Feb 25 (Reuters) – Russia has bombed 33 civilian sites in its assault on Ukraine in the last 24 hours, Kyiv’s interior ministry said on Friday as Russian troops advanced on the capital, according to Interfax news agency.
“The Russians say they are not striking civilian objects. But 33 civilian sites have been hit over the last 24 hours,” the agency quoted an official at Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, Vadym Denysenko, as saying.
Authorities said intense fighting was under way on Friday morning in the city of Sumy in the country’s northeast, while a border post in the southeastern Zaporizhzhya region had been hit by missiles, causing deaths and injuries among border guards.
Russian forces that entered Ukraine through Belarus are within kilometres of reaching Kyiv, according to US officials.
US defence secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers on a phone call that Russian mechanised forces that entered from Belarus were about 20 miles (32km) from Kyiv, according to a person familiar with the call, the Associated Press reports.
The call was said to have taken place about 6:30pm ET.
The officials described another Russian element that entered Ukraine from Russia being a bit further away, but that both were headed toward Kyiv with the goal of encircling the city and potentially toppling the Ukrainian government, according to the lawmaker on the call.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier said the government had information that “subversive groups” were encroaching on the city, and US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Kyiv “could well be under siege”.
Ukrainian forces downed an enemy aircraft over Kyiv in the early hours of Friday, which then crashed into a residential building and set it on fire, said Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister.
It was unclear whether the aircraft was manned or whether it could be a missile. Kyiv municipal authorities said at least eight people were injured when the object crashed into an apartment block.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv had come under a missile attack.
“Horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv,” he wrote on Twitter. “Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany.”
A series of explosions were heard in Kyiv earlier, which Herashchenko said were the sounds of air defences firing at the aircraft. Further explosions could be heard just before dawn, a Reuters witness said.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday and Kyiv has reported dozens of casualties and hundreds of wounded.
Via Reuters/ AP
Photo – Ukrainians take shelter in a metro station after air raid sirens alarm in Kiev, Ukrainee. Martial law has been introduced in Ukraine, explosions are heard in many cities, including Kiev. EPA-EFE/OLEG PETRASYUK