A defiant Ukrainian president has urged his compatriots to keep fighting after his soldiers fought through the night with Russian troops besieging the capital Kyiv and besieging cities across the country.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its third day, Volodymyr Zelensky assures residents in a video recorded outside his office on Saturday morning: “I’m here. We will not give up any arms. We will defend our country.”
The center of Kyiv remained under Ukrainian government and military control on Saturday, its leaders said, as the country’s strong army continued to fight back. the largest invading force in Europe in half a century. Gunfire and explosions were heard in several areas of the capital during the night.
“This is our land. This is our country,” Zelensky said. “These are our children. And we will protect all of this.”
Battles continue across the country in the cities of Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odesa, Zelensky government adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said in a televised address. However, he claimed that the situation in Kyiv was “100% under control” and that the city had suffered attacks overnight.
Podolyak said that as of Saturday morning, Ukraine had killed more than 3,500 Russians and arrested just over 200 others. The military claims of Russia and Ukraine cannot be independently verified.
While Ukrainian troops were fending off the Russians in Kyiv and elsewhere, Moscow announced it had captured the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol on Saturday. A witness in the city confirmed that the city was under Russian control.
The Russian Defense Ministry said overnight, without providing any evidence, that Russian troops had been greeted by locals in the city, including some “older citizens who took to the streets with red flags”. .
As his armored columns moved to Kyiv, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Ukraine’s armed forces to “take power into their own hands” and overthrow their government so they could strike a deal. peace with Moscow.
In a social media post on Friday night, a spokesman for the President of Ukraine said discussions had begun with the Russians about a possible “negotiation process”. But it is unclear whether the suggestion of negotiations is realistic, given Russia’s extreme demands.
Oleksandr Danylyuk, president of the Kyiv-based Center for Defense Reform and an expert on mixed warfare, said he believes the Russians have not given up on their intention to topple Zelensky in a “wrong flag” coup. “.
“Now they are trying to win. . . Danylyuk told the Financial Times. “That’s why they try to get to the city center in small groups.”
Meanwhile, NATO member states pledged to continue supplying Ukraine with military weapons, including air defense systems. Jens Stoltenberg, Nato Secretary General, said: “We are working on this for a long time, after the coalition held a crisis meeting on Friday.
The US, EU and UK have also imposed direct sanctions on Putin and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, in a rare instance aimed at leveling such measures against a foreign leader.
Earlier on Saturday, Zelensky, in a phone call with European Council president Charles Michel, called on European countries to open their doors to Ukraine’s membership of the EU.
“This is an important moment to conclude the once and for all long and decisive discussion on Ukraine’s membership in the EU,” he tweeted.
Late on Friday evening, Hungary offered to hold direct talks between Russia and Ukraine in Budapest to end the conflict. Both governments are open to the idea, foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said in a Facebook video.
“I hope the two of them will create a direct channel for these negotiations to take place in Hungary, if necessary, as soon as possible,” he said.
Ratings agency Moody’s on Friday warned that it could soon strip Russia of the investment-grade credit rating coveted and downgrade Ukraine deeper into trash territory.
Moody’s said it has placed both Russia and Ukraine under review for downgrade. Russia is rated Baa3 by Moody’s, the lowest investment grade opinion given by the group, while Ukraine has a B3 rating.
The war is ravaging Ukraine’s economy, with a civil exodus from Kyiv intensified on Friday. Traffic was heavy on the roads leading out of the capital, with some residents fleeing with suitcases.
The Ukrainian army called on those who were staying to fight the invading forces. They asked residents of Obolon, a suburb of Kyiv, to inform them of the transfer of Russian equipment into the city. The Ministry of Defense said: “Make Molotov cocktails, neutralize the occupier.
Russia on Friday announced it had captured Kyiv’s Hostomel airport, near the Obolon district. Control of the runway could allow Russia to quickly transport large numbers of troops directly to the capital.
Western military officials warn that the arrival of tens of thousands of troops south from Belarus and north from Crimea will give “overwhelming” military superiority and could lead to the fall of the capital in next few days.
On Friday, oil prices steady after peaking at $100/bbl on Thursday for the first time since 2014. European natural gas prices fell after rising nearly 70% to 142€/megawatt-hour on Thursday. Futures contracts linked to TTF, Europe’s wholesale gas price, fell more than 30% on Friday to €92.50.
European stocks recovered their losses while U.S. equities also rose, with the benchmark S&P 500 index ending the day 2% higher.