Russia hits Ukrainian oil and gas facilities in wave of attacks | Russian-Ukrainian crisis

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

Huge explosions lit up the sky early Sunday south of the capital, Kyiv, where people hunkered down in homes, underground garages and metro stations and the government maintained a 39-hour curfew in anticipation of a full-scale assault by Russian forces.

Flames rose into the pre-dawn sky from an oil depot near an airbase in Vasylkiv, near Kiev, where there was heavy fighting, according to the city’s mayor. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said another explosion occurred at Zhuliany civilian airport.

Zelenskyy’s office also said Russian forces blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, prompting the government to warn people to protect themselves from the smoke by covering their windows with a damp cloth or the gauze.

“We will fight as long as necessary to liberate our country,” Zelenskyy said.

The curfew in Kiev is expected to last until Monday morning. The relative calm of the capital was sporadically disturbed by gunfire.

Russian-backed separatists in the eastern province of Luhansk said a Ukrainian missile blew up an oil terminal in the town of Rovenky.

More than 150,000 Ukrainians have fled to Poland, Moldova and other neighboring countries, and the United Nations has warned the number could rise to four million if fighting escalates.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not revealed his ultimate goal, but Western officials believe he is determined to overthrow the Ukrainian government and replace it with his own regime, redraw the map of Europe and revive the influence of Moscow during the Cold War era.

To help Ukraine resist, the United States pledged an additional $350 million in military aid, including anti-tank weapons, body armor and small arms. Germany said it would send anti-tank missiles and weapons to the beleaguered country and close its airspace to Russian planes.

Meanwhile, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States have agreed to block “selected” Russian banks from the global financial messaging system SWIFT, which transfers money between banks and other institutions. around the world, as part of a new round of sanctions aimed at exacting a heavy toll on Moscow for the invasion. They also agreed to impose “restrictive measures” on Russia’s central bank.

It is unclear how much territory Russian forces seized or how much of their advance was blocked. The British Ministry of Defense said: “The speed of the Russian advance has temporarily slowed, probably due to acute logistical difficulties and heavy Ukrainian resistance.”

The fighting on the outskirts of the city suggested that small Russian units were trying to clear a path for the main forces. Small groups of Russian troops were reported inside Kiev, but Britain and the United States said the bulk of the forces were 30 km (19 miles) from the city’s center on Saturday after- midday.

Russia says its assault on Ukraine from the north, east and south is aimed only at military targets, but bridges, schools and residential neighborhoods have been hit.

Ukraine’s health minister announced on Saturday that 198 people, including three children, had been killed and more than 1,000 others injured. It was unclear whether these figures included both military and civilian casualties.

INTERACTIVE- Where Ukrainians are fleeing around February 26

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova said troops in Kiev were fighting Russian “sabotage groups”. According to Ukraine, some 200 Russian soldiers were captured and thousands killed.

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

Putin sent troops to Ukraine after denying for weeks that he intended to do so, while building up a force of nearly 200,000 troops along the countries’ borders.

He says the West has not taken Russia’s security concerns about NATO, the Western military alliance that Ukraine aspires to join, seriously. But he also expressed his contempt for Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent state.

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