Source: Daily Mail
Ukraine's president has admitted that he is 'target number one' for Russian assassins in his capital but insisted that he remained in Kyiv as he urged his fellow citizens to remain strong.
Volodymyr Zelensky, 44, addressed the nation on Thursday night, at the end of the first day of the Russian invasion of his country.
He said he was speaking from Kyiv but the elegance of the presidential palace was long gone: Zelensky, in his olive green t-shirt, appeared to be speaking from a bunker.
'I know that a lot of misinformation and rumors are being spread now,' he said.
'In particular, it is claimed that I have left Kyiv.
'I remain in the capital, I am staying with my people,' he said.
Zelensky said his family also remained in the country - his wife Oleana, a 44-year-old architect and screenwriter, and their two children: daughter Aleksandra, 17, and son Kiril, nine.
'My family is not a traitor, but a citizen of Ukraine,' he said, adding that he would not reveal their location.
'According to our information, the enemy marked me as the number one target.
'My family is the number two goal.
'They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the Head of State.'
And he said they believed Russian special forces were already in the capital.
'We also have information that sabotage groups of the enemy have entered Kyiv,' he said.
'That's why I am urging Kyivites: be careful, follow the rules of curfew. I remain in the government quarter together with all those who are necessary for the work of the central government.'
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said that he remained in the country despite rumors that he had fled. “The enemy has marked me as target No. 1,” he said, “my family as target No. 2.”https://t.co/GVzgFZl5Fj pic.twitter.com/2aUvSZwILn— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 25, 2022
The Ukrainian capital is expected to be surrounded by Russian forces this weekend and the country's resistance effectively crippled, US security officials fear.
Troops are already closing in on the seat of Ukrainian power after taking control of the strategic Chernobyl nuclear power plant earlier on Thursday, and will seize it within 96 hours, bringing a 'new Iron Curtain' down on Europe, Zelensky warned.
In the early hours of Friday, explosions were heard across the capital, Kyiv, and air raid sirens rang out.
Ukraine's deputy defense ministry said that one missile was shot out of the sky by their anti-missile defense systems.
Another missile struck a residential building in the city, the government said.
A Russian jet was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in a separate incident, the Ukrainian government said.
Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashenko shared footage on social media of a blaze in what he said was the Darnitsky district of Kyiv, in the southeast of the city on the left bank of the Dnipro river.
It was unclear whether the Darnitsky fire was caused by the downed Ukrainian jet or the Russian missiles.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Vladimir Putin plans to encircle Ukrainian forces in Kyiv and force them to either surrender or be destroyed, and the leadership of Ukraine could then fall in a week.
A former senior US intelligence officer told Newsweek: 'After the air and artillery end and the ground war really starts, I think Kyiv falls in just a few days.
'The military may last slightly longer but this isn't going to last long.'
A source close to the Ukrainian government said they agreed that Kyiv will be surrounded within 96 hours but believed the government will stay strong and not collapse.
In a bid to thwart the imminent capture of the city, Emmanuel Macron spoke to Vladimir Putin on Thursday night, who gave the French leader an 'exhaustive' explanation of his justification for war.
The Kremlin said the call took place at Macron's initiative, and he and Putin agreed to stay in contact.
Zelensky has also signed a decree on the general mobilization of the population within 90 days, but men aged 18-60 are banned from leaving the country.
Speaking after the latest developments, Joe Biden announced more sanctions against Russia but admitted that he had not expected previous threats of financial penalties to deter Putin.
He also resisted calls to send in US troops to Ukraine, saying he has no plans to speak to the Russian leader who he accuses of trying to rebuild a Soviet empire.
The sanctions will target Russian banks, oligarchs, state-controlled companies and high-tech sectors, but Russian oil and natural gas were exempt in a bid to avoid disruption to global markets.
'Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,' Biden said in remarks at the White House.
Putin personally gave the order to attack around 5 am on Thursday, unleashing a salvo of rocket fire that American intelligence said involved more than 100 short and medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles, and 75 bombers that targeted military sites including barracks, warehouses and airfields in order to knock out the country's military command structure.
Russia said the strikes destroyed 74 Ukrainian military ground facilities, 11 airfields, three command posts and 18 radar stations controlling Kyiv's anti-aircraft batteries.
That was followed by attacks from Crimea in the south towards the city of Kherson, a northern advance from Belarus to Kyiv, and an eastern advance from Belgorod towards Kharkiv where the heaviest fighting is going on.
American officials said this was merely an 'initial phase' of the attack, and that the majority of Russia's 190,000 troops at the front remain in reserve.
The goal of the attack is to 'take key population centers' and 'decapitate the Ukrainian government', the officials added.
Ukraine's health ministry said so far 137 people have been killed on the first day of conflict, while 300 have been wounded.
The port cities of Mariupol and Odessa, where Ukraine's main naval bases are located, were also attacked - though Odessa appeared to remain under Ukrainian control as of Thursday afternoon. Russian tankers blockaded the Kerch Strait, leading from the Back Sea to the Sea of Azov, cutting off Mariupol.
Ukraine has hit back, shooting down five Russian helicopters, destroying dozens of tanks and capturing Russian troops.
A Russian AN-26 military transport aircraft also crashed in the southern Voronezh region, killing its crew on board.
The accident could have been caused by a technical failure and has not inflicted any damage on the ground, Interfax said, citing a press office of Russia's western military district.
In the address to his nation, Zelensky also described Russia as 'evil' and said Putin had attacked 'like a suicidal scoundrel... just as Fascist Germany did in World War II'.
'Ukraine will not surrender its freedom, whatever Moscow thinks,' he added.
'For Ukrainians independence and the right to live free on our land is the highest value.'
He had earlier called on all Ukrainian citizens willing to defend their homeland to step forward, saying guns will be issued to everyone who wants one.
He also asked for civilians to give blood to help wounded troops.
And he asked world leaders to impose the 'harshest sanctions possible' on Putin.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, addressing the nation at midday, said western allies are preparing a 'massive' package of sanctions against Russia and told the people of Ukraine: 'We cannot and will not just look away.'
Johnson referred to Putin as a 'dictator' who would never 'subdue the national feeling of the Ukrainians'.
As the West prepared to cut off Russia financially, Vladimir Putin summoned his oligarchs to demand loyalty over his attack on Ukraine - perhaps fearing a rebellion from within after prominent Russian TV figures and celebrities spoke out to oppose the conflict.
Speaking in the Kremlin, he said that Russia had been 'forced' to take action over Ukraine and had 'no other choice' but to attack, saying the country remains 'part of the global economy' and that he 'will not hurt the system we belong to'.
He told them: 'I want you to show solidarity with the government.'