Source: Daily Mail
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told President Joe Biden 'I need ammunition, not a ride,' when offered the chance of a US-backed evacuation.
Zelensky said in response to the offer of refuge: 'The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,' according to a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation, who described Zelensky as upbeat.
Invading Russian forces closed in on Ukraine´s capital on Saturday, in an apparent encircling movement after a barrage of airstrikes on cities and military bases around the country.
A second Russian Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane was shot down near Bila Tserkva, 50 miles south of Kyiv, according to two American officials with direct knowledge of conditions on the ground in Ukraine. Each of the two planes can carry up to 200 troops, although a death toll has not been shared.
Earlier, Zelensky said in a televised speech: 'This night they will launch an assault. The enemy will use all of their power on all fronts to break our defense. This night we have to stand our ground. The fate of Ukraine is being decided now.'
This came after a video showed him in his military tent drinking coffee with his men, he personally coordinated the defense of Kyiv.
He spoke Saturday morning in Kyiv, having survived the night, and said: 'There's a lot of fake news online that I called on our army to lay down arms, & that there's evacuation. I'm here. We will defend our state.'
Не вірте фейкам. pic.twitter.com/wiLqmCuz1p— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 26, 2022
On Friday night, Biden traveled home to Delaware for a weekend break as Ukraine burned after Russia invaded and the United States was condemned for appearing weak.
The president and First Lady Jill Biden were snapped exiting the White House on Friday evening to board their Marine One helicopter as Europe faces its biggest conflict since World War Two.
Biden has access to technology that allows him to work from his luxury home in Rehoboth Beach, and will be following the latest developments in Ukraine from there.
But critics will likely ask whether Biden should remain at the White House to help project the power and authority that comes with his office during a time that has left many across the United States and the wider world fearful for their safety.
The United States has imposed a raft of punitive financial sanctions against Russia in a bid to try and deter Vladimir Putin from continuing to invade Ukraine.
But thus far, the Russian premier - whose personal fortune has been estimated by Forbes to sit at $200 billion - has not been deterred.
The US has provided Ukraine with considerable military hardware, and thus far Zelensky's forces appear to have slowed the Russian onslaught.
But Kremlin troops had entered Ukraine in the early hours of Saturday morning, and it is feared the capital city could fall to Putin later on Saturday.
Pentagon efforts to try and stop the war from flaring were slick but ultimately unsuccessful.
US intelligence on Russian troops' movements ahead of the invasion was shared far more freely than normal, in an attempt to spook Putin.
America also warned of the sanctions Russia would face if Putin did invade, but the image-obsessed Russian leader ultimately decided to plow on anyway.
President Biden left for Delaware hours after the White House announced he is planning to impose sanctions directly on Vladimir Putin, the White House announced on Friday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will also be targeted.
The European Union and the United Kingdom announced they would introduce sanctions targeting Putin and Lavrov on Friday.
'In alignment with the decision by our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team,' White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her press briefing.
She said a travel ban 'would be a part of the US component' in sanctions on Putin and Lavrov.
Putin will become the highest target to be hit after the White House imposed measures on multiple Russian banks and oligarchs. Biden had been under pressure to target Putin personally for his attack on Ukraine.
The move will be largely symbolic as it remains unclear where Putin's money is and how much there is of it.
Their chopper took off into the mild Washington evening and flew over the iconic Washington monument.
Bloomberg notes Putin's latest financial disclosure reveals that his annual income is about 10 million rubles ($120,050), and he owns three cars and an apartment.
But there are also reports Putin owns a superyacht worth $100 million. And that his estimated worth is $200 billion.
Earlier Friday, Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for about 40 minutes.
Zelensky said the two men discussed stronger sanctions on Russia and more support from the United States.
'Strengthening sanctions, concrete defense assistance and an anti-war coalition have just been discussed with @POTUS. Grateful to [United States] for the strong support to [Ukraine]!,' he wrote on Twitter.
Zelensky had pushed for Putin to be directly sanctioned.
The Ukrainian president took to the streets of Kyiv to say 'we are still here' while Ukrainian forces slowed down Russian advances and civilians took up arms to fight for the capital Kyiv.
Zelensky had been critical of a lack of support from the United States and its allies. He was also battling a Russian-disinformation campaign that he had fled Kyiv.
'We are here. We are in Kyiv. We are defending Ukraine,' Zelensky said in a video posted to Facebook. He spoke in the streets of Kyiv, the night sky visible behind him.
It's unclear what kind of support Biden offered to Zelensky, who said he is 'target number one' for Russian assassins and his wife and children are 'number two.'
There are fears he may be assassinated and replaced by a Putin puppet.
Before the phone call, Biden met virtually with fellow NATO members on Friday morning to reassure eastern allies they will be protected as Russian troops prepared to enter Kyiv.
U.S. intelligence officials are worried the Ukrainian capital could fall within days, CNN reported, as Russian forces are within 20 miles of its location and residents are being urged to make Molotov cocktails to help defend the city.
Amid reports the Kremlin is gunning for him, Zelensky had slammed the United States and its allies for leaving his country to fight alone.
'Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don't see anyone,' he said on Thursday night. 'Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of NATO membership? Everyone is afraid.'
'We're defending our country alone. The most powerful forces in the world are watching this from a distance,' Zelensky said.
After the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the 30-nation organization will send parts of the NATO Response Force and elements of a quickly deployable spearhead unit to the alliance´s eastern flank. It´s the first time the force has been used to defend NATO allies.
'We are now deploying the NATO Response Force for the first time in a collective defense context. We speak about thousands of troops. We speak about air and maritime capabilities,' Stoltenberg said.
Ukraine´s military said it had shot down a Russian military transport plane with paratroopers on board.
According to a statement from the military´s General Staff, the first Il-76 heavy transport plane was shot down near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles south of Kyiv. The Russian military has not commented on either incident so far, and the reports could not be immediately verified.
Kyiv officials are warning residents that street fighting is underway against Russian forces, and they are urging people to seek shelter.
The warning issued Saturday advised residents to remain in shelters, to avoid going near windows or on balconies, and to take precautions against being hit by debris or bullets.
The Ukrainian military said a battle was underway near a military unit to the west of the city center.
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said new explosions shook the area near a major power plant that the Russians were trying to attack.
Zelenskyy has released a video of himself and his senior aides earlier in Kyiv to reassure the nation as Russian troops were closing in on the capital.
In the video Zelenskyy recorded in the street outside the presidential office, he said he and his top officials are staying in the capital.
'Our troops are here, citizens are here,' Zelenskyy said, adding that 'All of us are here protecting our independence of our country. And it will continue to be this way. Glory to our defenders, Glory to Ukraine, Glory to Heroes.'
Russian troops bore down on Ukraine´s capital Friday, with gunfire and explosions resonating ever closer to the government quarter.
In the fog of war, it was unclear how much of Ukraine remains under Ukrainian control and how much or little Russian forces have seized. The Kremlin accepted Kyiv´s offer to hold talks, but it appeared to be an effort to squeeze concessions out of Ukraine´s embattled president instead of a gesture toward a diplomatic solution.