they came to nothing.



Ukraine, a democratic nation of 44 million people, won independence from Moscow in 1991 and wants to join NATO and the EU, goals Russia opposes. Putin says Ukraine is an illegitimate state carved out of Russia, a view Ukrainians see as aimed at erasing their distinctive history and identity.

Western intelligence sources say Russian forces have encountered far stronger Ukrainian resistance to their invasion than they had expected to their invasion.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said its forces had captured Melitopol, a city of 150,000 in southeastern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials were not immediately available to comment and Britain cast doubt on the report.

If confirmed, it would be the first significant population centre the Russians have seized.

Servicemen of the Ukrainian National Guard take positions in central Kyiv, Ukraine February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

A damaged vehicle is seen at the site of a fighting with Russian raiding troops after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 26, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

A Ukranian fireman kneels by a damaged vehicle, at the site of a fighting with Russian troops after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 26, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

A damaged vehicle is seen at the site of a fighting with Russian raiding troops after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 26, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukraine said more than 1,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. Russia did not release casualty figures.

Putin has said he must eliminate what he calls a serious threat to his country from its smaller neighbour and has cited the need to “denazify” Ukraine’s leadership, accusing it of genocide against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine – a charge dismissed by Kyiv and its Western allies as baseless propaganda.

About 100,000 people have crossed into Poland from Ukraine since Thursday, including 9,000 who have entered since 7 a.m. on Saturday, Polish Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Szefernaker told a news conference.

At Medyka in southern Poland, refugees described a 30-km (19-mile) line at the border. Ukrainians were also crossing the borders into Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.

“The most important thing is that people survive,” said Katharina Asselborn, wiping away tears while waiting at the Polish border for her sister, aunt and her three children to arrive from their home in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa.

“The last 30 kilometres to the border they went on foot.”

One woman, Nataliya Ableyeva, crossed into Hungary with two young children not her own and only the mobile phone number of their mother. Their father had not been allowed to cross the frontier due to a ban on all men aged 18 to 60 leaving Ukraine so they can fight for their country. read more

Ukraine has evacuated its embassy staff in Moscow to Latvia, the Baltic country’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.



Western nations have announced a raft of sanctions on Russia, including blacklisting its banks and banning technology exports.

They have stopped short of forcing Russia out of the SWIFT system for international bank payments, but the governor of a central bank in the euro zone told Reuters on Saturday such a decision was “just a matter of time, very short time, days”.

“Is it sufficient? No. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Sanctions only make sense if there are costs for both sides and this will be costly,” the central banker said.

Medvedev said Moscow would respond symmetrically to the seizure of money of Russian citizens and companies abroad by seizing the funds of foreigners in Russia.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov. The EU and Britain earlier froze any assets Putin and Lavrov held in their territory.

The invasion is also affecting Russia’s sports, cultural and other links. On Saturday Poland’s Football Association, in protest, said the national team would not play its World Cup qualifier against Russia next month. read more

Russia banned airlines from Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic from flying to and over its territory in response to similar moves by those countries. It has already banned all British airlines from its airspace.

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