Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has said Russian troops are preparing to launch what might be a decisive assault on Kyiv in the coming hours, warning it will be “very hard” and that the fate of his nation is “being decided right now”
In perhaps his most dramatic address to his country yet, Mr Zelensky said: “This night the enemy will be using all available means to break our resistance. This night they will launch an assault.”
He spoke shortly after Russia vetoed an emergency resolution by the UN Security Council that would have condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the most serious military conflict in Europe since World War II. With Russian troops bearing down on Kyiv, there were multiple reports of artillery rounds being heard.
“This night we must persevere. The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now,” he said.
He added: “It was a difficult but courageous day. We are fighting for our country on all frontlines: in the South, East, North, in many cities of our beautiful country.”
The president said Ukraine is, “also fighting on the diplomatic frontline”.
“It’s easier to count who out of the world leaders I haven’t spoken yet,” he said.
In the early hours of Saturday, Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications said clashes were underway in an eastern suburb of Kyiv.
“The enemy is trying to attack CHP-6 near Troieschyna. The Armed Forces give battle,” the service tweeted.
In his address, Mr Zelensky specifically said he talked with President Biden as well as the French, German and Dutch leaders.
“And I’ve agreed on more help, more support, considerable support. I thank all the leaders and especially President Biden,” he said.
But Mr Zelensky appeared to understand that his country was not going to receive the sort of military assistance that could stop Russia’s advance.
Rather it was up to Ukrainians to fight for and defend their nation.
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“We cannot afford losing the capital,” said the president, dressed in green military fatigues, and his face weary. “Our main goal is to finish this bloodbath.”
Mr Zelensky admitted in his comments that Russian forces had inflicted casualties on Ukrainian troops. But he claimed that “the enemy has sustained very serious casualties” as well.
“Ukrainians are heroically resisting this aggression which cannot be justified,” he said.
“That’s why the occupants are forced to come up with even more absurd accusations.”
Later, Mr Zelensky’s spokesperson Sergii Nykyforov said Ukraine was open to a purported offer from Russia for talks. Russia had suggested Minsk, but Ukraine said they should take place in Warsaw, Poland.
“Ukraine has been and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace. This is our constant position,” Mr Nykyforov said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Ukrainian side had countered with a proposal to meet in Warsaw before dropping contact.
Earlier, Russia, vetoed a draft UN resolution which would have deplored its invasion of Ukraine, after a debate at the Security Council. Eleven members voted in favour of the resolution. India, China and the UAE abstained.
The resolution was certain to fail because of Russia’s veto power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Mr Zelensky spoke as Russian troops bore down on Ukraine’s capital in the early hours of Friday, with explosions and gunfire sounding in the city. The scenes, and the senes of shock in some capitals that Mr Putin decided to opt for a wholesale invasion, added to fears that the conflict could spread.
It also set off new international efforts — including direct sanctions on Mr Putin — to make Moscow stop. The US, UK and the EU said those measures would be triggered after conversations as to how best to act.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the decision had been made in the last 24 hours.
“It’s been on the table for some time, but through coordination and discussion with our European partners over the last day or so,” she said, when asked the timing of the decision.
Reports said among those Mr Zelensky had asked for help were Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
“Our president believes Israel is the only democratic state that has great relations with both Russia and Ukraine and that could be used in order to facilitate those negotiations,” Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, told CNN.
Additional reporting by Associated Press