Ukraine’s capital Kyiv is braced for an all-out Russian assault as fighting intensified on the outskirts of the city.
Air raid sirens were sounded in almost all regions of Ukraine on Saturday. The cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remain surrounded and are under heavy Russian bombardment.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow will treat Western arms shipments to Ukraine as legitimate military targets.
Kyiv braces for all-out assault
Civilian fighters and residents in the capital are preparing for a major attack as Russian forces surround the city with troops and artillery just kilometres away. Blasts could be heard in and around Kyiv.
Russian forces continue to spread around the capital and assume firing positions despite the resistance of Ukrainian forces.
Satellite images showed homes ablaze in the town of Moshchun, less than 9km (5.6 miles) north of Kyiv.
The Russian army has also hit the Zhytomyr region west of Kyiv, as part of Russian attempts to interrupt or cut completely the capital’s supply lines.
Russian attacks destroyed the airport in the town of Vasylkiv, south of Kyiv, ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
Mariupol under heavy bombardment
While the Ukrainian forces said they have almost destroyed a Russian battalion near Mariupol, the city remains under heavy Russian bombardment – including on civilian infrastructure.
According to Ukraine’s military intelligence, Russian forces have captured areas on the eastern outskirts of the besieged city.
Ukraine said Russian forces shelled a mosque in the city, where nearly 80 civilians were reportedly hiding, most of them Turkish citizens. Authorities said they have no information about their condition, with communications to the city interrupted.
The United Nations said the situation in Mariupol was desperate, with “reports of looting and violent confrontations among civilians over what little basic supplies remain in the city”.
Battles intensify in Donetsk
The eastern Ukrainian town of Volnovakha has been destroyed but the city remains under Ukrainian control and fighting is ongoing to prevent a Russian encirclement, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
According to Kyrylenko, Russian forces have hit Avdiivka with Tochka-U short-range ballistic missiles since Saturday morning. The city is strategically significant since it is on the front line with the separatist areas in Donetsk.
Western arms supplies to Ukraine ‘legitimate targets’
Russia’s Ryabkov said Moscow could target Western arms shipments to Ukraine, raising fears of a potential clash between Russian forces and the NATO member-states that are currently reinforcing the Ukrainian army as Poland and the Baltic countries.
“We warned the United States that the orchestrated pumping of weapons from a number of countries is not just a dangerous move, it is a move that turns these convoys into legitimate targets,” Ryabkov told state television on Saturday.
On Friday, officials in Mariupol said Russian attacks have killed at least 1,582 civilians in the city.
The UN’s human rights office has confirmed the deaths of 564 civilians, including 41 children, in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday that about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war.
The US estimates put the number of Russian casualties at 2,000 to 4,000, while Russia’s only official death toll, announced last week, said 498 Russian soldiers had been killed.