Ukraine Says 137 Killed In Russia Attack; Missiles Hit Kyiv

New Delhi: Russian forces moved deep into Ukraine on the second day of the invasion with explosions heard in the capital that the besieged government described as “horrific rocket strikes”. At least 137 “heroes” have died since Thursday, Ukraine has said.

Two loud blasts were heard in central Kyiv early Friday, news agency AFP reported early Friday morning. Ukraine’s army said that Russia fired on civilian areas of Kyiv but that Ukraine’s air defence systems repelled “two deadly gifts”, according to a post on its verified Facebook page.

“Horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv,” Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba posted on Twitter after explosions were heard in the capital before dawn. “Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany. Ukraine defeated that evil and will defeat this one.”

The invasion of Ukraine has invited severe economic sanctions on Russia. In a speech from the White House, US President Joe Biden said four more banks — including the two biggest, Sberbank & VTB — would be hit with sanctions by Western sanctions. In addition, export controls slapped on sensitive components will “cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports.” The penalties will be severe, and will have lasting impact on Russia’s economy, Mr Biden said.

The US President confirmed that for now there was no attempt to put sanctions directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is widely reported to have amassed a huge, secret fortune during his two decades in power.

The Western coalition has however decided against the much talked about move to cut Russia from the SWIFT international payments system despite a plea from Ukraine. The move which would have essentially crippling its banking sector could not take place as the Western coalition could not come to an agreement, Mr Biden said.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed dissatisfaction over the western coalition’s efforts against Moscow. In a video address, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country was “left alone” to fight Russia. “We have been left alone to defend our state,” Zelensky said.

President Biden on Thursday said that the United States will have consultations with India on the crisis in Ukraine. India has a historic and time-tested friendship with Russia. At the same time, its strategic partnership with the US has grown at an unprecedented pace over the last decade and half.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin late Thursday, appealing for an “immediate cessation of violence”. The conversation came hours after Ukraine’s urgent appeal to India for intervention.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said its first day of the Ukraine invasion had achieved all its goals and that it had destroyed 83 land-based Ukrainian targets. Ukraine’s military said it had destroyed four Russian tanks near Kharkiv, killed 50 troops near a town in Luhansk region, and downed six Russian warplanes in the east. Russia denied reports its aircraft or armoured vehicles had been destroyed. Russian-backed separatists claimed to have downed two Ukrainian planes.

Russia launched its invasion by land, air and sea on Thursday following a declaration of war by President Vladimir Putin. An estimated 100,000 people fled as explosions and gunfire rocked major cities. US and Ukrainian officials say Russia aims to capture Kyiv and topple the government.

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