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Live coverage: Ukrainian president says Russia will ‘assault’ Kyiv tonight

Russian forces on Friday have entered the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv as U.S. intelligence officials warn that the city could fall within days.

Follow The Hill’s live coverage below:

Trudeau announces sanctions on Putin, Russian foreign minister 

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

10:57 p.m.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that Canada would impose sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian foreign minister and Putin’s chief of staff for their involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Canada will impose severe sanctions on President Putin, his Chief of Staff, and his Foreign Minister – the men who bear the greatest responsibility for the death and destruction occurring in Ukraine,” Trudeau tweeted.

“We will also impose sanctions on Belarus and its leaders for abetting President Putin’s invasion. These sanctions will target 57 individuals, and are in addition to the dozens of existing sanctions already levelled against Alexander Lukashenko’s regime,” he added.

Trudeau also said that Canada supported kicking Russia out of the SWIFT banking system — a move that the Biden administration has not officially supported yet.

Zelensky spokesperson says Ukraine, Russia discussing timing of talks

BY CAROLINE VAKIL 

10:19 p.m.

A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Facebook post on Friday that Ukraine and Russia are discussing “the place and time” for talks, refuting Russia’s claims that Ukraine is not open to negotiations.

“I have to refute the claims that we have refused to negotiate. Ukraine was and remains ready to talk about ceasefire and peace. This is our constant position. We responded in agreement to the proposal of the President of the Russian Federation,” Sergii Nykyforov, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian president, wrote in a post.

“Directly at these hours, the parties are consulting about the place and time of the negotiation process. The sooner the negotiations begin, the more chance there will be to restore normal life,” he added.

But it is unclear as of late if the two sides will be able to forge ahead with diplomacy.

Kyiv continues to endure an attack from several sides of the city from Russian forces. Explosions could be heard early Saturday morning in the capital, according to media outlets that shared verified footage of the fire. 

Earlier on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the Ukrainian military to overthrow its own government. 

 

Ukrainian hospital in Melitopol hit with fire

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

10:04 p.m.

A hospital in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol came under fire less than two days after Russia started its invasion of Ukraine, The Washington Post reported.

In video of the hospital shared by The Post, constant fire can be heard, and one of the windows appears to hit, showing a small cloud of smoke along with a bright orange flash that dims several moments later. Several more bright flashes can be seen in the video, which The Post noted was verified first by Storyful. 

The video did not show any people in its purview at the time of the attack. 

In a Facebook post, the shelling was confirmed by Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Liashko, but added that no one was injured according to The Post.

The development comes as Russian troops entered Kyiv earlier on Friday. 

Kyiv endures barrage of explosions amid Russian assault 

BY LAUREN VELLA

9:54 p.m.

Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv has been shaken early Saturday morning local time by a barrage of explosions as Russian troops attack from all sides.

CNN and The Washington Post reported frequent explosions as the Russian military made its way from the suburbs of the city inward. 

The news comes amid a warning from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Russia was planning a full-scale assault on Kyiv, and that special attention was needed in the city because the fate of Ukraine would be decided Friday night. 

CNN reported that explosions were recorded on video in the north-west part of Kyiv. Commotion was also witnessed to the west and the south of the city Saturday morning local time. 

US to sanction several top Russian defense officials

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

8:17 p.m.

The Treasury Department announced on Friday that the State Department would be sanctioning several top Russian defense officials after the White House earlier announced it would be sanctioning Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and several others.

The defense officials who will also be included in U.S. sanctions include Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu, first deputy defense minister, and General of the Army Valery Gerasimov.

“Treasury is continuing to inflict costs on the Russian Federation and President Putin for their brutal and unprovoked assault on the people of Ukraine. As President Biden said yesterday, Putin rejected every good faith effort the United States and our allies and partners made to address our mutual security concerns through dialogue to avoid needless conflict and avert human suffering,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

The announcement comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Friday that Russia would launch an “assault” against Kyiv, saying Ukrainians should expect a hard night ahead.

“The night will be tough, very tough. But the morning will come,” Zelensky said.

