Russian Strikes On Ukrainian Cities Continue With Attack Near Kyiv’s Famous TV Tower
There are fears the Kremlin is preparing for a major attack on Ukraine’s capital that will include false claims that the government has surrendered.
The Russian military's new campaign of targeting urban areas in Ukraine now includes a strike near Kyiv's iconic TV Tower. This follows a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense announcing planned strikes against multiple targets in the Ukrainian capital and warning residents to flee their homes. This all comes amid continued fears that Russia is softening up the city for a major assault. Before diving into the latest news on this conflict below, you can find out what has happened already today in our earlier rolling coverage here.
Our updates to this story have come to a close. You can find our continuing rolling coverage here.
UPDATED: 6:00 PM EST —
The issue of nuclear weapons has come to the fore since Russian President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert two days ago, in a clear sign of brinkmanship directed toward NATO. Now, Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command has confirmed that the United States will not alter its nuclear posture, saying "I have made no recommendations to make any changes and part of that is because right is ... our nuclear command and control is in its most defended, most resilient lineup that it's ever been in, in its history."
Meanwhile, in terms of conventional weapons, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are continuing to capture a wide variety from Russia, including a BMD-2 airborne infantry fighting vehicle, together with examples of the 9M113 Konkurs anti-tank guided missile that constitutes part of its armament. Interestingly, the vehicle in question also appears to be equipped with a counter-IED system.
This Russian Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery system is also among the equipment that has apparently been abandoned and then destroyed by the defending forces:
In what would be a significant breakthrough for the Russians, reports are also now coming in that their forces have captured the city of Kherson at the mouth of the Dnieper River, which has been the scene of fighting for at least the last four days.
UPDATED: 3:30 PM EST —
The Ukrainian Air Force says that at least one Russian Tu-22M Backfire bomber was involved in the strike on Kharkiv on February 28.
A video has appeared on social media that was reportedly taken by a drone flying near Ukraine's southern port city of Mariupol and shows Ukrainian forces engaging Russian units.
A video, reportedly taken by an individual in an apartment building somewhere in Ukraine, has emerged that appears to show an incoming projectile hitting the structure after being fired by a tank down the street.
The Ukrainian military has released more pictures of military aid that it has received recently.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces has posted details on social media about the likely meanings of different temporarily applied markings that have been seen on various invading Russian vehicles, as you can read more about here. A separate infographic shows how to tell the difference between Russian and Ukrainian military helicopters.
The video below reportedly shows yet another instance of average Ukrainians protesting against Russian forces currently occupying certain parts of the country.
U.S. President Joe Biden has again spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart Zelensky. The White House official readout of that call is seen in the Tweet below.
The Kremlin appears to be shutting down some of the very last fully-independent media outlets in the country over their coverage of the invasion. The Russian government has worked hard to control the domestic narrative about what is happening in Ukraine, but has seen significant anti-war protests in major cities already.
In yet another indicator of the impacts of mounting U.S. and other foreign sanctions area already having on Russia, the Kremlin has reportedly banned individuals from withdrawing more than $10,000 in foreign currency from domestic accounts. The value of the ruble against the U.S. dollar continues to fall.
UPDATED: 1:20 PM EST —
Ukrainian authorities now say that five civilians died in the attack near the Kyiv TV Tower. All of them were reportedly innocent bystanders.
It has been pointed out that the Kyiv TV Tower is situated in an area called Babi Yar or Babyn Yar, which was the site of an infamous massacre that the Nazis carried out during the Holocaust and is now a memorial to those who died there. Russia has attempted to paint its invasion of Ukraine as, among other things, an effort to "denazify" the country.
There are unconfirmed reports that a Russian Su-34 Fullback combat jet was at least damaged over Kyiv today based on a picture that appears to show a fragment of one of these jets lying on the ground.
The city of Kharkiv (Kharkov) continues to be under attack, as well.
More footage has emerged online reportedly showing Russian forces in the southern city of Kherson. One appears to show a Russian BTR-82A wheeled armored vehicle under attack by Ukrainian Forces.
In spite of all of this, there are reports that Ukrainian officials have agreed to hold a second round of talks this week with their Russian counterparts with the aim of negotiating an end to the conflict, or at least an immediate ceasefire. This comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had said that the Kremlin need to stop its strike before any such talks could occur.
There is still a steady flow of videos and pictures reportedly showing Ukrainian forces capturing or otherwise inspecting destroyed or abandoned Russian tanks, armored vehicles, and other materiel. A not-insignificant number of the vehicles in question show little to no obvious signs of damage, raising the possibility that they were abandoned after running out of fuel.
At a meeting today of his Security Council, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko appears to have shown a map of planned Russian military operation in Ukraine that makes clear the that Kremlin has been executing a large-scale invasion. The lines of advance shown on the map line up perfectly with how Russian forces have been observed proceeding so far.
