Zelensky says Putin will launch full-scale assault on Kyiv TONIGHT

Ukraine shoots down transport plane carrying ‘150 Russian paratroopers’ trying to storm Kyiv as Putin launches full-scale assault on capital: Zelensky says nation’s fate will be decided TONIGHT

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday night warned his people in an address to the nation that the capital, Kyiv, would be attacked overnight
  • For two nights in a row Russia has bombarded Kyiv, but Moscow is expected to begin what it hopes to be a final push in the early hours of Saturday
  • Zelensky, speaking from a secret location in the capital, said: ‘Russia will try to break our resistance with all its might. Tonight the enemy will begin storming us’
  • He urged Ukrainians to resist, adding that Chernihiv, Symy, Kharkiv, Donbass, and the south could all come under attack 
  • Britain’s Ministry of Defence said Russian forces are moving towards Kyiv from multiple directions, in an attempt to encircle the city 
  • Vitali Klitschko, the former world champion heavyweight boxer who is now mayor of Kyiv, said the city faces a ‘difficult night’ 
  • Ukraine’s armed forces said on Friday night that they had shot down a Russian IL-76 military transport plane carrying Russian paratroopers   

UKRAINE WAR: LATEST 

  • Russia said it is not willing to negotiate with Ukraine’s government until military operation is over
  • Came after Zelensky called for a sit-down with Putin to end the fighting
  • Putin said he would be willing to send a team of negotiators to meet Zelensky – in Belarus, which is helping with the invasion 
  • Russian president then called on Ukrainian military to overthrow the ‘regime’ in Kyiv 
  • China’s President Xi spoke to Putin by phone, called for diplomatic solution to the fighting 
  • Ukraine says Russia has bombed 33 civilian sites in Kyiv in the last 24 hours 
  • Two children have been reported killed in Kyiv bombing overnight 
  • Ukraine has banned men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country to conscript them into armed forces
  • Zelensky has allowed anyone of any age to join the armed forces, and called on Europeans from other countries to come and join the fight 
  • Russia is deploying paratroopers to Chernobyl after capturing it yesterday, Moscow said
  • Ukraine reported ‘anomalous’ radiation levels at the plant amid fears nuclear storage was breached in fighting, but Moscow said readings are normal
  • Russia claims to have destroyed 118 Ukrainian military sites in 30 hours of fighting 
  • PM Boris Johnson pledged more support is coming to Ukraine in the coming days
  • Johnson shared a phone call with Zelensky on Friday morning 

Ukraine’s armed forces said on Friday night that they had shot down a Russian military transport plane carrying 150 paratroopers on the outskirts of Kyiv.

The plane came down near Vasylkiv, 20 miles south of Kyiv, the Ukrainian military said. 

The fate of those onboard was unclear. The aircrafts – medium-range military transport aircraft, which first went into service in 1974 – can hold 150-225 fully-equipped soldiers, and is used to drop paratroopers into combat and resupply arms. 

The news came shortly after Ukraine’s president warned that the Russians intend to take Kyiv overnight, urging his countrymen to resist the expected onslaught as Western officials say the city appears surrounded.

Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the nation from a secret location in the capital, had a dire warning for his embattled and defiant people on Friday night.

‘Russia will try to break our resistance with all its might,’ he said, in a video posted to social media. 

‘Tonight the enemy will begin storming us. We need to withstand them!’

Zelensky said that Chernihiv, Symy, Kharkiv, Donbas, and the south could also come under attack.

Vitali Klitschko, the former world champion heavyweight boxer who is now the mayor of Kyiv, said his city faces a ‘difficult night’. 

The British Ministry of Defence said they believe Kyiv, home to 1.4 million people, is close to being encircled as the Russians advance from all sides. 

In Cherkasy, home to 270,000 people 120 miles south of Kyiv, video on social media showed people in a basement on Friday night, resolutely singing the national anthem as they awaited the onslaught. 

In New York, on Friday night, a United Nations resolution that called on Moscow to halt its attack on Ukraine and withdraw its troops was vetoed by Russia – a permanent member of the Security Council.

Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, urged Ukraine’s troops on Friday to overthrow their own government and begin to negotiate with the Kremlin. 

‘It looks like it will be easier for us to come to terms with you than with this gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis,’ he said. 

There was little sign that Ukrainian generals were tempted, and Russia appears to have been somewhat taken aback at the scale of Ukrainian resistance and their ability to defend their country.

There was no doubt, however, that Russia’s overwhelming military superiority would soon come into effect.

With 900,000 troops, Russia has the fourth largest military in the world, and more than a decade of reforms and procurement has made it a dangerous opponent.

Ukraine has just 361,000 troops, although Zelensky on Thursday ordered a full mobilization of troops and banned men aged 18-60 from leaving the country, in readiness for a whole-nation effort.

Ukraine’s highly motivated infantry have modern weapons and protective gear, including N-LAW and Javelin anti-tank missiles provided by Britain and the US. 

With the Russian advance slower than expected, there were fears on Friday night that Putin could resort to high-power thermobaric weapons – dubbed the ‘father of all bombs’ – as brave Ukrainians resist his attempts to take control of Kyiv.

There are also concerns that units that are running behind schedule as they encounter stiff opposition could resort to indiscriminate shelling as a terror weapon.

Thermobaric weapons – also known as vacuum bombs – are high-powered explosive that use the atmosphere itself as part of the explosion. They are among the most powerful non-nuclear weapons ever developed. 

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, is seen addressing the nation on Friday night 

Russian armour is now advancing on Kyiv from the north and east, with US intelligence saying the plan is to besiege the city, capture an airport, and fly in paratroopers who would then attack the capital. The aim would be to capture the government and force them to sign a peace treaty handing control of the country back to Russia or a Russian puppet

Ukrainian soldiers are pictured forming up across a highway in Kyiv as they prepare to defend the city from Russian attackers, with gunfire and explosions heard in the centre of the capital

Soldiers tasked with defending Kyiv from advancing Russian troops take up positions underneath a highway into the city 

A thermobaric bomb dropped by the U.S. on Taliban in Afghanistan in 2017 weighed 21,600 pounds and left a crater more than 1,000 feet wide after it exploded six feet above the ground.

Thermobaric weapons were developed by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. In September 2007, Russia detonated the largest thermobaric weapon ever made, which created an explosion equivalent to 39.9 tons.

The U.S. version of the weapon reportedly costs over $16 million each.

‘My fear would be that if they don’t meet their timescale and objectives they would be indiscriminate in their use of violence,’ a Western official said. 

‘They don’t adhere to the same principles of necessity and proportionality and rule of law that Western forces do.’

The bomb works by using oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion, making it far deadlier than a conventional weapon.

While Russian special forces have reached the suburbs of Kyiv, the bulk of Russia’s heavy armor is believed to be still more than 30 miles away from the capital. 

A senior U.S. defence official said Friday that Russia appears to have lost some of its momentum due to the Ukrainian’s fiery resistance.

‘We do assess that there is greater resistance by the Ukrainians than the Russians expected,’ the official said, adding Ukraine’s command and control of its military ‘remains intact.’

‘They are not moving on Kyiv as fast as what we believe they anticipated they would be able to do. That said, they continue to try to move on Kyiv.’ 

Putin has only mobilized about one-third of the 190,000 troops he has stationed at the Ukraine border, the official said.

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