Russian forces would enter areas outside Kyiv on Friday, a top Ukrainian defense official has said. Ukraine’s president called on the international community to help his country.
Explosions were heard in Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, which lies close to Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, on Friday with the mayor telling residents to seek shelter from Russian missiles in subway stations, basements and bomb shelters, Reuters news agency reported. Air raid sirens were set off in cities across the country as reports emerged of rockets landing in residential areas.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that Russia wanted to “liberate Ukrainians from oppression,” adding that the invading force is not planning to occupy Ukraine, Reuters reported.
The aim of the invasion, according to Lavrov, is to demilitarize Ukraine. He went on to say that Russia wants the Ukrainian people to be independent and determine their own destiny. Lavrov added that Moscow would engage in talks with Kyiv, but only after the Ukrainian military laid down its weapons.
The Kremlin on Friday also pledged to retaliate to Western sanctions. It acknowledged that sanctions would be damaging, but that the problems they may cause would be solvable. “It goes without saying that retaliatory measures will follow,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “Just how symmetrical or asymmetrical they will be depends on the analysis, the restrictions have yet to be analysed,” he added. The comments from the Kremlin came as the EU announced that it was preparing further emergency sanctions against Russia.
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