Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has issued a chilling warning to the world about Russia, stating: “This is the night they will storm”.
His warning came as invading Russian forces closed in on Ukraine’s capital on Friday, in an apparent encircling movement after a barrage of airstrikes on cities and military bases around the country.
In a video released Friday of himself and his senior aides outside the presidential office in Kyiv, Mr Zelenskyy reassured Ukrainians that he and other top officials would stay in the capital.
He later appealed for cease-fire and warned in a bleak statement that multiple cities were under attack.
With growing signs that Russia aims to overthrow him, Mr Zelenskyy told European Union leaders in a video link-up from his bunker late Thursday that it might be the last time they saw him alive.
Amid reports of hundreds of casualties — including shelling that sliced through a Kyiv apartment building and pummelled bridges and schools — there also were growing signs that Russia may be seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s government, which US officials have described as Vladimir Putin’s ultimate objective. It would be his boldest effort yet to redraw the world map and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.
As fighting persisted, Ukraine’s military reported shooting down an II-76 Russian transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles south of Kyiv, an account confirmed by a senior American intelligence official. It was unclear how many were on board. Transport planes can carry up to 125 paratroopers.
Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution telling Moscow to stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw all troops immediately.
The veto was expected, but the United States and its supporters argued that the effort would highlight Moscow’s international isolation.
The 11-1 vote — with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining — showed significant but not total opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller, militarily weaker neighbour.
The resolution’s failure paves the way for backers to call for a swift vote on a similar measure in the 193-member UN General Assembly, where there are no vetoes.
There was no immediate timetable for a potential Assembly vote.
Spearheaded by the US and Albania, the Security Council resolution would have deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine.
It called for Moscow immediately to pull out its military and stop using force against Ukraine, and to reverse a decision to recognise two separatist areas in eastern Ukraine as independent.
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they can function as statements of world opinion.
In an Assembly meeting on Wednesday as Moscow’s invasion loomed, dozens of countries condemned Russia or expressed solidarity with Ukraine.
Russia and ally Syria defended Moscow’s moves.