Ukraine: Latest developments as Russian troops close in on capital Kyiv

Russian troops have closed in on Ukraine's capital this evening after a night of explosions and street fighting sent Kyiv residents seeking shelter or fleeing the city.

The country's leader claimed Ukraine's forces had repulsed the assault and vowed to keep up the struggle.

"The real fighting for Kyiv is ongoing," President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message, accusing Russia in a video message of hitting infrastructure and civilian targets.

"We will win," he said.

Ukrainian servicemen walk by fragments of a downed aircraft, in Kyiv, Ukraine on Friday. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak, File)

Central Kyiv appeared quiet on Saturday, and skirmishes reported on the edge of the city suggested that small Russian units were trying to clear a path for the main forces. Britain's defence ministry said that the bulk of Russian forces were 19 miles from the middle of the city, with a US defence official later making the same assessment.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko extended a curfew he imposed two days ago to run from 5pm until 8am.

Russia claims its assault on Ukraine was aimed only at military targets, but bridges, schools and residential neighbourhoods have been hit since the invasion began on Thursday with air and missile strikes and Russian troops entering Ukraine from the north, east and south.

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An apartment building damaged following a rocket attack on the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, February 26. Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine's capital and street fighting broke out as city officials urged residents to take shelter. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

In Kyiv, a missile struck a high-rise apartment building in the south-western outskirts near one of Kyiv's two passenger airports, leaving a jagged hole of ravaged apartments over several floors. A rescue worker said six civilians were injured.

The conflict has driven thousands of Ukrainians from their homes in search of safety and UN officials said more than 120,000 Ukrainians have left the country for Poland, Moldova and other neighbouring nations. City officials in Kyiv urged residents to seek shelter, to stay away from windows and to take precautions to avoid flying debris or bullets.

It was unclear in the fog of war how much of Ukraine was still under Ukrainian control and how much Russian forces have seized whilst western governments claimed stiff Ukrainian resistance had slowed the Russian advance, and Russia does not yet control Ukraine's skies.

Ukraine's Infrastructure Ministry said a Russian missile was shot down before dawn on Saturday as it headed for the dam of the sprawling water reservoir that serves Kyiv, and Ukraine said a Russian military convoy was destroyed near the city early on Saturday.

In addition to Kyiv, the Russian assault appeared to focus on Ukraine's coastline, stretching from the Black Sea port of Odesa, in the west near the border with Romania, to the Azov Sea port of Mariupol in the east.

If the Russian troops succeed, Ukraine will be cut off from access to all of its sea ports, which are vital for its economy. In Mariupol, Ukrainian soldiers guarded bridges and blocked people from the seashore area amid concerns the Russian navy could launch an assault from the sea.

The Russian military said on Friday that they claimed control of Melitopol, about 22 miles inland from the Sea of Azov.

Western officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to overthrow Ukraine's government and replace it with a regime of his own. The invasion represented Mr Putin's boldest effort yet to redraw the map of Europe and revive Moscow's Cold War-era influence.

Mr Zelensky issued a defiant video recorded on a downtown Kyiv street early on Saturday, saying he remained in the city and that claims the Ukrainian military would put down arms were false.

"We aren't going to lay down weapons. We will protect the country," the Ukrainian president said. "Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that it's our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of that."

The US government urged Mr Zelensky early on Saturday to evacuate Kyiv but he turned down the offer, according to a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation.

The United States and other Nato allies have sent weapons and other aid to Ukraine, which is not a Nato member. Nato member nations also have beefed up their troops in allied countries in eastern Europe, but ruled out deploying troops to fight Russia.

Instead, the US, the European Union and other countries have slapped wide-ranging sanctions on Russia, freezing the assets of Russian businesses and individuals including Mr Putin and his foreign minister. French maritime officials have also seized a Russian-flagged cargo ship carrying cars for potential sanctions breaches and took it to a port for investigation.

Russia remained unbowed, vetoing a UN Security Council resolution demanding that it stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw troops immediately. The 11-1 vote, with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining, showed significant opposition to Russia's invasion of its smaller, militarily weaker neighbour.

A senior Russian official has today shrugged off the wide-ranging sanctions that the US, the European Union and other allies slapped on Russia as a reflection of Western "political impotence".

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia's Security Council, warned that Moscow could react to the sanctions by opting out of the last remaining nuclear arms pact, freezing Western assets and cutting diplomatic ties with nations in the West.

"There is no particular need in maintaining diplomatic relations," Mr Medvedev said. "We may look at each other in binoculars and gunsights."

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