Russia unleashes wave of attacks on Ukraine’s fuel facilities and airfields

Russia Unleashes Wave Of Attacks On Ukraine’s Fuel Facilities And Airfields
Ukrainian refugees cry as they reunite at the Medyka border crossing
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By Associated Press Reporters

Russia has unleashed a wave of attacks on Ukraine targeting airfields and fuel facilities in what appeared to be the next phase of an invasion that has been slowed by fierce resistance.

Huge explosions lit up the sky early on Sunday south of the capital, Kyiv, where people hunkered down in homes, underground garages and subway stations in anticipation of a full-scale assault by Russian forces.


Flames billowed into the sky before dawn from an oil depot near an air base in Vasylkiv, where there has been intense fighting, according to the town’s mayor.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said another explosion was at the civilian Zhuliany airport.

The office said Russian forces had also blown up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.

Ukrainian soldiers look out from a broken window inside a military facility
Ukrainian soldiers look out from a broken window inside a military facility, after an explosion in Kyiv (Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo)


The State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection warned that the explosion, which it said looked like a mushroom cloud, could cause an “environmental catastrophe” and advised residents to cover their windows with damp cloth or gauze and to drink plenty of fluids.

Terrified men, women and children sought safety inside and underground, and the government maintained a 39-hour curfew to keep people off the streets.

More than 150,000 Ukrainians fled for Poland, Moldova and other neighbouring countries, and the United Nations warned the number could grow to four million if fighting escalates.


Civilian Members of a territorial defence unit fit their weapons to repel the Russian attacking forces in Kyiv
Civilian Members of a territorial defence unit fit their weapons to repel the Russian attacking forces in Kyiv (Mikhail Palinchak/AP Photo)

Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, said troops in Kyiv were fighting Russian “sabotage groups.” Ukraine says some 200 Russian soldiers have been captured and thousands killed.

Ms Markarova said Ukraine was gathering evidence of shelling of residential areas, kindergartens and hospitals to submit to The Hague as possible crimes against humanity.


Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova, earlier said that Russian forces have been unable to take Kharkiv. The city of 1.5 million is located 25 miles from the Russian border.


The United Nations says it has confirmed at least 240 civilian casualties, including at least 64 people killed, in the fighting in Ukraine that erupted since Russia’s invasion on Thursday — though it believed the “real figures are considerably higher” because many reports of casualties remain to be confirmed.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) relayed the count late on Saturday from the UN human rights office, which has strict methodologies and verification procedures about the toll from conflict.

OCHA also said damage to civilian infrastructure has deprived hundreds of thousands of people of access to electricity or water, and produced a map of “humanitarian situations” in Ukraine — mostly in northern, eastern and southern Ukraine.

The human rights office had reported early Friday an initial count by its staffers of at least 127 civilian casualties – 25 people killed and 102 injured – mostly from shelling and airstrikes.

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv
A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Skirmishes have flared on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital as the country’s president vowed to keep battling a Russian invasion that has led to his people seeking safety underground.

The Russian assault on Kyiv has led to a curfew being announced in the city, set to last through until Monday morning.

Even as journalists were forced inside, the relative quiet of the night in Kyiv was sporadically broken by gunfire.

Sisters wait at a checkpoint run by local volunteers
Sisters wait at a checkpoint run by local volunteers after arriving from Ukraine, crossing the border in Beregsurany, Hungary (Anna Szilagyi/AP)

President Zelensky promised to “fight for as long as needed to liberate our country”, as he continued to press for additional international help.

Fighting on the city’s outskirts suggested that small Russian units are trying to clear a path for the main forces.

Small groups of Russian troops were reported inside Kyiv, but the UK and US said the bulk of Russian forces were 19 miles from the city’s centre as of Saturday afternoon.

Russia claims its assault on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets, but bridges, schools and residential areas have been hit since the invasion began on Thursday, with air and missile strikes and Russian troops entering Ukraine from the north, east and south.

A burning truck
A burnt-out military truck in the street in Kyiv (AP)

Ukraine’s health minister reported that 198 people, including three children, had been killed and more than 1,000 others had been wounded during Europe’s largest land conflict since the Second World War.

