JURAS KARMANOV, JIM HEINZ, VLADIMIR ISACHANKOV and DASHA LITVINOVA

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 .

Before dawn, explosions erupted in Kyiv, with Western leaders calling for an emergency meeting and the Ukrainian president asking for international help. The nature of the explosions was not immediately clear, but the explosions came amid signs that Ukraine’s capital and largest city are facing a growing threat after a day of fighting that killed more than 100 Ukrainians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the government had information that “subversive groups” were attacking the city, and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that Kiev “could be under siege” as a result of what Russian officials say was a brazen attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin. dismantle the government and replace it with its own regime.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told lawmakers during a telephone conversation Thursday night that Russian mechanized forces, which had entered from Belarus, were about 20 miles from Kyiv, according to a man familiar with the call.

The assault, which has been awaited for weeks by the United States and Western allies and carried out by Putin amid international condemnation and cascading sanctions, has become the largest ground war in Europe since World War II.

Russian missiles bombed cities and military bases on the first day of the attack, and Ukrainian officials said they had lost control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s largest nuclear disaster. Explosions were heard in Kyiv, and civilians were thrown into trains and cars to escape, and hotel visitors were sent to a shelter.

“Russia is on the path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and not giving up freedom,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter. His rule of power is getting weaker, on Thursday he called for even tougher sanctions than those imposed by Western allies, and ordered a full 90-day military mobilization.

In a video message, Zelensky said that 137 “heroes” were killed, including 10 servicemen, and 316 people were injured. Among the dead – border guards on the island of Snake in the Odessa region, which was captured by the Russians.

He ended his emotional speech by saying that “the fate of the country depends entirely on our army, security forces, all our defenders.” He also said the country had heard from Moscow that “they want to talk about Ukraine’s neutral status.”

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

US President Joe Biden has announced new sanctions against Russia, saying Putin had “chosen this war” and shown a “sinister” view of a world in which countries take what they want by force. Other countries have also announced sanctions or said they will soon.

“It has always been about open aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary – through bullying from Russia’s neighbors through coercion and corruption, by changing borders by force and, ultimately, by choosing war for no reason,” Biden said.

In television interviews, Blinken said he was convinced that Russia intended to overthrow the Ukrainian government, telling CBS that Putin wanted to “restore the Soviet empire” and that Kiev was already “under threat and could well be under siege.”

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.

But the exhaustion was evident on many faces. And worries.

“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. “

The invasion began early Thursday with a series of missile strikes, many on key government and military targets, quickly followed by a tripartite ground assault. Ukrainian and US officials have said Russian forces are attacking Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, from the east; from the southern region of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014; and from Belarus to the north.

Zelensky, who previously severed diplomatic relations with Moscow and declared martial law, addressed world leaders, saying that “if you do not help us now, if you do not offer powerful assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will hit you.” the door. “

Although Biden said he had no plans to talk to Putin, the Russian leader had what the Kremlin called a “serious and sincere exchange” with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Both sides claimed to have destroyed some of the planes and military equipment of the other, although little of this can be confirmed.

Hours after the invasion began, Russian forces seized control of the now unused Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the adjacent exclusion zone after a fierce battle, 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 1986 disaster occurred when a nuclear reactor at a nuclear power plant 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Kiev exploded, spreading a radioactive cloud across Europe. The damaged reactor was later covered with a protective shell to prevent leaks.

Adviser to the Commander of the Land Forces of Ukraine Alena Shevtsova wrote on Facebook that the Chernobyl employees were “taken hostage.” The White House said it was “outraged” by reports of detentions.

The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine has released an update stating that although the plant was probably seized, the country’s forces stopped Russia’s advance towards Chernihiv and it is unlikely that Russia achieved its planned military objectives on the first day.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the “brutal act of war” had destroyed peace in Europe by joining a chorus of world leaders condemning the attack, which could lead to mass casualties and overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government. 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.

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.

U.S. sanctions will target Russian banks, oligarchs, state-controlled companies and high-tech sectors, Biden said, but they were designed not to disrupt global energy markets. Exports of Russian oil and natural gas are vital sources of energy for Europe.

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 immediately disconnect Russia from SWIFT, concerned that this 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.

European authorities have declared the country’s airspace a zone of active conflict.

After weeks of denying plans to invade, Putin launched an operation in a country the size of Texas that was increasingly leaning toward a democratic West and moving away from Moscow’s influence. The autocratic leader made it clear earlier this week that he saw no reason for Ukraine’s existence, raising fears of possible wider conflicts in the vast space once ruled by the Soviet Union. Putin has denied plans to occupy Ukraine, but his ultimate goals remain vague.

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 as she watched soldiers and police pull shrapnel from a torn shell. “We have lost all faith.”

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 and Ukraine have made competing claims about the damage they have done. Russia’s Defense Ministry has said it has destroyed many Ukrainian air bases, military facilities and drones. He confirmed the loss of one of his Su-25 attack aircraft, accusing him of “pilot error”, and said that the An-26 transport plane crashed due to a technical malfunction, killing the entire crew. How many were on board was not reported.

Russia has said it is not targeting cities, but journalists have seen the destruction in many civilian areas.

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Isachenkov and Litvinov reported from Moscow. Francesco Ebel 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.

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

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