This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on Feb. 25, 2022. It is shared here with permission under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) license.
Russian forces closed in on and reportedly entered the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv—a city of three million people—on Friday as the nation’s president warned he could soon be the target of an assassination attempt.
“They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address to the nation, accusing Russia of bombing the capital without regard for civilian life.
“Enemy aircraft operate treacherously over residential areas, including the capital,” said Zelensky. “Terrible explosions in the morning sky over Kyiv, bombing, hitting a house.”
In a Twitter post, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba similarly warned of “horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv.” Local officials said debris from a Russian aircraft shot down by Ukrainian defense systems crashed into a multistory apartment building, injuring several people and forcing more than 150 to evacuate.
Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have reportedly fled their homes since Russia launched its far-reaching attack on Thursday, invading the country through several border locations and advancing quickly toward the capital. Ukrainian officials say that more than 130 people—civilians and military personnel—have been killed thus far.
As Ukrainian forces fought Russian troops on the outskirts of Kyiv on Friday, Ukraine’s defense minister urged those remaining in the city to stay inside and “prepare Molotov cocktails.”
The Financial Times reported that Kyiv residents woke Friday to “loud explosions shortly after 4 am and reports of Russian armored vehicles advancing into the northern Kyiv district of Obolon.” Video footage taken later in the morning by a journalist on the ground showed the streets of Kyiv largely empty, with air raid sirens wailing in the background, as residents braced for an attack.
Late Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he held a “frank, direct, and quick” phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin to demand that he immediately cease military operations, which have prompted a wave of sanctions from the West.
Macron reportedly urged Putin to speak with Zelensky, who said just before Russia’s attack that he attempted to call Putin but was met with “silence.”
A top adviser to Zelensky said Thursday that the Ukrainian president is willing to negotiate a resolution if Putin halts the attack.
“Ukraine has always left and leaves room for negotiations. Including now—even after Russia launched a full-scale invasion,” Mykhaylo Podolyak said in a statement. “This war must be stopped. These hostilities must be stopped.”
In his speech Friday, Zelensky said that “we are not afraid to talk with Russia, talk about everything: security guarantees for our country and a neutral status,” referring to his country’s ambition to join NATO.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, said Thursday that “neutral status” and a “rejection of hosting [offensive] weapons systems” in Ukraine are Putin’s “red lines” in any potential negotiations.