“Strikes on Kyiv with cruise or ballistic missiles continued,” Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine told reporters via text message Friday as the city’s population braced for more Russian military action.
A CNN team on the ground reported hearing two large blasts in central Kyiv and a third loud explosion in the distance. Images showed a apartment block on fire, but the cause of the fire is unclear.
Ukraine’s deputy interior minister has attributed an explosion over Kyiv to a Ukrainian anti-missile system shooting down a Russian missile. CNN has not been able to verify the assessment.
Just a day earlier, Russian forces entered by land, sea and air, prompting a barrage of international condemnation and sanctions amid questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wider ambitions for the country and the capital Kyiv.
Russian forces appeared to be encircling the city and looked poised to move in, Ukraine’s deputy interior minister told CNN on Thursday. Officials in the country believe Russia’s plan is to overthrow the Ukrainian leadership and install a pro-Russian government.
Those fears were shared with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who said Thursday that he’s “convinced” Moscow is going to try to overthrow the Ukrainian government.
If that happens, Blinken said he believes “Moscow has developed plans to inflict widespread human rights abuses — and potentially worse — on the Ukrainian people.”
Biden administration officials said Russian mechanized forces that had entered Ukraine through Belarus were around 20 miles away from Kyiv, sources told CNN.
The officials told US House lawmakers in a Ukraine briefing Thursday that another Russian element had entered Ukraine from Russia and both were headed towards Kyiv with the goal of encircling the city and potentially removing the Ukrainian government, according to two sources who were on the call with lawmakers.
For now, Ukraine’s democratically elected government remains intact and a state of emergency was due to begin Friday.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky remains in the capital, but he’s said he believes “enemy sabotage groups” have entered this city and that he is their No. 1 target. His family, he said, is their second target.
“They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state,” he said in a video statement late Thursday.
By the end of Thursday, Putin’s forces had launched “in total more than 160 missiles for airstrikes,” a senior US defense official said, prompting a response reminiscent of the late 1930s, with vulnerable children evacuated by train from eastern Ukraine and packed subway stations turned into makeshift bunkers as air raid sirens wailed.
As missiles exploded over the capital, millions of residents remained inside under a government-ordered curfew from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time. Overnight, in an ominous sign a ground war could escalate, Zelensky barred male citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country, according to the State Border Guard Service.
Zelensky also ordered a general military mobilization “in order to ensure the defense of the state, maintaining combat and mobilization readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations, in a declaration signed late Thursday.
More than 100,000 people have already fled areas most at risk of attack within Ukraine, according to the United Nations refugee agency. The mass movement followed warnings from the US Ambassador to the UN, who said Russia’s actions in Ukraine could create one of the largest refugee crises facing the world today, displacing as many as five million people.
This is a developing story. More to come.
Ukrainian capital Kyiv targeted with missile fire, official says