KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Russia pressed its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital on Friday after carrying out air strikes on cities and military bases and sending troops and tanks from three sides in an attack that could rewrite global security after the Cold War order .

Explosions erupted in Kyiv before dawn, and shootings were reported in several areas when Western leaders scheduled an emergency meeting and Ukraine’s president asked for international help to repel an attack that could overthrow his democratically elected government, cause mass casualties and damage the world economy. .

Among the signs that the Ukrainian capital is under increasing threat, the military on Friday called a group of Russian spies and saboteurs seen in an area on the outskirts of Kiev, and police told people not to leave the metro station in the city center because there were shootings. Elsewhere in the capital, soldiers took up defensive positions on bridges, armored vehicles rolled through the streets, and many residents stood restlessly at the doors of their homes.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said that Kyiv “may be under siege” as a result of what US officials consider a brazen attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to establish his own regime.

The assault, which had been awaited for weeks by the United States and Western allies, became the largest ground war in Europe since World War II. Repeatedly denying plans to invade, the autocratic Putin launched an attack on a country that was increasingly leaning toward a democratic West and Moscow’s influence.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose power has become weaker, has called on global leaders to tighten sanctions than those imposed by Western allies and to help with defense.

“If you do not help us now, if you do not provide powerful assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door,” said the leader, who severed diplomatic relations with Moscow, declared martial law and ordered a full war. mobilization that would last 90 days.

Zelensky said he was a target for the captured Russians, but planned to stay in Kyiv. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson said on Friday that the Ukrainian woman attended a meeting of European Union leaders by video link from what appeared to be a bunker.

When air raids sounded in the capital on Friday, hotel guests in the city center were sent to a makeshift basement filled with piles of mattresses and water bottles. The workers, all students of the local university, treated the guests to tea and cookies. Some people went out into the courtyard to smoke or breathe fresh air.

“We are all scared and worried. We don’t know what to do then, what will happen in a few days, ”said one of the workers, 20-year-old Lucy Vashaka.

The invasion began early Thursday with a series of missile strikes on cities and military bases, and was soon followed by a multilateral ground assault that brought troops from several areas to the east; from the southern region of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014; and from Belarus to the north.

After Ukrainian officials said they had lost control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s largest nuclear disaster, Russia said on Friday it was working with Ukrainians to ensure the safety of the plant. There was no confirmation of such cooperation from the Ukrainian side.

Zelensky said 137 “heroes” were killed, including 10 servicemen, and one of his advisers said about 400 Russian servicemen had been killed. Moscow did not count the victims. No claim can be verified independently.

Fearing Russia’s attack on the capital, with the onset of night thousands of people went deep underground, drowning out the Kiev metro station.

Sometimes it felt almost hilarious. Families had dinner. The children were playing. Adults chatted. People brought sleeping bags, dogs or crossword puzzles – all to ease the wait and the long night ahead.

“No one believed that this war would start and take Kiev directly,” said Anton Mironov, waiting for the night at one of the old Soviet metro stations. “I feel mostly tired. None of this feels real. “

Many who spent the night in makeshift bunkers found themselves on Friday morning in a relatively quiet town. Some vehicles and cars were moving on the highways along with columns of soldiers. The queues at the gas station evaporated the day before.

As social media amplifies the flow of military claims and counterclaims, it was difficult to determine exactly what was going on on the ground.

Russia has said it is not targeting cities, but journalists have seen destruction in many civilian areas, and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the rocket hit a high-rise building in the city on Friday, sparking a fire. Meanwhile, the mayor of the rebel-held east of the city said that the Ukrainian shelling hit the school building.

The Ukrainian military on Friday reported significant fighting near Ivankiv, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Kyiv, when Russian forces apparently tried to advance into the capital from the north. Russian troops also entered the city of Sumy, near the border with Russia, which is on the highway leading to Kiev from the east.

Later there were reports of at least some forces much closer.

“Today will be the hardest day. The enemy’s plan is to break through with tank columns from Ivankiv and Chernihiv to Kyiv, ”Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchanka told Telegram.

Hours after the invasion began, Russian troops seized control of the now decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the surrounding exclusion zone, the Associated Press was told by presidential adviser Mikhail Podalak.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, said Ukraine had announced the takeover, adding that “there were no casualties or destruction on the industrial site.”

The conflict has shaken global financial markets: stocks have fallen and oil prices have risen amid fears that heating bills and food prices will rise. The condemnation came not only from the United States and Europe, but also from South Korea, Australia and beyond, and many governments have prepared new sanctions. Even friendly leaders, such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban, have sought to distance themselves from Putin.

US President Joe Biden has announced new sanctions against Russian banks, oligarchs, state-controlled companies and high-tech sectors, saying Putin had “chosen this war” and shown a “sinister” view of the world in which countries take what want strength. He added that these measures are designed not to disrupt global energy markets. Exports of Russian oil and natural gas are vital sources of energy for Europe.

On Friday morning, Biden was scheduled to meet with fellow NATO leaders, which the White House called an “emergency virtual summit” to discuss Ukraine.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson said he was seeking to cut Russia off from Britain’s financial markets when he announced sanctions, freezing the assets of all major Russian banks and planning to ban Russian companies and the Kremlin from raising money in British markets.

“Now we see him as he is – a bloody aggressor who believes in imperial conquest,” Johnson said of Putin.

Zelensky called on the United States and the West to go further and disconnect the Russians from SWIFT, a key financial network that connects thousands of banks around the world. The White House is reluctant to do so, fearing it could cause huge economic problems in Europe and other Western countries.

While some nervous Europeans have speculated about a possible new world war, the United States and its NATO partners have shown no signs of deploying troops in Ukraine for fear of escalating the conflict. NATO has strengthened its members in Eastern Europe as a precaution, and Biden said the U.S. is deploying additional forces in Germany to strengthen NATO.

Ukrainians were urged to hide and not panic.

“Until the last moment, I didn’t believe it would happen. I just pushed those thoughts away, ”said a frightened Anna Dovnya in Kyiv, watching the soldiers and police remove fragments from the torn shell. “We have lost all faith.”


Isachenkov and Litvinov reported from Moscow. Francesca Ebel, Joseph Federman and Andrew Drake in Kiev; Angela Charlton in Paris; Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin; Ruff Caserte and Lorne Cook in Brussels; Nick Dumitrache in Mariupol, Ukraine, Inna Varenitsa in eastern Ukraine; and Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Aamer Madhani, Eric Tucker, Noman Merchant, Ellen Nickmeyer, Zick Miller, Chris Megerian and Darlene Superville of Washington.


Follow the coverage of the Ukrainian crisis of the AP at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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