Ukrainian forces battled a much larger and better armed Russian military late Friday night and into the early morning hours on Saturday in the capital city of Kyiv and, by the time the sun came up, still controlled the city.
The night produced numerous shocking videos, many unconfirmed, that showed large explosions taking place in cities across Ukraine. Stories did emerge, however, of Ukrainians landing some major punches of their own on their Russian counterparts, including shooting down two large military transport planes.
One of the more tragic scenes to come out of the night was a high-rise residential building that was struck by a missile early on Saturday morning in the southwestern part of Kyiv.
Российская ракета попала в высотный жилой дом на проспекте Лобановского в Киеве. Вот как это выглядит pic.twitter.com/SjNSwCiZ2A
— DW на русском (@dw_russian) February 26, 2022
The New York Times highlighted important developments from over the last several hours:
- Ukraine’s health minister said on Saturday that 198 civilians had been killed in the Russian invasion, including three children. Another 1,115 civilians have been wounded, the minister said, including 33 children.
- Russia has established attack lines into three cities — Kyiv in the north, Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south — and Ukrainian troops are fighting to hold all three.
- Bloody battles were being waged in close quarters. Ukrainska Pravda, a Ukrainian news site, reported combat 400 yards from Maidan Square in central Kyiv.
- Across Ukraine, people huddled in air raid shelters, lined up at bank machines and stocked up on essentials.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly refused to be evacuated from Kyiv as Russian military forces attacked the city and surrounding areas.
“The U.S. government is prepared to help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky leave Kyiv to avoid being captured or killed by advancing Russian forces, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials,” The Washington Post reported. “But so far, the president has refused to go.”
A senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation that U.S. officials had with Zelensky when he was reportedly asked to evacuate says that Zelensky responded: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”
As fighting intensified, Ukraine urged its citizens to take up arms, and Molotov cocktails, to fight the Russians.
“We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities,” Zelensky said in a statement. “We will lift sanctions on all citizens of Ukraine who are ready to defend our country as part of territorial defense with weapons in hands.”
NATO activated the NATO Response Force for the first time ever on Friday, which readies thousands of soldiers that are part of the multinational force consisting of land, air, sea, and special operations forces.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned during a press conference on Friday that Putin’s “objectives are not limited to Ukraine.”
NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Tod Wolters said that NATO has forces operating in the maritime, land, air, space, and cyber domains that are actively working to defend NATO’s sovereignty.
“This is an historic moment and the very first time the Alliance has employed these high readiness forces in a deterrence and defense role. They represent a flexible, combat credible force that can be employed in multiple ways and we are utilizing fully their inherent agility,” he 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. We are grateful to our allies Canada and the United States for their recent commitments to deploy an additional 7,460 troops, including an armored brigade combat team, artillery units, a naval frigate, and surveillance aircraft, to support this Alliance-wide effort.”
“As NATO establishes this enhanced vigilance on the Alliance’s eastern flank, Allied military forces will posture and exercise to increase our readiness and interoperability. Your soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines stand ready to protect every meter of Allied territory,” he continued. “We admire the courage and tenacity of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and citizens in defending their country. The Alliance remains steadfast in our collective commitment to shield and protect each other. Moving forward, we are prepared to leverage the strength of all our forces to defend the Alliance.”