It is unclear whether those figures included both military and civilian casualties.

In Kyiv, a missile struck a high-rise apartment building in the south-western outskirts near one of the city’s two passenger airports, leaving a jagged hole of ravaged apartments over several floors.

A rescue worker said six civilians were injured.

Mr Zelensky reiterated his openness to talks with Russia in a video message on Saturday, saying he welcomed an offer from the leaders of Turkey and Azerbaijan to organise fresh diplomatic efforts.

That came a day after Mr Zelensky offered to negotiate a key Russian demand: that Ukraine should abandon ambitions of joining Nato.

Ukrainian soldiers on patrol in Kyiv
Ukrainian soldiers on patrol in Kyiv (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Russian president Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine after he spent weeks denying this was his intention, all the while building up a force of almost 200,000 soldiers along the countries’ borders.

He claims the West has failed to take seriously Russia’s security concerns about Nato, the Western military alliance that Ukraine aspires to join. But he has also expressed scorn about Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent state.

Mr Putin has not disclosed his ultimate plans for Ukraine, but Western officials believe he is determined to overthrow Ukraine’s government and replace it with a regime of his own, redrawing the map of Europe and reviving Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.

Ukraine Invasion
A damaged apartment building in Kyiv (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

A senior US defence official said more than half of the Russian combat power that was massed along Ukraine’s borders had entered Ukraine, and that Russia has had to commit more fuel supply and other support units inside Ukraine than originally anticipated.

Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said a Russian missile was shot down before dawn on Saturday as it headed for the dam of the sprawling water reservoir that serves Kyiv, and Ukraine said a Russian military convoy was destroyed near the city early on Saturday.

Footage showed soldiers inspecting burned-out vehicles after Ukraine’s 101st brigade reported destroying a column of two light vehicles, two trucks and a tank. The claim could not be verified.

Highways into Kyiv from the east were dotted with checkpoints manned by uniformed Ukrainian troops and young men in civilian clothes carrying automatic rifles. Low-flying planes patrolled the skies, though it is unclear if they were Russian or Ukrainian.

Ukrainian refugees
Refugees fleeing conflict in neighboring Ukraine arrive to Przemysl, Poland (AP)

In addition to Kyiv, the Russian assault appeared to focus on Ukraine’s coastline, which stretches from near the Black Sea port of Odesa in the west to beyond the Azov Sea port of Mariupol in the east.

If the Russian troops succeed, Ukraine would be cut off from access to all of its sea ports, which are vital for its economy.

In Mariupol, Ukrainian soldiers guarded bridges and blocked people from the shoreline amid concerns the Russian navy could launch an assault from the sea.

Fighting also raged in two territories in eastern Ukraine that are controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Authorities in the city of Donetsk said hot water supplies to the city of about 900,000 were suspended because of damage to the system by Ukrainian shelling.

Ukraine subway
A girl paints on a note book next to her mother as they shelter in the Kyiv subway (AP)

The US government urged Mr Zelensky to evacuate Kyiv but he turned down the offer, according to a senior American intelligence official.

In a video recorded in Kyiv, Mr Zelensky declared: “We aren’t going to lay down weapons. We will protect the country.

“Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that it’s our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of that.”

The conflict has driven thousands of Ukrainians from their homes in search of safety.

Officials in Kyiv have urged residents to seek shelter, to stay away from windows and to take precautions to avoid flying debris or bullets.

The US military has announced 350 million dollars (£261 million) in assistance to Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, body armour and small arms.

Germany likewise said it would send missiles and anti-tank weapons to the country, in a significant shift.

The US and its allies have beefed up troops on Nato’s eastern flank but so far have ruled out deploying troops to fight Russia.

Ukraine exodus
People gather to catch a train and leave Ukraine for neighbouring countries (AP)

Mr Zelenskyy has appealed for tougher sanctions.

However, a senior Russian official shrugged off sanctions as a reflection of Western “political impotence”.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s security council, warned that Moscow could react to the sanctions by opting out of the last remaining nuclear arms pact, freezing Western assets and cutting diplomatic ties with nations in the West.

“There is no particular need in maintaining diplomatic relations,” Mr Medvedev said. “We may look at each other in binoculars and gunsights.”

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