Satellite images show Russian forces are getting closer to Kyiv, with the bulk of ground forces now about 25km from the centre of the capital, according to the UK’s latest defence intelligence report.They appear to be firing artillery towards residential areas. Air raid sirens were sounding in Kyiv in the early hours of Saturday morning. Russian forces bombarded cities across the country on Friday and appeared to be regrouping for a possible assault. Media in Ukraine reported that two oil depots near Kyiv were on fire after Russian attacks, one in the town of Vasylkiv which is also home to a large airbase and has become a major Russian target.
Russia has warned that it now considers arms shipments to Ukraine as “legitimate targets” for the military. The comments by the deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, are likely to raise fears over a potential escalation in the conflict in Ukraine.
The Russian army has suffered its biggest losses in decades, according to Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The Ukrainian president claimed 31 Russian battalion tactical groups have now been rendered incapable of combat and said 500 to 600 Russian troops surrendered on Friday. He insisted any negotiations with Russia must begin with a ceasefire, as he accused the west of insufficient involvement in peace talks and urged Russia to uphold the agreement to allow evacuations from the besieged port city of Mariupol.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, and German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, spoke to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. They echoed Zelenskiy’s call for a ceasefire as a condition for structured negotiations, but a French presidency official said Putin did not appear ready to end the war.
Zelenskiy also accused Russia of hiring “murderers from Syria” after the Kremlin ramped up efforts to bring in reinforcements from the Middle East. Syria’s military has begun recruiting troops from its own ranks to fight alongside Russian forces in Ukraine, promising payments of $3,000 a month – a sum up to 50 times a Syrian soldier’s monthly salary.
Belarus has denied plans to join the Russian invasion. The country’s armed forces’ chief of general staff, Viktor Gulevich, said Belarus had no plans to enter into the war but is sending five battalion tactical groups (BTGs) to its border with Ukraine on rotation to replace forces already there. Belarus has served as a staging post for Russian troops, missiles and aircraft.
EU leaders plan to collectively rearm and become autonomous in food, energy and military hardware in a declaration after their meeting at Versailles that described Russia’s war as “a tectonic shift in European history”.
The UN security council met on Friday to discuss Moscow’s claims that the US was funding “military biological activities” in Ukraine. The Russian ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, invoked the terrifying spectre of an “uncontrolled spread of bio agents from Ukraine” across Europe. The US and Ukraine have categorically denied that they are developing any biological weapons inside the country and say the claims were laying the path for Russian chemical attacks.
The US has warned of the possibility of chemical or biological weapons being used by Russia. Britain and the US have voiced fears Russia could be setting the stage to use a chemical weapon in Ukraine, and using its accusations of bio-labs as pretext. US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said: “Russia has a track record of falsely accusing other countries of the very violations that Russia itself is perpetrating.”
Russian airstrikes hit three cities in Ukraine on Friday – including two in the country’s west – as the scope of its military offensive widened. The raids hit airfields in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, far from the main areas of conflict, and residential buildings in the strategically important city of Dnipro.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped and under fire in Ukrainian cities, but the situation in Mariupol is especially dire. Ten days into Russia’s siege, its population has no access to electricity or mobile phone networks, and water and food are running out. 7,144 people were evacuated from four Ukrainian cities on Friday, Zelenskiy said in a televised address – a much lower number than managed to leave in each of the two previous days. Zelenskiy accused Russia of refusing to allow people out of Mariupol, and said Ukraine would try again to deliver food and medicines there on Saturday.
A third Russian major general has been killed in Ukraine, western officials confirmed. Western intelligence estimates that about 20 major generals would have been committed to the invasion, implying a relatively high casualty rate.
Joe Biden announced plans to ban the import of seafood, vodka and diamonds from Russia in retaliation for Putin’s war on Ukraine. Biden said the ban would be part of a move by the US to revoke normal trading relations with Russia. The US has also imposed sanctions on a group of Russia’s elite including billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, three relatives of Putin’s spokesperson, and lawmakers.
Russia has moved to block Instagram after its parent company, Meta, said it would allow calls for violence against Putin and Russian soldiers involved in the invasion of Ukraine to appear on the social media platform. Russian prosecutors demanded that access to Instagram be blocked as authorities moved to recognise Meta as an “extremist organisation”.
Deutsche Bank and Sony Pictures have joined the exodus of western businesses from Russia. In a statement posted on its website, Deutsche Bank said it was “in the process of winding down our remaining business in Russia” and that there “won’t be any new business in Russia”.
The US has accused Russia of violating nuclear safety principles. US energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, said the US was concerned about “Russia’s reckless actions and violations of nuclear safety principles” on Friday, including stopping supply to parts to nuclear facilities, concerns over conditions for staff, and damage to nuclear research facilities.
Western intelligence agencies are investigating a cyber-attack by unidentified hackers. The attack disrupted broadband satellite internet access in Ukraine coinciding with Russia’s invasion, Reuters has reported, citing three people with direct knowledge of the incident.
Ukraine accused Russia of violating international law by abducting the mayor of Melitopol, a Ukrainian city that fell under Russia’s control during the invasion, reports Reuters. Ukrainian officials said Melitopol mayorIvan Fedorov was kidnapped after being falsely accused of terrorism.