By CNN and CNBC, published by MSN News
A LARGE residential block in the west of Kyiv was struck by a missile or rocket fire early this morning (Feb. 26), as the Russian invasion moved to the streets of the capital and Ukraine’s military battled to hold back advancing troops in multiple locations.
Images and video from the scene showed a large impact some ten floors up in the building, with the cause of the strike unclear and the extent of casualties unknown. Emergency services were already at the scene, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko.
Residents of the capital have been forced to seek shelter after a terrifying night, punctuated by explosions and gunfire, as fighting that had been closing in on Kyiv from multiple directions entered the city – typically home to nearly three million.
“Active fighting is taking place on the streets of our city. Please stay calm and be as careful as possible!” the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said on its Facebook page today.
The ministry called on residents to “hide indoors” and take cover to prevent injury from bullet fragments. It advised those in the city to “go immediately” to the nearest shelter if they heard air sirens.
Ukrainians have been preparing to defend their capital in recent days, with officials arming reservists and Ukrainian TV broadcasting instructions for making Molotov cocktails.
As the fighting moved into the streets of the capital, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky struck a defiant tone, saying Ukrainians would not put down arms in a video posted to his Twitter account this morning.
“I am here. We are not putting down arms. We will be defending our country, because our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this,” Zelensky said in the video, which he appeared to film himself while standing on the street.
Ukrainian troops fight against a significantly more advanced military power. Russian defence spending is roughly ten times that of the Kyiv’s and its armed forces stand at some 900,000 active personnel and 2 million in reserve, versus Ukraine’s 196,000 and 900,000 reservists.
This morning , the Ukrainian military gave its first account of explosions that rocked western Kyiv in the early hours of the morning.
The Military Law Enforcement Service of Ukraine said they “destroyed a column of equipment of the occupiers” that, according to their preliminary information, included two cars, two trucks and an enemy tank.
The mayor of the town of Vasilkiv, some 35 kilometres (21.7 miles) south of Kyiv, described fierce fighting taking place in the middle of the town.
The mayor, Natalia Balasynovich, speaking on the Ukrainian Parliament channel early this morning, said that there were losses on the Ukrainian side.
Videos from eyewitnesses overnight showed explosions taking place in an area northwest of Kyiv, which has a military base. CNN teams in the capital reported hearing loud explosions to the west and south of the city. Shortly afterward, Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications said clashes were underway in an eastern suburb as well.
In his national address, Zelensky confirmed that Russian forces were close to the capital and said that he was still communicating with world leaders, including US President Joe Biden.
“Our main goal is to finish this slaughter,” Zelensky said in the address. “Ukrainians resist the Russian aggression heroically.”
An unknown number of Kyiv’s residents had already left by Friday, leaving quiet the roads heading west of the capital that had been busy on Thursday.
Russia has encountered tougher resistance than it anticipated from Ukrainian troops, said a senior US Defence official, who warned that Moscow still has “significant combat power” left at its disposal.
The United States has indications that the fighting in Ukraine is proceeding in “not quite the way that they [Moscow] had anticipated,” according to the official, who declined to be named.
“Their [Russians’] momentum, particularly as it comes to Kyiv, has slowed over the last 24 hours,” the official said.
“They have not achieved the progress that we believe they anticipated they would,” said the official, who added that the tempo of the fighting can change at any moment.
About a third of the Russian troops that were placed along Ukraine’s borders have now crossed into Ukraine, according to the US Defence official, who declined to elaborate on the other two-thirds of Russian troops.
That US assessment of Friday’s fighting jibes with information the UK Ministry of Defence posted to its official Twitter account at 10 p.m. GMT on Friday.
The UK ministry said Russian armoured units were approaching Kyiv from multiple angles in an attempt to encircle the capital but “continue to face strong resistance from the Ukrainian Armed Forces.” Russian troops made advances throughout Friday, but Ukraine still retains control of its “key cities,” the ministry said.
Significantly, Ukrainian military authorities still have good command and control over their deployed forces, the US Defence official said.
“Command and control” refers to lines of communication, usually electronic, between military decision-makers and units in the field. Central control is critical if far-flung troops are to act in a coordinated way.
The official said it’s not clear why Ukrainian communications are still functioning.
“We don’t believe that the Russians have employed the full scope of their electronic warfare capabilities, and it’s not clear exactly why,” the official said.
Ukrainian air missile defence systems are still working, though they have been degraded by strikes, the official said.
The official gave an update on the number of Russian missiles that had been launched.
“What I can tell you now is that we have seen more than 200 total launches as of this morning,” the official said, adding that the launches have been a mix of both ballistic and cruise missiles.
Top: The large residential building in Kyiv that was hit by a missile or rocket this morning. Photo: CNN and published by MSN News
Home Page: A Ukrainian army soldier walks through a defensive trench in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. Photo: CNBC and published by MSN News