KYIV, Ukraine – The understaffed and underarmed Ukrainian Defense Forces fought fierce resistance to the Russian invasion on Saturday, struggling to retain control of the capital, Kyiv, and other cities across the country. .
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a video on Twitter, telling the public not to believe false information.
He was alive. Kiev had not fallen. Any report that Ukraine had laid down its arms was a lie, Zelensky said.
“I’m here,” he said. “We are not laying down any weapons. We will protect our country, because our weapons are our truth. The truth is, this is our land, our country, our children, and we will protect them all.
“That’s it. That’s what I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine.”
His comments, posted before 9 a.m., came as fighting intensified in Kyiv. What until three days ago was a thriving European metropolis has turned into a battle zone. Russian troops poured in from all sides.
There was intense street fighting and flurries of gunfire and explosions could be heard throughout the city, including its heart, Maidan Square, where in 2014 Ukrainian protests led to the overthrow of a pro-Moscow government.
The Russian army has a decisive advantage in cyber warfare, tanks, heavy weapons, missiles, combat aircraft and warships. In numbers, its army dwarfs that of Ukraine.
Russia has established attack lines in three cities – Kiev in the north, Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south – and Ukrainian troops are fighting to hold all three. The Pentagon reported late Friday that the Russians did not appear to control a single major population center. Significantly, a senior US defense official said, Ukrainian command and control remains intact.
The Ukrainian government reported that hundreds of Russian soldiers had been killed in the war, along with dozens of their own soldiers, while the Russian Defense Ministry released a statement on Saturday morning that made no mention of casualties or what. whether it’s about the fight for Kiev.
The Russian invasion began with targeted airstrikes before dawn on Thursday, but on the third day of the war bloody battles were often fought at close quarters. Ukrainska Pravda, a Ukrainian news site, citing witnesses, reported fighting 400 meters from Maidan Square in central Kyiv.
All Ukrainian fighters are enrolled and tens of thousands enlist. Ukrainians were invited to make Molotov cocktails. And there were tearful scenes at airports in western Ukraine as women kissed their husbands before heading forward.
The nation has rallied around its president, Mr. Zelensky, a former comedian.
For him and other officials, the goal of the Russian invasion of a neighboring country that posed no military threat is to overthrow the government.
Mr. Zelensky said he was “target no. 1.”
As battles unfolded around the city on Saturday morning, clashes were reported near the city’s train station and along a central artery, Bohdan Khmelnitsky Street, leading from Victory Square to the city center , according to testimony. Along this street, closer to the city center, bursts of gunfire could be heard throughout the night.
“We are stopping the horde, as much as we can,” Ukrainian Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksy Danilov said at around 7 a.m. “The situation is under the control of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the citizens of Kyiv.”
In dozens of interviews in the tense hours before the invasion and in the days that followed, Ukrainians struggled to understand how a country at peace found itself so suddenly at war. For many Ukrainians, the answer was found in Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.
This is Mr. Putin’s war. But what scared people perhaps as much as the threat of missiles and bombs was that they didn’t know what he wanted.
The fear was evident on the drive from Kiev to a small village outside the city. Military convoys had replaced families going on vacation or visiting friends. Where once Kiev was known as a city where the music played a little too loudly in its cafes, the incessant whine of air raid sirens drowned out all joy.
Fear was evident on the faces of people seeking safety in western Ukraine, after emerging from a 20-hour train journey in packed carriages that were kept in pitch darkness to avoid being targeted by Russian rockets.
From Lviv in the west to Odessa in the south and Kharkiv and nearly every point in between, people crammed into air-raid shelters and lined up and ATMs and stocked up on basic necessities .
While the Russians, for the time being, did not control any towns, this was only the first phase of a conflict that could drag on for weeks or more.