UKRAINE WAR: LATEST
- Russia said it is not willing to negotiate with Ukraine’s government until 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
- Russian president then called on Ukrainian military to overthrow the ‘regime’ in Kyiv
A former president of Ukraine choked up today as he vowed Vladimir Putin will never capture his country.
Petro Poroshenko was on the verge of tears while praising ‘ordinary people’ who joined the army to push back the Russian onslaught.
He warned their forces will hold out ‘forever’ as he gave the emotional interview from Kyiv this afternoon.
But the ex-leader – who is a controversial figure in Ukraine – admitted they have few weapons as he brandished a Kalashnikov at the post 1.5 miles from the front.
It comes as Putin’s troops loomed over the capital on the second day of conflict, having captured a strategic airport nearby.
Locals braced for a new round of bombardment on Friday as Russian soldiers prepared to launch an offensive on Kyiv.
Petro Poroshenko (pictured) was on the verge of tears while praising ‘ordinary people’ who joined the army to push back the Russian onslaught
Members of the Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine load ammunition after receiving weapons to defend the city of Kyiv today
Mr Poroshenko, 56, had to stay in Ukraine like all men aged 18 to 60 today, outlined the scarce resources they had to fight off the waves of attack.
He told CNN: ‘This is a short Kalashnikov. Only 300 members of the battalion of the territorial defence. And we have two machine guns and more or less that’s it.
‘We don’t have heavy artillery, we don’t have tanks, we don’t have an armed personnel carrier because we launched this process just a couple of days ago.
‘And we created that for the two days. This is the long line of the people who enlisted in the battalion, but we don’t have enough arms for that.
‘This is the only limits why the defence, the normal, ordinary people have never been in the army staying in line now to join us.
The stand-in soldiers load guns as they sit on the floor wearing jeans and hoodies ahead of the fierce fight
Shooting drills were underway at the base of the Separate Territorial Defence Battalion of Zaporizhzhia, Zaporizhzhia Region, southeastern Ukraine, today
‘This is extremely touchable and extremely great demonstration of how Ukrainian people hate Putin and how we are against Russian aggression. This is very clear.’
CNN host John Berman asked the politician how long he thought the poorly armed and often untrained civilian battalion could hold out.
But Mr Poroshenko said: ‘Forever. I think that Putin never will catch Ukraine.
‘No matter how many soldiers he has, how many missiles he has how many nuclear weapons he has, we Ukrainians are a free people with a great European future.’
He added on Instagram: ‘Getting ready to meet the enemy! Let’s arrange hell for him in every house, on every street, in every city!
‘Thank you to everyone who has now joined the territorial defense units! The queue to take part in the defence of Kyiv is growing.
‘Soon every patriot will have a weapon under his bed. Those who do not know what to do now, do not panic, and join the territorial defense!
‘Do what is up to you. Take command tasks. Together we are a force. Glory to Ukraine!’
He was widely praised for his ‘heroism’ online but some pointed to his questioned past.
He warned their forces will hold out ‘forever’ as he gave the emotional interview from Kyiv this afternoon. Pictured: Th einterview today
Mr Poroshenko returned to Kyiv from Europe last month despite the risk of arrest as he vowed to help protect Ukraine from Russian invasion.
The businessman, who served as president between 2014 and 2019, was placed under investigation for high treason and fled the country in December.
He said he would come home on Monday, stressing Ukraine could be facing the ‘greatest’ security risk in 30 years and adding he wanted to help the government.
He told reporters at the time: ‘I return to Ukraine to fight for Ukraine, not to fight with Zelensky.’
Poroshenko is one of the country’s richest men, having been elected president after Russia annexed Crimea and as fighting escalated between troops and separatists.
In 2019, he was trounced in a presidential election by Zelensky, a comedian with no previous political experience at the time.
Authorities said last month they were investigating dozens of alleged crimes in which he might be involved.
He was suspected of aiding Donetsk and Lugansk in selling around £40million worth of coal to Kyiv between 2014 and 2015. Poroshenko denied any wrongdoing.
Ukraine forces started handing out rifles and basic military kit to civilians today as they prepared to face off with Russian forces trying to enter Kyiv.
Others were armed with Molotov cocktails as enemy tanks, helicopters and fighter jets amassed around the city.
Mr Poroshenko returned to Kyiv from Europe last month despite the risk of arrest as he vowed to help protect Ukraine from Russian invasion. He is pictured with then Vice-President Biden in 2015
Russian troops are bearing down on Kyiv, with gunfire and explosions resonating ever closer to the government quarter.
