In picture above: A view shows the wreckage of an unidentified aircraft in a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine, in this handout picture released February 25, 2022. Press service of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service/Handout via REUTERS
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pleaded with the international community to do more, saying sanctions announced so far were not enough to stop the Russian advance on Kyiv.
Missiles continued to pound the Ukrainian capital on Friday as Russian forces pressed their advance.
Air raid sirens wailed over Kyiv amid unconfirmed reports that a Russian plane had been shot down and crashed into a building a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion that has shocked the world.
A senior Ukrainian official said Russian forces would enter areas just outside the capital, Kyiv, later on Friday and that Ukrainian troops were defending positions on four fronts despite being outnumbered.
An estimated 100,000 people fled as explosions and gunfire rocked major cities. Dozens have been reported killed. Russian troops seized the Chernobyl former nuclear power plant north of Kyiv as they advanced on the city from Belarus.
U.S. and Ukrainian officials say Russia aims to capture Kyiv and topple the government, which Putin regards as a puppet of the United States.
Zelenskiy said he understood Russian troops were coming for him but vowed to stay in Kyiv.
“(The) enemy has marked me down as the number one target,” Zelenskiy said in a video message. “My family is the number two target. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state.”
“I will stay in the capital. My family is also in Ukraine.”
Russia launched its invasion by land, air and sea on Thursday following a declaration of war by Putin, in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.
Putin says Russia is carrying out “a special military operation” to stop the Ukrainian government from committing genocide against its own people – an accusation the West calls baseless. He also says Ukraine is an illegitimate state whose lands historically belong to Russia.
Ukrainian forces downed an enemy aircraft over Kyiv early on Friday, which then crashed into a residential building and set it ablaze, said Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister.
It was unclear whether the aircraft was manned or whether it could be a missile. Kyiv municipal authorities said at least eight people were injured when the object crashed into an apartment block.
“Horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany.”
Authorities said intense fighting was under way in the city of Sumy in the northeast.
A border post in the southeastern Zaporizhzhya region had been hit by missiles, causing deaths and injuries among border guards, and air raid sirens sounded over the city of Lviv in the west of the country.
Asked if he was worried about Zelenskiy’s safety, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS: “To the best of my knowledge, President Zelenskiy remains in Ukraine at his post, and of course we’re concerned for the safety of all of our friends in Ukraine – government officials and others.”