The development comes less than two days after Russia launched its invasion into Ukraine.

Moscow vetos UN Security Council draft resolution to halt invasion

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

7:15 p.m.

Moscow vetoed a draft resolution from the U.N. Security Council on its invasion into Ukraine on Friday and China abstained from the vote, Reuters reported.

The draft resolution, which initially said it “condemns” Russia’s “aggression against Ukraine” and was later changed to “deplores,” would have offered a rebuke against the current conflict, according to the news outlet. 

Some of the other language removed included one reference to “the president.”

The resolution also pushed Russia to “immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw  all of  its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders,” no longer recognize the independence of two breakaway areas of Ukraine and “immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine,” Reuters reported.

The U.N. General Assembly is now expected to take up the draft resolution.

“Russia can veto this resolution, but cannot veto our voices. Russia cannot veto the truth. Russia cannot veto our principles. Russia cannot veto the Ukrainian people. Russia cannot veto the UN Charter. And Russia will not veto accountability,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield tweeted on Friday.

Zelensky warns Russia will ‘assault’ Kyiv tonight

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

6:58 p.m.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Friday that Russia will “make an assault upon” the capital city of Kyiv, telling Ukrainians “we have to withstand.”

“This night they will make an assault upon us. We all have to understand what we are going to face. This night we have to withstand. The fate of Ukraine is now being decided. Each civilian should be as careful as possible,” Zelensky said in an address. 

Earlier on Friday, Russian forces entered the Ukrainian capital after launching its invasion into Ukraine earlier this week. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC’s David Muir on Thursday evening that he was “convinced” that Putin would try to overthrow the Ukrainian government.

Zelensky on Friday acknowledged Ukrainians would have a tough night ahead, saying in his address “the night will be tough, very tough. But the morning will come.”

“Many cities of our state are under attack. Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, our boys, our girls in Donbas, cities of the south of Ukraine. Kyiv requires special attention. We cannot lose the capital,” the Ukrainian president said. 

White House seeks $6.4B from Congress in Ukraine-related aid

BY MORGAN CHALFANT

6:36 p.m.

The White House is asking Congress to approve $6.4 billion in additional funding to help respond to the ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine, two sources confirmed to The Hill.   

The request includes $2.9 billion for State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development for humanitarian assistance as well as security assistance to Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states and allies on NATO’s eastern flank, according to a Biden administration official.  

The Biden administration is also asking Congress for $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Pentagon, according to the official.   

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday told reporters officials with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were in touch with Congress about additional assistance as it relates to Ukraine.  

An OMB official told The Hill the administration made the request during a recent conversation with lawmakers. 

“As the President and bipartisan members of Congress have made clear, the United States is committed to supporting the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and democracy,” the OMB official said.  

“In a recent conversation with lawmakers, the Administration identified the need for additional U.S. humanitarian, security, and economic assistance to Ukraine and Central European partners due to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion,” the official said. “The Administration will continue to closely coordinate with our European allies and partners to assess on-the-ground needs, and remain in close touch with Congress as these needs evolve.” 

A congressional leadership aide told The Hill that lawmakers are eyeing attaching a Ukraine assistance package and additional coronavirus relief to the omnibus appropriations bill. The current stopgap budget bill funds the government through March 11.   

White House, Congress in talks about additional assistance to Ukraine 

BY MORGAN CHALFANT

5:01 p.m.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that the administration is in talks with Congress about additional assistance to Ukraine given the Russian invasion into the country.

“We are having ongoing conversations with Congress about additional assistance to Ukraine,” Psaki said, noting that officials at the Office of Management and Budget are engaged with Congress.  

Some lawmakers have advocated for additional assistance to Ukraine. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said Friday that a supplemental bill could exceed $10 billion.  

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has also pressed for an emergency supplemental to address the crisis.  

The House and Senate are currently on recess but return next week.

Biden to travel to Delaware for weekend

BY MORGAN CHALFANT

4:11 p.m.

