Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia has made him “target number one” in the wake of the country’s invasion, as he ordered a mass mobilisation decree which paves the way for civilians to take up arms against Vladimir Putin’s forces.
The decree was signed at the end of a day of intense fighting on multiple fronts, as Russian troops embarked on the biggest attack by one country on another in Europe since the Second World War.
In a video address in the early hours of Friday, Mr Zelenskyy – who remains in Kyiv – announced 137 Ukrainians had been killed so far and that Russia had made him “target number one”.
“According to our information, the enemy has listed me as target number one, and my family – as target number two. They want to destroy the country politically, terminating the head of state,” he said.
Mr Zelenskyy’s mobilisation order covers regions including Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east and Odessa in the south, with explosions having been heard across the three major cities in the early hours of the assault.
Lasting 90 days, it means all conscripts and reservists will be expected to help “ensure the needs” of Ukraine‘s military, as they battle against a “full-scale” Russian assault that has drawn condemnation from around the world.
Some 100,000 Ukrainians are believed to have fled their homes, according to the United Nations, but the country’s border guard service has said that males aged 18-60 are not allowed to leave.
Ukraine’s armed forces believe more than 60 Russian battalion tactical groups – the equivalent of between 30,000 and 60,000 troops – have been deployed on their territory.
Mr Putin is believed to be targeting a blockade of Kyiv and the creation of a land corridor on Ukraine’s southeastern coast towards the Crimean Peninsula – which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014 – and the Transdniestria region of next door Moldova that is held by pro-Russian separatists.
In other developments:
• Russian forces seize control of former Chernobyl nuclear power station
• PM unleashes UK’s ‘largest set of sanctions ever’ on Russia
• New US sanctions announced and 7,000 troops heading to Germany
• Ukrainian president: Russian attack ‘like fascist Germany in WWII’
• Champions League final set to be moved from Russia
Analysis: What will happen next?
In the words of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, “a new iron curtain” is falling across Europe.
The big question, is what will happen next?
At one end, President Putin achieves an initial military victory, topples the government and successfully installs a puppet regime.
This new administration turns the nation firmly eastwards, rejecting previous desires to join the European Union and the NATO defence alliance – both red lines for the Kremlin.
The second scenario is only marginally less bleak from a Western perspective.
President Putin succeeds in taking and holding Ukraine’s entire coastline, stretching along the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, cutting off the country’s ability to export, crippling the economy and leaving a rump state to be ruled by a weakened government in Kyiv.
As for the other end of the spectrum, there is the very real likelihood of a powerful and effective Ukrainian resistance to counter any Russian occupation or Russian-imposed government.
It could drag Moscow into a protracted guerrilla war in Ukraine, triggering discontent in Russia as the number of Russian soldiers killed and wounded grows along with the financial cost of the mission – a situation that ultimately threatens President Putin’s authority.
Read the full analysis here [INSERT LINK].
Having seized control of Chernobyl, near Pripyat, around 60 miles from Kyiv, attention is turning to other sites.
One which has been the scene of intense combat so far is Hostomel military airport, which is also near Kyiv. It could prove vital, as Russia could use it to bring more troops into the country.
Elsewhere, fierce fighting has taken place in Sumy and Kharkiv in the northeast, Kherson and Odessa in the south.
Border units, border patrols and checkpoints have been targeted with artillery, heavy equipment and small arms fire.
The defence ministry in Moscow said it was not targeting cities, but using precision weapons, claiming that “there is no threat to the civilian population”.
According to Mr Zelenskyy, civilians are among the 137 Ukrainians who have been killed thus far, while another 316 people have been injured.
“They’re killing people and turning peaceful cities into military targets,” the president said in his Friday address. “It’s foul and will never be forgiven.”
What’s happening on the ground
A US official said Russian forces were moving on three fronts – from annexed Crimea to Kherson in the south, from Belarus – north of Ukraine – towards Kyiv, and from the northeast to Kharkiv.
The official said as part of the “first phase” of the assault, more than 100 missiles were launched from land and sea, primarily short-range ballistic missiles, but also those of medium-range, cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles.
The main targets were barracks, ammunition warehouses, and airfields, before ground forces moved in.
Ukraine reported columns of troops penetrated its borders into Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Luhansk in the east – and also landed by sea at the cities of Odessa and Mariupol in the south.
Mr Putin has described the assault as a “specialised military operation”.
Russia hit with sanctions amid international condemnation
Boris Johnson has hit Russia with what he called the “largest set of sanctions ever imposed anywhere by the UK government” – targeting individuals including Mr Putin’s former son-in-law.
Making a statement in the Commons, the prime minister said that more than 100 businesses and individuals will be tackled in total, including “all the major manufacturers that support Putin’s war machine”.
EU leaders also agreed to another set of sanctions, taking aim at Russia’s financial, transport and energy sectors.
And Joe Biden said “strong limitations” will be imposed on what can be exported from the US to Russia.
However, the US president insisted that US troops “will not be engaged in the conflict with Russia in Ukraine”.
Thousands attend protests in Russia and beyond
More than 1,700 anti-war protesters have been arrested across 54 cities in Russia – as scores of demonstrators voice their fury over the invasion of Ukraine.
Protests have also been held across Europe, including in Spain, France, Switzerland, Hungary, and Poland.
In the UK, hundreds sung the Ukrainian national anthem outside Downing Street in central London – and crowds held Ukrainian flags aloft and chanted “Glory to Ukraine” outside the Russian consulate in Edinburgh.
In a TV address, Mr Putin claimed the attack was needed to protect people subjected to “genocide”.
Mr Putin also claimed that Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine, contrary to White House intelligence that he intends to install a pro-Kremlin puppet regime.
He accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russian demands to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and warned interference from other countries in the military action would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.
Mr Zelenskyy used his Friday morning address to again press the issue of potential NATO membership, saying European leaders were “afraid” to answer him directly.
“Today, I have asked 27 European leaders whether Ukraine will be in NATO,” he said.
“I have asked directly – everyone is afraid, no one answers. But we are not afraid , we are not afraid of anything.”