WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Russian troops moved to the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital on Friday when U.S. officials warned that President Vladimir Putin may intend to form a new, friendlier government.
The invasion began early Thursday with a series of missile strikes, many on key government and military facilities. They were quickly followed by a ground assault from the north, east and south as a result of an attack that could have rewrote the global security order after the Cold War.
U.S. President Joe Biden was scheduled to meet Friday morning with fellow NATO leaders as part of what the White House called an “emergency virtual summit” to discuss Ukraine.
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky promised that his military would continue to fight back, and ordered full mobilization. He said that since the beginning of the invasion, 137 people, both military and civilians, have been killed and hundreds more injured.
Here’s what you need to know about the conflict over Ukraine and the security crisis in Eastern Europe:
UNPLEASANT NIGHT IN KYIV
Fearing a Russian attack, many residents of the capital hid deep underground at subway stations. People brought sleeping bags and blankets, dogs and crossword puzzles, looking for safety in makeshift bomb shelters.
In the morning several explosions took place in different parts of the city. Air raid sirens also sounded.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has urged 3 million city residents to stay at home when they are not working in critical sectors, and said everyone should prepare bags with essentials such as medicines and documents.
On Friday morning, Klitschko said at least three people were injured when a rocket hit a high-rise building, causing a fire.
“As yesterday, the military and civilians are equally exposed to Russian attack,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian military on Friday morning reported significant fighting in the Ivankiv area, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Kyiv, when Russian forces apparently tried to advance into the capital from the north. It says that one bridge across a small river was destroyed.
Zelensky said he had information that he was the number one target for the captured Russians, but said he planned to stay in Kiev.
CHERNOBYL IN THE HANDS OF RUSSIA
Ukraine has said it lost control of the Chernobyl nuclear plant after Ukrainian forces fought a fierce battle with Russian troops. A nuclear reactor at a nuclear power plant 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Kiev exploded in April 1986, spreading a radioactive cloud across Europe. The damaged reactor was later closed with a protective shell.
Adviser to the Commander of the Land Forces of Ukraine Alena Shevtsova wrote on Facebook that officers “took hostages” when Russian troops captured the facility. A White House spokesman expressed concern, concerned that this could hamper efforts to preserve the nuclear facility.
WHAT PUTIN HAS OBRAGUSTA RESPECT?
In a televised address since the attack, Putin said it was necessary to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed Ukrainian forces and separatists have been fighting for nearly eight years.
The United States has predicted that Putin is falsely claiming that rebel-controlled regions are under attack to justify the invasion.
He accused the United States and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands to prevent Ukraine’s accession to NATO and to offer Moscow security guarantees.
Putin has said that Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine, but plans to “demilitarize” it – a euphemism for the destruction of its armed forces.
WHAT SANCTIONS WILL THE WESTERN AUTHORITIES IMPOSE?
Announcing a new round of sanctions on Thursday, Biden said the United States and its allies would block the assets of four major Russian banks, impose export controls and impose sanctions on the oligarchs.
The fines meet the White House’s insistence that it strike at Russia’s financial system and Putin’s inner circle, and impose export controls aimed at destroying Russian industry and an army of semiconductors and other high-tech products.
The new US sanctions have also affected Belarus’ military and financial institutions, which Russia uses as a platform for moving its troops to Ukraine from the north.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson said he would seek to cut off Russia from the UK financial market.
The sanctions include a freeze on the assets of all major Russian banks, including VTB Bank, its second largest. Britain also plans to ban Russian companies and the Russian government from raising money in UK markets, ban the export of a wide range of high-tech products, including semiconductors, to Russia and ban its flagship Aeroflot from landing at UK airports.
The European Union and other Western allies, including Australia, Japan and South Korea, have announced similar sanctions.
OTHER VIEWS FOR RUSSIANS
UEFA will no longer host the Champions League final in St. Petersburg in May, a person who knows about the decision told the Associated Press. The man spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks. An extraordinary meeting of the UEFA executive committee will take place on Friday.
Conductor close to Putin Valery Gergiev will not lead the Vienna Philharmonic in a five-concert tour of the United States, which begins at Carnegie Hall on Friday. Milan’s La Scala Theater has sent a letter to Gergiev asking him to make a clear statement in favor of a peaceful settlement in Ukraine, otherwise he will not be allowed to return to the next scheduled performance on March 5.
PROTESTS IN RUSSIA
Thousands of Russians, shocked by the invasion, took to the streets to protest in Moscow and other cities. They signed open letters and online petitions demanding the Kremlin stop the assault. By the end of the day, one petition had collected 330,000 signatures.
Acceleration was fast. About 1,745 people were detained in 54 cities of Russia, at least 957 of them in Moscow.
State television received the invasion, and one of the presenters called it an attempt to protect people in eastern Ukraine from the “Nazi regime.”
CHINESE SUPPORT FOR RUSSIA
China’s customs agency on Thursday approved wheat imports from all regions of Russia, which could help reduce the effects of possible Western sanctions.
China’s market is a growth zone for other suppliers, but Beijing has so far banned imports from major Russian wheat-growing areas due to concerns about possible fungus and other infections.
Russia is one of the largest producers of wheat, but its exports would be vulnerable if its foreign markets blocked supplies in response to its attack on Ukraine.
An announcement Thursday said Russia would “take all measures” to prevent wheatgrass infestation and suspend exports to China if it is found.