President Biden will be at his home in Delaware this weekend, according to updated guidance issued by the White House.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said the president would meet with his national security team in Delaware on Saturday. She said he is traveling home to attend a memorial service for a family member.

Psaki also said that Biden has the capability to make a secure call from anywhere.

Ukraine minister denounces Russian ‘war crimes’ on schools, orphanages

BY CHLOE FOLMAR

3:55 p.m.

The Ukrainian minister of Foreign Affairs tweeted Friday decrying reported Russia’s attacks on kindergartens and orphanages as “war crimes.”

Dmytro Kuleba said that the Russian attacks are violations of the Rome Statute and that Ukraine will take international action against Russia for its military actions.

“Together with the Office of the Attorney General, we are collecting these and other materials, which we will immediately transfer to The Hague,” Kuleba said.

“Responsibility is inevitable,” he added.

NATO activates response force for first time in history

BY ELLEN MITCHELL

2:53 p.m.

NATO, for the first time in its history, is activating its NATO Response Force (NRF) in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“We have activated NATO’s defense plans to prepare ourselves to respond to a range of contingencies and secure Alliance territory, including by drawing on our response forces,” NATO heads of state and government said in a joint statement released Friday after the alliance held a virtual summit. 

“We are now making significant additional defensive deployments of forces to the eastern part of the Alliance. We will make all deployments necessary to ensure strong and credible deterrence and defense across the Alliance, now and in the future.” 

The leaders stressed the moves “are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.” 

The extraordinary move marks the first time NATO has activated the NRF, a multinational force comprised of around 40,000 land, air, maritime and special operations personnel the alliance can deploy on short notice as needed. All 30 members of NATO must agree to activate the force, which they did on Thursday. 

The Pentagon in January put 8,500 U.S. troops on heightened alert for such a mission and with the NRF now activated, those troops could soon be ordered to Europe to help bolster NATO countries near Ukraine. President Biden has stressed, however, that they will not go to Ukraine as it is not a member of the alliance. 

Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Gen. Tod Wolters, the head of the NRF, called the force’s activation a “historic moment” according to a statement. 

“They represent a flexible, combat credible force that can be employed in multiple ways and we are utilizing fully their inherent agility,” Wolters said. “These deterrence measures are prudent and enhance our speed, responsiveness and capability to shield and protect the one billion citizens we swore to protect.” 

The force is still on standby and has not yet been deployed. 

Read more here.

 

Biden speaks with Zelensky
 
BY MORGAN CHALFANT
 
1:38 p.m.
 
President Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday for 40 minutes, according to the White House. 
 
It was Biden’s first engagement with Zelensky since their conversation overnight Wednesday as Russia launched a massive attack against Ukraine. 
 

US defense official: Russians ‘meeting more resistance’ than they expected

BY ELLEN MITCHELL

12:28 p.m.

Russian forces moving toward Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv are “meeting more resistance than they expected,” a senior defense official said Friday.   

“I can’t give you an exact geographic location of where they are, but they are not moving on Kyiv as fast as what we believe they anticipated they would be able to do,” the official told reporters. 

“In general, the Russians have lost a little bit of their momentum,” the official later added. 

The official said Russian troops haven’t taken any population centers and Russia does not have air superiority over Ukraine, as “Ukrainian air defenses are still working” and the country still has air and missile defenses. 

Russia is continuing to advance into three major areas of Ukraine since beginning an assault on the country early Thursday morning, local time. Kremlin troops are advancing toward Kyiv from Belarus; into the area of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city; and from Crimea in the south toward Kherson, which sits on a major river, the official said.  

Russian forces moving toward Kherson have also appeared to split off to head to the northeast “in the direction of Mariupol and the Donbas region,” the official added. 

The U.S. assessed Russian forces have fired more than 200 missiles into Ukraine since the start of the invasion.

Most of the projectiles fired are short-range ballistic missiles but include a mix of medium-range and cruise missiles as well, the official said. 

“Some of these missiles we have assessed have impacted civilian residential areas,” but the death toll is unknown, they said. 

Read more here.

