Russia is prepared to send a delegation to Belarus to start negotiations with Ukraine, according to statements made on Friday by Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Kremlin. Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to talks, but on his own conditions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has offered to negotiate on one of Putin’s key demands: that Ukraine declare itself neutral and abandon its ambition of joining NATO, according to the Associated Press. The Kremlin responded that Russia was ready to send a delegation to Belarus to discuss the matter.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops continued to fight with advancing Russian forces just three kilometers (1.8 miles) from the parliament in the capital, Kyiv. The special correspondent for EL PAÍS, Luis de Vega, reported having witnessed intense exchanges of fire in the area near Havana bridge, one of the access points into the city and located three kilometers from Maidan square.
The crashing sound of Russian air strikes and the wailing of sirens have become the terrifying new soundtrack to the lives of Ukrainians following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision early Thursday to launch a full-blown invasion of the neighboring country.
At least 137 people, military and civilian, were reported dead by Ukrainian authorities on the first day of the full-scale invasion by Moscow, which the United States and the European Union have responded to with a new round of political and economic sanctions.
Russian forces were on Friday intensifying their attacks on Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million people. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Friday said on Twitter that Russian forces had entered the Obolon district, a few miles north of the city center. Just hours later they were approaching the parliament in Constitution Square.
“They say that civilian objects are not a target for them. It is a lie,” said President Zelenskiy in an address in the early hours of Friday. Zelenskiy, who described himself as “target number one” of the military offensive, also lamented what he sees as lack of sufficient support from the international community. “We’ve been left alone,” he said.
Russian special forces and airborne troops have also been trying to surround the Ukrainian army in the Donbas region, where Ukrainian secret services believe Moscow may have infiltrated paramilitary groups to attack from within and take full control of the long-disputed area. This plan could be carried out in various other locations in Ukraine, according to the same sources. The Kremlin’s goal could be to overthrow the Ukrainian government.
Thousands of people have fled west to cities such as Lviv, near the border with Poland, which are deemed safer. But air raid sirens were heard in Lviv on Friday morning as well, signaling the threat of air strikes. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Ukrainians were attempting to enter Poland and Hungary, in what Europe is already expecting to become a serious refugee crisis. The United Nations Refugee Agency has estimated that there are already around 100,000 displaced persons.
In Kyiv, nobody knew where the next air attack might take place, multiplying the collective feeling of anxiety and chaos. Everyone was seeking reliable information on how far Russian troops might be from the capital.
Residential building hit
“It’s a miracle,” said Anatoli, 50, his voice cracking. He was standing in front of a 10-story residential building that was bombed before dawn on Friday around 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) outside the city center. Right in front of the heavily damaged façade there was a huge crater caused by the impact of a missile. Police sources at the scene told EL PAÍS that five people had been injured by the blast, which took place at around 4am, when “everything shook and all the windows shattered inwards,” according to Anatoli.
The great big gaping hole in front of the 10-story building has been attracting local residents curious to see first-hand the magnitude of the damage. Many were taking photographs and videos to upload to social media. A little after 7am on Friday, the air raid sirens began blaring once again. People started to run for the nearest shelter, with many going down into the subway. In a nearby building, around 30 people sheltered in silence inside the boiler room.
In his address to the 44 million citizens of Ukraine in the early hours of Friday, President Zelenskiy confirmed multiple missile attacks in several parts of the country, and said that the Kremlin was targeting both civilian and military infrastructure. “They are killing people and turning peaceful cities into military targets,” he said.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on social media that the last time Kyiv had experienced anything similar was “in 1941, when it was attacked by Nazi Germany.”