Russian invasion of Ukraine enters second day

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers on a phone call Thursday evening that Russian mechanized forces that entered from Belarus were about 20 miles from Kyiv, according to a person familiar with the call

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DUBAI: Russia pressed its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital Friday after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides in an attack that could rewrite the global post-Cold War security order.

Explosions sounded before dawn in Kyiv as Western leaders scheduled an emergency meeting and Ukraine’s president pleaded for international help.

The nature of the explosions was not immediately clear, but the blasts came amid signs that the capital and largest Ukrainian city was increasingly threatened following a day of fighting that left more than 100 Ukrainians dead.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the government had information that “subversive groups” were encroaching on the city, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kyiv “could well be under siege” in what US officials believe is a brazen attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to dismantle the government and replace it with his own regime.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers on a phone call Thursday evening that Russian mechanized forces that entered from Belarus were about 20 miles from Kyiv, according to a person familiar with the call.

The assault, anticipated for weeks by the US and Western allies and undertaken by Putin in the face of international condemnation and cascading sanctions, amounts to the largest ground war in Europe since World War II.

Russian missiles bombarded cities and military bases in the first day of the attack, and Ukraine officials said they had lost control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

Civilians piled into trains and cars to flee and patrons of a hotel were directed into a shelter as explosions sounded in Kyiv.

“Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and won’t give up its freedom,” Zelenskyy tweeted. His grasp on power increasingly tenuous, he called Thursday for even more severe sanctions than the ones imposed by Western allies and ordered a full military mobilization that would last 90 days.

Here is a live update of the main developments in Ukraine as they happen. (All timings are in GMT)

With Russian forces in neighbouring Syria, Washington its unswerving ally and about a million citizens with ties to the former Soviet Union, Israel is seeking a delicate balance in the Ukraine crisis.

For residents of Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv and home to many Jews with roots in Russia and Ukraine, the Russian invasion launched Thursday triggered shock and concern for relatives.

“I didn’t expect it, when I got the message from my parents (in Ukraine),” said Natalia Kogan.

“People are stressed,” added the 57-year-old, who works at a supermarket catering for people from the former USSR

Formula One cancels the 2022 Russian Grand Prix, saying it was “impossible” to do so after the country launched an invasion on Ukraine. Read the story in full. Pope Francis went to the Russian Embassy to “express his concern about the war,” an extraordinary, hands-on papal gesture that came on the same day the Vatican announced he was canceling other upcoming events because of an “acute” flareup of knee pain. See the story here. The Kremlin says UEFA’s decision to strip Russia’s second city Saint Petersburg of hosting the Champions League final is a “shame.” See the story here

The Kremlin says Russia will retaliate against Western sanctions imposed since the invasion. The news comes as the EU prepares more sanctions against Russia. UN condemns the more than 1,800 arrests of anti-war protesters in Russia. Saint Petersburg is stripped of hosting this season’s Champions League final after Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. Read the story here.

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