Russian forces are moving closer to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and stepping up their assault on other key cities on day 17 of their unprovoked invasion of the country. Here are the latest developments:
Noose tightens on Kyiv: CNN teams in Kyiv reported hearing explosions in the early hours of Saturday, as the capital comes under pressure. The bulk of Russian ground forces are about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from Kyiv’s center, according to British defense officials. Russian strikes continue to hit civilian structures: A landmark hotel in the northern city of Chernihiv was reduced to rubble overnight as well as the local electricity network.
Attack on key cities: CNN journalists in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro felt at least two explosions and saw what looked like the remnants of anti-aircraft fire early Saturday. The cities of Kharkhiv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Sumy are also under a sustained Russian onslaught. This comes as Russian forces expanded their offensive to the west of Ukraine for the first time on Friday, with strikes targeting military airfields, including one in Vasylkiv, south of Kyiv, on Saturday. To the east, there’s growing evidence that the town of Volnovakha has fallen to Russian forces and their allies in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. The southern city of Kherson appears to have been captured, according to US defense intelligence.
Anger mounts over mayor’s arrest: Several hundred protesters swarmed the city hall in the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol on Saturday after the arrest of its mayor Ivan Fedorov by Russian forces the day before. The Russian-backed Luhansk regional prosecutor claimed he had committed terrorism offenses but Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called Fedorov’s detention a “crime against democracy.”
Chernobyl power: Technicians are working to repair damaged power lines to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, according to the UN’s nuclear watchdog. Ukrainian authorities said the lines were entirely cut this week due to Russian shelling. The plant, which has been relying on diesel generators for backup power since Wednesday, is under Russian control with more than 200 staff effectively living and working there under difficult conditions.
Biden’s warning: US President Joe Biden warned Friday that Russia would pay a “severe price” if it uses chemical weapons, but reiterated the US will not send ground troops to Ukraine. “We will not fight the third world war in Ukraine,” Biden said — adding the US would help provide weapons, money and food aid for the country instead.
The human toll: At least 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine, the UN said Friday. The UN recorded 1,546 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of Friday, including 564 killed and 982 injured — though they estimate the real number is much higher.