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Vladimir Putin’s war: Casualties mount as Kyiv braces for more Russian attacks

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In the UK, Boris Johnson announced there will be personal sanctions against Putin as Russian troops continued their assault on the capital.

The Prime Minister told Nato leaders in a virtual meeting that the UK would echo measures announced by the EU to target the Russian president and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Also, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed he has extended a flight ban meaning xe2x80x9cno Russian private jet can fly in UK airspace, or touchdown xe2x80x93 effective immediatelyxe2x80x9d.

He tweeted: xe2x80x9cPutinxe2x80x99s actions are unlawful and anyone benefitting from Russiaxe2x80x99s aggression in Ukraine is not welcome here. Ixe2x80x99ve strengthened our ban in the UK.xe2x80x9d

Elsewhere Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told EU leaders xe2x80x9cthis might be the last time you see me alivexe2x80x9d during a video conference call, according to reports.

EU sources briefed on the call revealed his words to several news outlets.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who participated in the video conference call, told the TT news agency that when the EU leaders said goodbye to Zelensky they knew they might not see him again.

It came as Moscow forces advanced towards Kyiv. Nato general secretary Jens Stoltenberg said leaders have agreed to send rapid response troops to protect allies near Russia and Ukraine.

Thousands of troops, backed by air and naval support, will be deployed by US president Joe Biden and his Nato counterparts to protect allies near Russia and Ukraine in response to the invasion.

UK Chief of Defence Intelligence, Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull said: xe2x80x9cRussian forces continue to advance on two axes towards Kyiv. Their objective is to encircle the capital, to secure control of the population and change the regime.xe2x80x9d

The Russian forces advancing on Kyiv remain xe2x80x9cmore than 50km from the centre of the cityxe2x80x9d, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

But some had already entered northern suburbs of the city, according to local defence sources. Gunfire was heard near the government quarter.

After a barrage of air strikes in the early hours, ground forces were reported to be advancing, with xe2x80x9csaboteursxe2x80x9d three miles north of the city centre.

Early Friday morning, fear spread through Kyiv as sirens warned residents in the city of 2.8 million to rush to air raid shelters.

Shortly before 10am local time, Ukrainian defence sources said Russian forces were in the Obolon district, some six miles from the parliament building.

Ukrainexe2x80x99s defence ministry urged locals to make Molotov cocktails to target the advancing troops.

As President Putin pursued his bloody war, deaths were escalating with at least 137 Ukrainian military personnel and civilians while 450 Russian troops were reported to have been killed.

Ukrainian forces were reported to be putting up strong resistance, inflicting heavy losses on the Russian army, but then being hit by overwhelming attacks.

Western officials said Ukrainians were xe2x80x9cadmirablyxe2x80x9d fighting for their country and had been able to keep Russian forces at bay in some urban areas.

But they fear if the Russian army does not meet its invasion timescales as the Ukrainians fight back, Putin will begin to use xe2x80x9cindiscriminate violencexe2x80x9d.

The Russian president could deploy his devastating thermobaric bombs, launching a barrage of explosive warheads on the opposing army.

Russian military claimed it has taken control of the key strategic airport just outside Kyiv.

Taking possession of the Antonov airport in Hostomel, which has a long runway allowing the landing of heavy-lift transport planes, would mean Russia can airlift troops directly to Kyivxe2x80x99s outskirts. The claims from Russia could not be verified.

Earlier, defence sources said Russian forces had seized two Ukrainian military vehicles and some uniforms and were heading toward the city to try to infiltrate it.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kyiv xe2x80x9ccould well be under siegexe2x80x9d in what US officials believe is part of Putinxe2x80x99s plan to topple President Volodymyr Zelensky and install a xe2x80x9cpuppetxe2x80x9d government.

The Ukrainian military reported significant fighting near Ivankiv, about 40 miles north-west of Kyiv.

xe2x80x9cThe hardest day will be today. The enemyxe2x80x99s plan is to break through with tank columns from the side of Ivankiv and Chernihiv to Kyiv,xe2x80x9d said Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko.

Mr Zelensky said he understood Russian troops were coming for him but vowed to stay in the city. xe2x80x9c(The) enemy has marked me down as the number one target,xe2x80x9d he said in a video message. xe2x80x9cMy family is the number two target. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state. I will stay in the capital. My family is also in Ukraine.xe2x80x9d

However, if Russians are forced into street-by-street fighting in urban areas their air superiority will be less of an advantage than fighting in open ground.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told LBC Radio: xe2x80x9cItxe2x80x99s one thing to drive down a road in a tank, itxe2x80x99s a very different thing to try to take a town or a city, itxe2x80x99s incredibly hard.

xe2x80x9cThatxe2x80x99s where you get blown up, people use everything from small missiles to tank traps. So I think there will be a sense of xe2x80x98let them come into the cities and then whack themxe2x80x99.xe2x80x9d

In other developments:

  • Boris Johnson spoke to President Zelensky and stressed that the Russian invasion must ultimately fail.
  • Russiaxe2x80x99s military forces have hit dozens of civilian sites, Ukrainexe2x80x99s Interior Ministry said.
  • More Russian tanks were moving from annexed Crimea into the south of Ukraine.
  • Ukrainexe2x80x99s Defence Force called for all civilians to join a mass mobilisation regardless of age.
  • Mr Wallace said the Russian army had not achieved its aims on the first day of the full invasion yesterday, with special forces having reportedly failed to capture Antonov Airport near the town of Hostomel, 20 miles from Kyiv.
  • He told Sky News: xe2x80x9cRussia lost more than 450 army personnel on the first day of full -cale war with Ukraine. Our assessment as of this morning is that Russia has not taken any of its major objectives.xe2x80x9d
  • Britain would like to cut off Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system and will continue to lobby reluctant allies to take that step, Mr Wallace made clear.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday repeated the false claims the Ukrainian government had been committing genocide and banning its population from speaking Rus

He told reporters: xe2x80x9cIn the West everything is looked at through your own interests. When youxe2x80x99re not happy with something then you raise your voice but when millions and millions of people in Ukraine are having their rights to the language removed you are not voicing any discontent.xe2x80x9d

Tens of thousands of people were fleeing Ukrainian cities, with queues at the border with Poland. Russian troops launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, attacking from Belarus in the north, Russia in the east and annexed Crimea in the south.

Missiles targeted sites in and close to the capital at around 4am local time Friday, with other cities also coming under air attack.

Ukrainian air defence fire was aimed at missiles targeting the capital. Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Mr Gerashchenko said: xe2x80x9cAir defences of Kyiv shot down missiles fired by the invaders.xe2x80x9d

He claimed a Russian war plane was shot down in the Darnytskyi district, near a house.

These claims could not be confirmed.

The UN Security Council was to vote today on a draft resolution that would condemn Russiaxe2x80x99s invasion and require Moscowxe2x80x99s immediate withdrawal.

However, Moscow can veto the measure.

Putin falsely says Russia is carrying out xe2x80x9ca special military operationxe2x80x9d to stop the Ukrainian government committing genocide xe2x80x94 a claim the West rejects.

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