Russia-Ukraine crisis: Kyiv under siege, fog over talks | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Kyiv under siege, fog over talks

ByAgencies, Kyiv/moscow/new York:
Feb 26, 2022 04:42 AM IST

On Day 2 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there were reports of hundreds of casualties from the warfare — including shelling that sliced through a Kyiv apartment building and pummeled bridges and schools — and confusion regarding the possibility of the two sides holding talks.

Russian troops bore down on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Friday, with gunfire and explosions resonating ever closer to the government quarter although the invaders appeared to face stiffer than expected resistance from a much smaller military force, that was supplemented by civilians taking up arms.

A deserted street during the second day of the Russian invasion in central Kyiv.(Bloomberg)
A deserted street during the second day of the Russian invasion in central Kyiv.(Bloomberg)

On Day 2 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there were reports of hundreds of casualties from the warfare — including shelling that sliced through a Kyiv apartment building and pummeled bridges and schools — and confusion regarding the possibility of the two sides holding talks.

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Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy first brought up the possibility of negotiations when he said he was willing to discuss his country’s non-aligned status, following which Russian leaders said they were willing to come to a table in Belarus, provided the Kyiv end its resistance and lay down arms. Hours later, Kremlin said Kyiv had rejected the offer, suggesting a meeting in Poland instead.

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But indications that any negotiation may be a far cry came earlier when Putin made an address urging the Ukrainian military to effectively carry out a coup so that it would be “easier to negotiate with you” than the “drug addicts and neo-Nazis” in charge in Kyiv.

These developments came hours ahead of a UN Security Council meeting in which the US-led countries were set to move a resolution condemning Russia in harsh terms for invading a United Nations member state. US officials said they expected Russia to exercise its veto on the resolution. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 1.30am IST on Saturday.

At the same time, throughout Friday, the world made it clear that a military intervention in Ukraine is off the table for now, so most countries were heaping more punishment on Moscow — from financial to football sanctions.

The European Union was closing in on freezing the assets of Russian president Putin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov along with other sanctions. But it was unclear how badly the two men would be hurt by such a move or if it would be mainly symbolic.

In the fog of war, it was unclear how much of Ukraine remains under Ukrainian control and how much or little Russian forces have seized.

In Kyiv, Associated Press reported, explosions were heard starting before dawn and gunfire was reported in several areas. Russia’s military said it had seized a strategic airport outside Kyiv, allowing it to quickly build up forces to take the capital. It claimed to have already cut the city off from the west — the direction taken by many of those escaping the invasion, leading to lines of cars snaking toward the Polish border.

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“When bombs fall on Kyiv, it happens in Europe, not just in Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in a statement. “When missiles kill our people, they kill all Europeans.”

Zelenskiy pleaded with Western powers to act faster to cut off Russia’s economy and provide Ukraine military help. His whereabouts were kept secret, after he told European leaders in a call Thursday night that he was Russia’s No. 1 target — and that they might not see him again alive.

Zelenskiy also made a dramatic call for help, calling on Europeans with “combat experience” to take up arms and defend Ukraine against invading Russian forces, adding the West was too slow to help his country.

He also offered to negotiate on one of Putin’s key demands: that Ukraine declare itself neutral and abandon its ambition of joining NATO. The Kremlin responded that Russia was ready to send a delegation to Belarus to discuss that. But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov later said Ukrainian officials were unwilling to travel to the Belarusian capital and would prefer Warsaw, then halted further communication.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov suggested it was too late, saying Zelenskiy should have agreed to talks earlier on.

After denying for weeks he planned to invade, Putin argued that the West left him no other choice by refusing to negotiate on Russia’s security demands.

In a window into how the increasingly isolated Putin views Ukraine and its leadership, he gave a strongly worded statement Friday urging the Ukrainian military to surrender, saying: “We would find it easier to agree with you than with that gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis who have holed up in Kyiv and have taken the entire Ukrainian people hostage.”

Ukrainians, meanwhile, abruptly adjusted to life under fire, after Russian forces started moving into their country from three sides in an invasion telegraphed for weeks, as they massed an estimated 150,000 troops nearby.

Residents of a Kyiv apartment building woke to screaming, smoke and flying dust. What the mayor identified as Russian shelling tore off part of the building and ignited a fire.

“What are you doing? What is this?” resident Yurii Zhyhanov asked — a question directed at Russian forces. Like countless other Ukrainians, he grabbed what belongings he could, took his mother, and fled, car alarms wailing behind him.

Elsewhere in Kyiv, the body of a dead soldier lay near an underpass. Fragments of a downed aircraft smoked amid the brick homes of a residential area. Black plastic was draped over body parts found beside them. And people climbed out of bomb shelters, basements and subways to face another day of upheaval.

“We’re all scared and worried. We don’t know what to do then, what’s going to happen in a few days,” said one of the workers, Lucy Vashaka, 20.

AP reporters saw signs of significant fighting near Ivankiv, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Kyiv. Russian troops also entered the city of Sumy, near the border with Russia that sits on a highway leading to Kyiv from the east. A Russian missile launcher was seen on the outskirts of Kharkiv in the east.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kyiv “could well be under siege” in what U.S. officials believe is a brazen attempt by Putin to install his own regime.

The assault, anticipated for weeks by the U.S. and Western allies, amounts to the largest ground war in Europe since World War II.

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