Amid widespread reports that the Russian army is closing in on Ukraine's capital of Kiev, underground shelters including the subway system are filling up with civilians hunkering down, expecting a larger scale attack on the city of some three million as Russian forces are said to now be in the suburbs and on the outskirts of the city.
"Civilians are terrified of further escalation, with many attempting to flee their homes and others taking shelter where possible," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ravina Shamdasani said Friday while condemning the assault. She said "the military action by the Russian Federation clearly violates international law. It puts at risk countless lives and it must be immediately halted."
In response Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared that "nobody is going to attack the people of Ukraine," while describing to CNN that the military seeks "no strikes on civilian infrastructure."
"I will stress: read what Putin said. No strikes on civilian infrastructure, no strikes on the personnel of the Ukrainian army, on their dormitories, or other places not connected to the military facilities. The statistics that we have confirm this," the Kremlin top diplomat said.
"Nobody is going to somehow degrade the Ukrainian Armed Forces. We are talking about preventing Neo-Nazis and those promoting genocide from ruling this country," he continued. "The current regime in Kyiv is under two external control mechanisms. First, the West and the US. And second, neo-Nazis," he charged.
There are increasing scenes of tanks and armored equipment rolling through city and neighborhood streets. The following are unconfirmed but are being widely circulated among Ukrainian and international observers...
Graphic: Russian tank appears to smash into and over a civilian vehicle...
It appears there may be more surges of tank units into Ukraine to come...
Russian tanks and vehicles are heading to Ukraine via railways. The video was taken in southwestern Belarus. pic.twitter.com/gWpbjNGUpx— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) February 25, 2022
Russian tanks in the Ukrainian streets of Gomel. pic.twitter.com/LPNoxqPqov— Spriter (@spriter99880) February 25, 2022
Kiev is disputing Lavrov's claims, saying at least 137 people have been killed so far into Friday, including civilians, and with a UN refugee agency statement counting about 100,000 Ukrainians being displaced - many now pouring into neighboring European states like Poland.
Previously the US established logistical outposts along the border to assist the fleeing civilians, and also any of the thousands of US nationals still in Ukraine.
Russian forces continue their advance from air and on the ground, with reports that a an aerodrome was taken near Kiev, and paratroopers landing once the ground base area was secured, according to Russia's defense ministry. There are also reports of the large-scale movement of ground forces further toward and into the capital - and simultaneously resistance being put up by Ukrainian national forces:
Ukraine forces blew up a bridge about 30 miles north of Kyiv on Thursday in order to thwart the advance of Russian tanks toward the capital city, according to reports.
The nation’s airborne assault troops targeted the bridge, which crosses the Teteriv River at Ivankiv, helping ground forces stop a Russian tank convoy, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said, according to Newsweek.
However, despite in some instances momentary Russian reversals, it appears they continue to grab key strategic locations off the outskirts of Kiev. "Russia’s defense ministry says its forces have captured the strategic Hostomel airfield, situated just 7 kilometers (4 miles) northwest of Kyiv, and landed paratroopers in the area," Al Jazeera details of the latest.
There are reports that a special Chechen unit of Russia's military is preparing to be deployed to Ukraine...
THOUSANDS of Kadyrovtsy, Russia’s Chechen military — going to Donbas AND Ukraine. The head of Chechen military & republic: “ Here’s advice to Zelensky before he becomes the current ex-president of Ukraine: apologize to Putin.” pic.twitter.com/y5trfFMulH— ASB News / MILITARY〽️ (@ASBMilitary) February 25, 2022
Below: Ukraine's military is touting that its air force has downed an advanced Russian fighter...
#stoprussia— Defence of Ukraine (@DefenceU) February 25, 2022
Що виробляє цей український ас 😳🤜
МіГ-29 Повітряних Сил ЗСУ знищує "нєімєющій аналогов" Су-35 російських окупантів ❌❌❌ pic.twitter.com/z6YVnm8ezo
The airbase is considered a huge strategic gain and staging ground for further operations to secure Kiev. "The Hostomel airfield has been the site of some of the most intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces," the report details. "The site has a long runway capable of accommodating heavy transport planes."
Vladimir Putin is prepared to send a delegation to Minsk for negotiations on Ukraine's neutrality as Russia continues its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Friday.— max seddon (@maxseddon) February 25, 2022
Russia's conditions, however, effectively amount to Ukraine's surrender.
Meanwhile President Zelensky has appealed to his troops to "hold your ground, you are all that we have" - while all eligible males ages 16-60 are being barred from leaving the country so they can fight.
"The city has gone into a defensive phase," the Mayor of Kiev Vitali Klitschk added to Zelensky's appeal. "Shots and explosions are ringing out in some neighbourhoods saboteurs have already entered Kyiv. The enemy wants to put the capital on its knees and destroy us."
Here's Varoufakis -- the leftist former Finance Minister of Greece and current member of Parliament -- elaborating on his view that the US should provide Russia its vow never to put Ukraine in NATO or militarily defend Ukraine in exchange for Russia withdrawing its troops: pic.twitter.com/VpZOGxTGZW— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 25, 2022
And as things get more desperate, an unusual appeal went out from Ukraine's Defense Ministry on Friday telling common citizens to make molotov cocktails to repel the Russian invaders. Ukrainian citizens were told to "neutralize the occupier" by any means.
The official Defense Ministry post urging citizens to prepare to resist:
❗️увага— Defence of Ukraine (@DefenceU) February 25, 2022
На Оболоні ворожа ДРГ.
Просимо громадян повідомляти про пересування техніки!
Виготовляти коктейлі «Молотова», знешкоджувати окупанта!
Мирним мешканцям - бути обережними! Не покидати оселі!
Molotovs in Kyiv.— Illia Ponomarenko (@IAPonomarenko) February 25, 2022
Waiting for Russian tanks. pic.twitter.com/PKHPv5k9Ub
It appears local militias are also forming in various places, including under Ukraine's former leader...
Former Ukrainian president Petro @poroshenko shows @JohnBerman the arms his group is carrying, including a short Kalashnikov and two machine guns, noting they don't have a tank or anything more since they just started this patrol a few days ago pic.twitter.com/03hUysku89— Nora Neus (@noraneus) February 25, 2022
Further ordinary citizens are being asked to report Russian force movements via a tip line or by contacting local authorities. "We ask citizens to inform about the movement of equipment!" the urgent social media message posted by the Defense Ministry of Ukraine said.