The U.S. military is supporting the delivery of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as military aid, as seen in official pictures released today.
Earlier in the day, the European Parliament voted in favor of calling on the European Union to give Ukraine candidate status. This came after Ukrainian President Zelensky had reiterated his appeal for the bloc to admit the country as soon as possible, potentially using some kind of novel ascension mechanism.
POSTED: 12:15 PM EST —
An advisor to Ukraine's Interior Ministry has confirmed this was a Russian strike, saying that it targeted the TV Tower, which was completed in 1973 and is the second-tallest freestanding lattice tower in the world. However, pictures and video indicate that the weapon or weapons employed, which are unknown at this time, hit areas nearby. This could suggest that the tower itself might not have been the intended target. Regardless, Ukrainian authorities have said that there has been some disruption in broadcasting from the tower as a result.
Earlier today, the Russian Defense Ministry had publicly declared plans to strike targets related to the Security Service of Ukraine, also known by the acronym SBU, and the 72nd Center for Information and Psychological Operations, or PSO. The SBU is a national-level law-enforcement, counter-intelligence, and counter-terrorism organization. The PSO is a military psychological warfare operations unit that is part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces' special operations community.
"We urge Ukrainian citizens involved by Ukrainian nationalists in provocations against Russia, as well as Kiev [Kyiv] residents living near relay stations, to leave their homes," the Russian Defense Ministry's statement added.
Separately, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov had warned that the Kremlin was about to launch a major information and psychological warfare operation of its own, which would include targeting communications capabilities in the country.
There continue to be concerns that the Kremlin is massing forces outside of Kyiv for a major attack on the city. However, a U.S. defense official has told reporters that a massive column north of the capital that has been seen in publicly available satellite imagery is moving very slowly and that it may be experiencing new supply chain issues.
This all of course follows the brazen Russian strike on the center of Kharkiv to the east earlier today, a city which the U.S. government says the Kremlin is still trying to encircle. Russian forces have continued to push elsewhere along their main lines of advance, as well.
The Russian Ministry of Defense earlier today claimed to have secured complete control over Ukraine's Sea of Azov coastline, something that has been a major goal from the beginning of the invasion. If true, this would give them an important land bridge between western Russia and occupied Crimea via areas of eastern Ukraine's Donbas region that are nominally under the control of pro-Kremlin separatists.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense has assessed that Russian forces have made significant advances in these areas in the past 24 hours, but are not in control of major population centers. A U.S. official has also said that Mariupol remains under Ukrainian control, but there is a growing risk of encirclement. There continues to be no sign of active operations aimed at Odesa or other areas of Ukraine's Black Sea coastline to the west.
Still, fighting in and around many of these cities is clearly very active. Video footage has also emerged showing Russian troops in the city of Kherson, which has been a major focal point of Russia's advances north out of Crimea.
All told, the U.S. government now believes that the Kremlin has committed 80 percent of the forces it had positioned around Ukraine in recent months to the invasion. Russia has now fired at least 400 ballistic and cruise missiles over the course of the conflict, according to a U.S. defense official. There continue to be reports of poor morale and logistical issues hampering the overall progress of Russian military operations in the country, though there is still an exception that the Kremlin will reorient itself after learning from its initial missteps.
The U.S. military says that it has assessed that the Russian military has deployed TOS-1A mobile rocket launch systems armed with thermobaric rockets, which you can read more about here, and that some of them are now in a position to be employed. There is no indication yet that these weapons have actually been used and one of them may already have fallen into Ukrainian hands.
In the meantime, the U.S. and its NATO allies, among others, continue to send weapons and other military aid or announce plans to do so. The Ukrainian military announced today that it received additional shipments of Stinger shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, Javelin and NLAW guided anti-tank missiles, and M141 SMAW-D single-shot, guided rocket launchers, among other things.
The U.S. government and officials from other NATO member countries continue to push against calls for more direct intervention into the conflict, including the possible establishment of a no-fly zone. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson today laid out the potential risks of escalation that would result in enforcing such a zone, which would require a willingness to shoot down Russian aircraft.
The U.S. government says that at least 500,000 Ukrainians have left the country since Russia's invasion began last week. Approximately 70 American nationals have crossed over into Poland, with the vast majority not needing any assistance after arriving there from U.S. military forces that are deployed to assist those evacuating.
United Nations representatives from a large number of countries staged a walkout today as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was about to speak on the situation in Ukraine during a gathering of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a Belarusian human rights activist who ran against long-time dictator Alexander Lukashenko for president of the country in 2020 and is now living in exile in Poland, tweeted new details about reported actions that activists still in Belarus are taking to try to disrupt that country's support for Russia's invasion.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland's deputy head of government, or Tánaiste, says that his country could reconsider its long-standing policies of neutrality in light of the conflict in Ukraine. Ireland joins a number of other historically neutral European countries that are now seeing shifting attitudes on these issues in the wake of Russia's invasion.
We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
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