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Russian forces bombard Ukrainian towns together with Kyiv

Russian forces launched coordinated missile and artillery attacks on Ukrainian cities on Saturday including the capital, Kyiv, where a curfew went into effect at 5pm local time. After Ukrainian forces said they had repulsed an attack on the capital overnight, President Volodymyr Zelensky shot a selfie-style video in the city centre vowing to stay and fight on.

  • Kyiv’s mayor imposed a curfew beginning Saturday at 5pm local time (GMT+2) that will last until Monday morning. The mayor’s office said in a statement the curfew was needed to clean up the damage due to shelling and gunfire from “the enemy’s sabotage and reconnaissance”.
  • The Russian army has been given orders to broaden its offensive in Ukraine “from all directions” after Kyiv refused to hold talks in Belarus, Moscow’s defence ministry said in a statement on Saturday. In a video message hours later, Zelenskyy said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had both offered to help organise peace talks, saying: “We can only welcome that.”
  • Germany approved the delivery of 400 anti-tank rocket launchers to Ukraine in a U-turn from its longstanding policy of banning weapon exports to conflict zones, rooted in part in its own history of warfare on the European continent. The Elysee Palace announced late Saturday that France would ramp up financial sanctions against Russia and send military equipment to Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian soldiers repelled an overnight Russian attack on the capital but fighting on the city’s outskirts suggested Russian units were trying to clear a path into Kyiv, Reuters reported Saturday evening. UK and US sources said most Russian forces were 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the centre.
  • As Russian troops closed in on the capital late Friday, Zelensky released a defiant video saying he was in Kyiv and was not about to leave. Kyiv civilians took up arms and the government broadcast instructions on how to make petrol bombs.
  • Russia, as expected, vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Friday condemning its invasion of Ukraine and demanding it immediately withdraw its troops. Eleven of the council’s 15 members voted for the motion; China, India and the UAE abstained.
  • The EU, US and UK froze foreign-held assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Germany said Saturday it was working to exclude Russia from the SWIFT banking system, which allows banks to conduct international transactions rapidly and securely. Cutting Russia off would cripple its trade with most of the world. The move signals something of a reversal, as Germany had initially been cautious about excluding Russia from the SWIFT programme.
  • Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya and a close ally of Putin, confirmed Saturday that Chechen fighters had been deployed in Ukraine, urging Ukrainians to overthrow their government.
  • More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled, mostly to Poland and Moldova, according to the UN.
  • The international sporting world has also reacted to the invasion of Ukraine, with UEFA dropping Russia as hosts of the May 28 Champions League final, which has been moved from St. Petersburg to Paris. Formula One dropped this season’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in September. Poland is refusing to play its March 24 World Cup qualifier against Russia next month and Sweden will not play Russia in the World Cup play-offs. The International Ski Federation announced Russia will not host any more of its World Cup events this winter and the International Tennis Federation has canceled all events in Russia indefinitely. .
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(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP and AP)

Originally published on France24