Ukraine invasion: President says his forces still control Kyiv and appeals to ‘friends’ abroad to join fight | World News

Ukraine’s president has said his forces are still in control of Kyiv and is appealing to the country’s “friends” abroad to join the fight.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a fresh address on Saturday: “Everyone who can defend Ukraine abroad please do it directly in a united way.

“Every friend of Ukraine who wants to join Ukraine in defending the country please come over, we will give you weapons.”

It comes after he appeared in a social media video from the streets of Kyiv early on Saturday to counter claims he had taken up an American offer to evacuate.

Russian flag hangs from Ukrainian police station; live updates

Key developments:

• Reports of fighting across the cities of Kyiv, Mariupol, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odessa
• Russian flag hanging from police station in Melitopol suggest forces have taken coastal city
• ‘Bulk’ of Russian forces advancing on capital now 19 miles from city centre
• UK, US and EU imposing direct sanctions on Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov
• Decision yet to be made on locking Russia out of Swift international payment system
• French authorities seize cargo ship with Russian flag in English Channel
• Invasion resulting in refugee crisis with 120,000 Ukrainians fleeing to neighbouring countries – UN
• China abstains from UN Security Council draft resolution on invasion

Russian forces 19 miles from central Kyiv

The UK Ministry of Defence has said the “bulk of Russian forces” are now around 19 miles from the city centre, as they “continue their advance”.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko earlier claimed “there are no Russian troops in the capital” but “subversive groups” are active and street fighting is ongoing.

British officials have praised the Ukrainian military’s “staunch resistance across the country”, while President Zelenskyy said: “Everyone who is defending Ukraine is a hero.”

A view shows an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine February 26, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
An apartment building in Kyiv was hit by shelling ovenright
A Ukrainian soldier walks past burnt out military vehicles near Kyiv. Pic: AP
A Ukrainian soldier walks past burnt out military vehicles near Kyiv. Pic: AP

He added that the “armed forces are doing everything they can” to eliminate Russian presence nationwide and that those towns and cities being attacked from the air are “holding up”.

With the UN refugee agency reporting that 120,000 Ukrainians have fled the country for Romania, Moldova, Poland and Hungary, Mr Zelenskyy also called on people to return.

“Everyone who can come back to Ukraine please come back to defend Ukraine,” he said.

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The former heavyweight champion boxer also said that the Metro stations were open for people to shelter from blasts.

At least 198 Ukrainians have died since the invasion began three days ago, including three children, the Ukrainian health ministry told the Interfax news agency.

Clashes in Mariupol, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odessa

People in Kyiv are being told to seek or remain in shelters, avoid going near windows or on balconies and take precautions against being hit by debris or bullets.

Military clashes are also under way in the cities of Mariupol, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odessa, an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office said.

Russia’s military said it has taken over Melitopol, a city in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, with an online video showing a Russian flag hanging from a police station there.

But UK armed forces minister James Heappey told Sky News it is “still in Ukrainian hands”.

Ukraine map
A map shows how Kyiv has been impacted by the invasion overnight
A map of Ukraine showing where there have been attacks
A map of Ukraine showing where there have been attacks

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military said it had shot down an II-76 Russian transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles (40km) south of Kyiv, an account confirmed by two US intelligence officials said.

It is the second time that the Ukraine military has said it has shot down a Russian military transport plane since the invasion started on Thursday.

Read more: The Russian invasion of Ukraine mapped

The city’s mayor Natalia Balansynovych claimed the military fended off a Russian attempt to take control of an airbase there after trying to land there overnight.

Fierce fighting broke out in a central Vasylkiv street, she said, causing several casualties, but the situation is now “calm”.

To support Ukrainian troops on the frontline, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace held a military aid donor conference virtually late on Friday.

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Ukrainian refugees flee the country for neighbouring countries

West puts pressure on Russia with frontline aid and sanctions

It saw 27 countries agree to give more weapons, medical supplies and other military resources.

US President Biden said he has signed a memorandum to provide up to $600m (£448m) in “immediate military assistance”.

Speaking to Sky News earlier armed forces minister James Heappey revealed the Ministry of Defence is working on plans to support a resistance movement and a government in exile if Ukraine is finally overrun.

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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy filmed himself outside his office in Kyiv on Saturday

After refusing his offer of escape, Mr Zelenskyy said he had spoken to Mr Biden to discuss strengthening existing sanctions against Russia.

The UK, US and EU are among the powers imposing restrictions directly on Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov directly, with Western allies also considering banning Russia from the international payment system SWIFT.

On Saturday a Russian cargo ship carrying cars to St Petersburg was seized by French authorities in the English Channel.

Officials said it “strongly suspected of being linked to Russian interests targeted by sanctions” over Ukraine.

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