Kyiv: Russian troops launched a broad assault on Ukraine from three sides Thursday, an attack that brought explosions before dawn to the country’s capital, Kyiv, and other cities.
The Ukrainian military fought back on multiple fronts. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address early Friday that 137 people, both servicemen, and civilians, have been killed and hundreds more wounded. A senior U.S. defense official said Russia may be intent on seizing Kyiv, the capital, and other key cities and ultimately installing a more friendly government.
As civilians piled into trains and cars to flee, NATO and European leaders rushed to respond, if not directly in Ukraine, with strong financial sanctions against Russia and moves to strengthen their own borders.
President Vladimir Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen.”
Ukrainian border guards released footage of what they said were Russian military vehicles moving in, and big explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east, and Odesa in the west. As the Russian military claimed to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defenses in a matter of hours, Ukrainians fled some cities and European authorities declared Ukrainian air space an active conflict zone.
World leaders decried the start of a long-anticipated invasion with far-reaching consequences, as global financial markets plunged and oil prices soared. Russia’s actions could cause massive casualties, topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government, and upend geopolitics and Europe’s post-Cold War security balance.
Russia captures Chernobyl
Ukraine said it lost control of the Chernobyl nuclear site after Ukrainian forces waged a fierce battle with Russian troops. A nuclear reactor at the plant 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Kyiv exploded in April 1986, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe. The damaged reactor was later covered by a protective shell.
Alyona Shevtsova, an adviser to the commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces, wrote on Facebook that the staff at the Chernobyl plant had been “taken hostage” when Russian troops seized the facility.
The White House is expressing outrage, with press secretary Jen Psaki calling it “incredibly alarming and greatly concerning” because it could hamper efforts to maintain nuclear facilities.