Amid huge casualties – including shelling that sliced through a building, bridges and schools – were signs Moscow may be seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s government.
It was unclear how much of the country remained under Ukrainian control and how much Russian forces have seized.
The Kremlin accepted Kyiv’s offer of talks, but it appeared to be an effort to squeeze concessions out of the country’s embattled president.
The US and other global powers slapped ever-tougher sanctions on Russia as the invasion reverberated through the world’s economy and energy supplies.
The UN said they were preparing for millions to flee Ukraine, sports authorities looked to punish Russia on playing fields and Nato leaders called an urgent meeting.
Day two of Russia’s invasion focused on the Ukrainian capital, where there were explosions starting before dawn and gunfire was reported in several areas.
Ukrainian authorities used armoured vehicles and snowploughs to defend Kyiv and limit movement and said Russian spies were seeking to infiltrate the city.
Russia’s military said it had seized a strategic airport outside the capital that would allow it to quickly build up forces to take the capital.
It claimed to have cut the city off from the west – the direction most escaping the invasion are heading in – with lines of cars snaking towards the Polish border.
Intense fire broke out on a bridge across the Dnipro River dividing the eastern and western sides of Kyiv.
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
About 200 Ukrainian forces established defensive positions and took shelter behind their armoured vehicles and later under the bridge.
Ukrainian officials reported at least 137 deaths on the Ukrainian side and claimed hundreds on the Russian one. Russian authorities released no casualty figures.
UN officials reported 25 civilian deaths, mostly from shelling and air strikes, and said 100,000 people were believed to have left their homes.
President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with Moscow to hold talks and with western powers to act faster to cut off Russia’s economy and provide military help.
He said: ‘When bombs fall on Kyiv, it happens in Europe, not just in Ukraine. When missiles kill our people, they kill all Europeans.’
His whereabouts were kept secret after he told European leaders he was number one on Russia’s list of targets.
He also offered to negotiate on one of Mr Putin’s key demands – that Ukraine declare itself neutral and abandon its ambition of joining NATO.
Putin’s spokesman said the Kremlin could consider the idea, but foreign minister Sergei Lavrov suggested it may be too late.
He said Mr Zelensky had ‘missed the opportunity’ to discuss a non-aligned status for Ukraine when the Russians previously proposed it.
Ukrainian soldiers take position on a bridge inside the city of Kyiv, as Russian forces advance into the capital
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
After denying for weeks he planned to invade, Putin argued the West left him no choice by refusing to negotiate on his security demands.
The autocratic leader has not said what his ultimate plans for Ukraine are, but Mr Lavrov gave a hint.
He said on Friday morning: ‘We want to allow the Ukrainian people to determine its own fate.’
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia recognises Mr Zelensky as Ukraine’s president, but would not say how long the Russian military operation could last.
The Ukrainian military reported significant fighting near Ivankiv, about 40 miles north west of Kyiv, as Russians apparently tried to advance on the capital from the north.
Troops also entered the city of Sumy, near the border with Russia, which sits on a highway leading to Kyiv from the east.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Kyiv ‘could well be under siege’ in what US officials believe is a brazen attempt by Mr Putin to install his own regime.
The assault, anticipated for weeks by the West, amounts to the largest ground war in Europe since the Second World War.
After repeatedly denying plans to invade, Putin launched his attack on the country, which increasingly tilted towards the West and away from Moscow’s sway.
Soldiers tasked with defending Kyiv from advancing Russian troops take up positions underneath a highway into the city
Ukrainian soldiers take position next to a highway a bridge during an exchange of gunfire inside the city of Kyiv
Mr Zelensky appealed to global leaders for even more severe sanctions than the ones imposed by western allies and for defence assistance.
The leader said: ‘If you don’t help us now, if you fail to offer a powerful assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door.’
He has already cut diplomatic ties with Moscow, declared martial law and ordered a full military mobilisation that would last 90 days.
The invasion began early on Thursday with a series of missile strikes on cities and military bases, and quickly followed with a multi-pronged ground assault.
Troops rolled in from several areas in the east, from the southern region of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and from Belarus to the north.
After Ukrainian officials said they lost control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Russia said it was working to secure it.
Western leaders condemned Russia, with Joe Biden announcing new sanctions to target Russian banks, oligarchs, state-controlled companies and hi-tech sectors.
He said Putin ‘chose this war’ and had exhibited a ‘sinister’ view of the world in which nations take what they want by force.
He added the measures were designed not to disrupt global energy markets. Russian oil and natural gas exports are vital energy sources for Europe.