'We will not lay down any weapons': Ukraine persists as Kyiv under attack

'We will not lay down any weapons': Ukraine persists as Kyiv under attack
Volodymyr Zelensky, Image via Wikimedia Commons / Government of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy implored people in the capital of Kyiv to brace for an all-out Russian assault overnight, and as a result of intense resistance from the Ukrainian military and civilians alike, they were able to fend off the invading army, though fighting continues throughout the country on Saturday morning.

ust after midnight, Zelenskyy warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces would storm Kyiv in "vile, cruel, and inhuman" fashion, according to a translation by Max Seddon, the Moscow bureau chief at Financial Times.

"We have to persevere tonight," said Zelenskyy. "The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now. The night will be hard, very hard, but there will be a morning."

After another excruciating night spent in bomb shelters, basements, and subway stations, the residents of Kyiv awoke with the city still in the hands of mayor Vitali Klitschko and the Ukrainian government still under Zelenskyy's control.

Several apartment units were destroyed by Russian missiles, and at least 35 people, including two children, had been wounded as of 6:00 a.m. local time, according to Klitschko.

The mayor added that while "there are no Russian troops in the city," people should remain underground as additional air attacks are expected. He has imposed a curfew from 5 p.m. local time Saturday until 8 a.m. on Monday amid ongoing street fighting in the capital.

As the BBCreported:

According to a report by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Kyiv officials put out a statement asking people to stay in shelters and to stay away from windows if they were at home.

But Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov told Ukrainian news site Lb.ua that the army was "in control" of the situation.

"We are stopping the horde using all means available. The army servicemen and citizens are in control of Kyiv," said Mr. Danilov.

According toBBC correspondent Paul Adams, "The Ukrainian army said it had repelled an attack along one of the main roads in the west, early [Saturday] morning. And it says it's managed to prevent a Russian attempt to land airborne troops at an airport south of Kyiv—even saying a large plane carrying troops had been shot down."

In a video recorded Saturday morning from the empty streets of Kyiv's government district and shared on Twitter, Zelenskyy countered rumors that he had directed the army to surrender to Russian troops.

"I'm here. We will not lay down any weapons. We will defend our state," he said.

According to the New York Times, "Reports on Friday from the Ukrainian military and the United States and its allies indicated that Ukrainian troops were fighting fiercely, slowing the Russian advance."

"Civilians were also volunteering to defend the country," added the newspaper, which interviewed several residents who have taken up arms.

In an address to Ukrainians on Saturday morning, Zelenskyy said that "we are defending the country, the land of our future children."

"Kyiv and key cities around the capital are controlled precisely by our army," the president added. "The invaders wanted to block the center of our state and put their puppets here like in Donetsk. We broke their plan."

Meanwhile, fighting continues throughout Ukraine, where Russia is being condemned for alleged war crimes.

The U.S. and its Western allies have moved to impose harsher sanctions on Russia—including directly targeting the assets of Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov—but Zelenskyy continues to urge all European Union members, including current holdouts Germany and Hungary, to disconnect Russia from the SWIFT international banking system.

As of Saturday afternoon, Germany had reportedly expressed its willingness to restrict Russia's use of the global financial transactions network, though officials in the country advocated for "targeted" measures to "limit the collateral damage" they say is likely to ensue.

For the first time in history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Friday activated parts of its Response Force, and Western governments have also vowed to increase weapons shipments to Ukraine.

Viktor Liashko, Ukraine's health minister, said Saturday morning that 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed so far, and more than 1,100 people, including 33 children, have been wounded.

United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements, toldCNN on Saturday morning that more than 120,000 people had fled Ukraine "to all of the neighboring countries," though the U.N.'s estimate quickly increased to more than 150,000 refugees displaced since Thursday.

"The reception that they are receiving from local communities, from local authorities, is tremendous," said Clements. "But it's a dynamic situation, we're really quite devastated obviously with what's to come, and we would say that up to four million people could actually cross borders, if things continue to deteriorate, which they have until now."

This post has been updated with details about Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko's curfew order, Germany's shifting position on restricting Russia's access to the SWIFT interbank payment system, and a new estimate of the number of Ukrainian refugees.

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