EU to freeze assets of Putin, Russian foreign minister: report

BY LEXI LONAS

10:10 a.m.

The European Union plans to freeze assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, people familiar with the situation told The Washington Post, but it will not bar Putin from going to the EU.

The EU is expected to approve the measure on Friday afternoon on the second day of fighting between Russia and Ukraine.

The move to freeze the two men’s assets comes as the EU is about to launch its second round of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, according to the Post.

Video shows Ukrainian fighter jet shot down over Kyiv, officials say

BY BRAD DRESS

9:55 a.m.

A Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down over Kyiv early Friday morning and can be seen exploding in a fiery blaze over the city in widely shared videos online.

Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Evgeny Yenin told CNN the aircraft was a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet and part of Ukraine’s military.

After exploding in midair, the aircraft’s debris can be seen raining down across Kyiv in the dark morning hours, according to one video on Twitter.

Earlier reports had claimed Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian fighter jet, which appeared to be disputed by Yenin.

Austin says US may train Ukrainian soldiers remotely

BY JORDAN WILLIAMS

9:34 a.m.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reportedly told lawmakers that the Pentagon was considering ways to train Ukrainian forces remotely if Russia seizes control of Ukraine.

Austin told House members that officials were looking to provide more equipment to Ukrainian troops. However, doing so is harder with Russian troops fighting in the country, officials on the call told Axios.

The report comes as Ukrainian forces fight to fend off Russian troops as Moscow’s military incursion against the former Soviet state enters its second day.

Kremlin says Russia agrees to talks with Ukraine

BY LEXI LONAS

9:25 a.m.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to send a delegation to Belarus to meet with Ukrainian officials.

Peskov made the comments after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is willing to negotiate Ukraine’s stance on NATO membership as Russian forces closed in on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, The Associated Press reported.

Ukraine has been firm in wanting to join the NATO alliance, but after the invasion broke out, the president said the country would consider a nonaligned status. 

Ukrainian defense ministry tells residents defend themselves with Molotov cocktails

BY LEXI LONAS

8:40 a.m.

Ukraine’s defense ministry is telling residents to make Molotov cocktails and firebombs to help fight back in Kyiv as Russian forces close in on the capital city.

In a Facebook post, the agency warned citizens they need to be ready to fight if Russian forces get into the city, the BBC reported.

Residents need to “inform us of troop movements, to make Molotov cocktails and neutralise the enemy.”

Ukrainian border guards to Russian warship: ‘Go f— yourself’

BY LEXI LONAS

8:29 a.m.

Border guards on Ukraine’s Snake Island on Thursday delivered a defiant message to a Russian warship demanding they surrender or be attacked.

The guards’ response to the request: “Russian warship, go f— yourself.”

Video of the encounter shared by a Ukrainian news outlet has gone viral on social media. A Ukrainian official confirmed its authenticity to The Washington Post.

 

US intelligence officials concerned Kyiv could fall in days: reports

BY LEXI LONAS

8:09 a.m.

U.S. intelligence officials have expressed concerns that Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv could fall within days, according to multiple reports.

Newsweek, citing three U.S. officials, said the U.S. thinks that Kyiv will fall to Russian forces within the next few days.

Russian troops enter Kyiv outskirts: report

BY MAUREEN BRESLIN

7:45 a.m.

Russian troops on Friday reached the outskirts of Kyiv as Ukrainian forces fought back against Russia’s military offensive, according to multiple reports.

The Ukrainian defense ministry said that Russian troops had invaded the Obolon district, which is a suburb of the capital city.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Ukrainians during a televised public address that the capital of nearly 3 million people would be Russia’s “target number one.”

The city was bombarded early Friday as missile strikes hit numerous targets and a rocket struck a residential building in Russia’s second day of movement toward Kyiv in its military offensive, The New York Times noted.

Tags Antony Blinken attack Chris Coons Europe invasion Janet Yellen Jen Psaki Joe Biden Justin Trudeau Kremlin Kyiv Linda Thomas-Greenfield Lindsey Graham Lloyd Austin Moscow Russia Ukraine Vladimir Putin War
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