| THE SOUFAN CENTER 25.2.2022 – Russia pressed its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, Friday after conducting airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks into Ukraine from three sides. Rockets began striking Kyiv early Friday morning, and Ukrainian officials said a Russian aircraft had been shot down and crashed into a building in Kyiv overnight, setting it ablaze and injuring eight people. A senior Ukrainian official said Russian forces would enter areas just outside Kyiv later today and that Ukrainian troops were defending positions on four fronts despite being outnumbered. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow won’t talk to the government in Kyiv until Ukraine’s military surrenders. “We’re ready for negotiations at any time, as soon as the Ukrainian armed forces respond to our president’s call, stop resistance, and lay down their weapons,” Lavrov said in Moscow after meeting representatives of Ukrainian breakaway areas.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a statement that at least 137 Ukranians, civilian, and military, have been killed, including dozens in Kyiv, and 316 Ukrainians have been injured since Russia invaded on Thursday. In a video address Friday night, Zelenskey warned that Russian sabotage groups may be entering Kyiv, and that he and his family were their primary targets. “I am staying in the capital,” Zelenskey said, while noting that his family was also in Ukraine but that he could not disclose their location. Zelenskey also disputed Russia’s claims that it was striking only military targets. “They’re killing people and turning peaceful cities into military targets,” he said. Russian troops also took control of the Chernobyl plant north of Kyiv on Thursday, where they are reportedly holding staff hostage. A Russian security official said that Russia wants to control the Chernobyl nuclear reactor to signal to NATO not to interfere militarily. Thousands of Ukrainians have left the country and as many as 100,000 are internally displaced after fleeing their homes following the attack, the UN refugee agency has said.
In briefings to lawmakers on Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin described the current phase of Russia’s military operation as the tip of the spear, noting that the vast majority of Russian troops are not yet in Ukraine. U.S. intelligence officials are reportedly concerned that Kyiv could fall under Russian control within days, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday evening that he is “convinced” Russian President Vladimir Putin aims to overthrow the Ukrainian government.
The U.S., EU, and other Western allies enacted additional sanctions against Russian banks and leading companies and imposed export controls targeting semiconductors and other high-tech products. Speaking at a press conference Thursday afternoon to announce the fresh sanctions, President Biden said that “the Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine without provocation, without justification, without necessity.” Biden said the administration has “purposefully designed these sanctions to maximize the long-term impact on Russia and to minimize the impact on the United States and our Allies.” The new U.S. sanctions included freezing the assets of four major Russian banks and cutting them off from U.S. dollar transactions, F, sanctioning wealthy Russian individuals with close links to the Kremlin, and embargoing more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports. New sanctions announced by the EU included targeting the energy sector with an export ban on materials Russia uses for oil refineries, banning the sale of aircraft and equipment to Russian airlines, and limiting Russia’s access to high-tech, such as semiconductors and software. The Group of Seven democracies are also expected to announce additional sanctions soon.
The UN Security Council is expected to vote today on a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calling for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of its troops. While Russia is expected to veto the resolution, the U.S. and allies have said that the UN and the Security Council have a responsibility to act and that a Russian veto would only demonstrate the country’s isolation. Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg, New York Times, Washington Post, NBC News, CNN, ABC News, Wall Street Journal, BBC
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