Ukraine invasion latest: Russia looking to mass 'overwhelming forces' around Kyiv

·15 min read

Russia has "eliminated" Ukraine's air defences and is looking to mass overwhelming forces around the capital Kyiv, a senior Western intelligence officer has said this evening.

"Essentially the Russians now have complete air superiority over Ukraine," they said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Despite stiff resistance, the Kremlin's forces have managed to capture key airfields around Kyiv and could look to funnel troops through these footholds that would eventually link up with troops heading south from Belarus.

"A lot will depend on the resistance that the Ukrainians can put up, but I'm confident that the Russians will in the coming hours seek to apply an overwhelming force on the capital," the official said.

He said intelligence suggested Russia would look to remove the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky "either through 'decapitation' or through other pressure".

US President Joe Biden has lambasted Vladimir Putin for committing "an assault on the very principles that uphold the global peace," as the Pentagon announced that 7,000 more troops would be sent to Germany to help bolster Nato forces.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

12:15 AM

New Zealand announces travel bans for Russians

New Zealand imposed targeted travel bans on Russia and prohibited goods trade to its military and security forces as it joined Western allies in imposing sanctions.

"The world is speaking and sending a very clear message to Russia that what they have done is wrong and they will face the condemnation of the world," Jacinda Ardern said.

More sanctions may follow as the conflict escalates, the prime minister said.

11:30 PM

Zelensky: 'Saboteurs' have entered Kyiv

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Russian "sabotage" groups had entered Kyiv as he urged citizens to abide by new curfew rules.

Mr Zelensky signed a decree on general mobilisation, after Ukraine's border guard announced that men aged between 18 to 60 were prohibited from leaving the country under martial law.

In an address late on Thursday night, the Ukrainian president expressed disappointment in Western allies, saying Kyiv had been "left alone" to fight Russia. "The enemy marked me as target number one, and my family as target number two...I am staying in Kyiv," he said.

11:15 PM

Death toll rises to 137

The number of Ukrainians killed as a result of Russia's invasion has more than doubled in the past few hours.

Officials in Kyiv said at least 137 people have died, up from 57 earlier this evening.

10:45 PM

PM: Dark day in the history of Europe

Boris Johnson told ministers it is "a dark day in the history of our continent" following the invasion of Ukraine.

The Prime Minister held a Cabinet meeting on Thursday evening, which followed a Cobra meeting.

Mr Johnson said Russia's President Vladimir Putin has launched "a cynical and brutal invasion for his own vainglorious ends", a No 10 spokesman said.

10:29 PM

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle release statement

In a statement published on their Archewell website, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they "stand with the people of Ukraine".

The couple said: "Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and all of us at Archewell stand with the people of Ukraine against this breach of international and humanitarian law and encourage the global community and its leaders to do the same."

10:19 PM

Ukraine's president declares general mobilisation

President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a decree that orders the mobilisation of all conscripts and reservists in all Ukrainian regions.

This means that no 18-60 year-old conscripts and reservists are allowed to leave the country and must join the defence forces.

10:06 PM

US Congress to provide $600m for new Ukraine weapons

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said lawmakers want to provide Ukraine with $600 million for "lethal defence weapons" to battle Russia's unfolding attack.

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi - REUTERS/Tom Brenner
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi - REUTERS/Tom Brenner

"What we're doing with Ukraine is making sure that we have humanitarian assistance to help the people; that we have lethal defence weapons going into Ukraine to the tune of $600 million for them to fight their own fight," she said, speaking to reporters in San Francisco.

09:34 PM

Russian attack was 'unprovoked, cruel aggression' says MI6 boss

The head of MI6 has said Russia's attack on Ukraine was a "long planned, unprovoked, cruel aggression".

Richard Moore, known in Whitehall as C, tweeted that "US and UK intelligence communities uncovered Putin's plans for Ukraine".

He said: "We exposed his attempts to engineer 'false flag', fake attacks to justify his invasion. We revealed his plans to assassinate Ukrainian leaders and senior officials.

"This attack was long planned, unprovoked, cruel aggression.

"No amount of Russian disinformation will now disguise that fact from the international community."

09:24 PM

More detail on Macron-Putin call

Russian leader Vladimir Putin held a "frank" phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron Thursday, the Kremlin has said.

The leaders had a "serious and frank exchange of views" about Ukraine and Putin gave an "exhaustive explanation of the reasons and circumstances behind the decision to conduct a special military operation" there, it said in a statement.

The Elysee Palace said Macron called Putin to demand an end to Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.

"After having spoken with the Ukrainian president, and in coordination with him, the president (Macron) called Vladimir Putin to demand the immediate halt of Russian military operations, noting that Russia risked massive sanctions," the Elysee said as Macron attended an EU summit in Brussels.

This was the first known contact between Putin and a Western leader since the Kremlin ordered a massive invasion of Ukraine.

09:15 PM

Ukrainians can lock Facebook pages after 'kill list' fears

People in Ukraine can lock down their Facebook pages as a security measure, the platform said Thursday, following warnings Russia was creating lists of Ukrainians to kill after its invasion.

Users are able to block people they don't know from downloading and sharing their profile photo or seeing their posts, a tool the company also deployed after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last year.

The announcement comes after the United States warned the United Nations this week of "credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation."

09:10 PM

More than 1,700 people detained in Russia

Russian police have detained more than 1,700 people at anti-war protests across dozens of cities as thousands took to the streets after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to invade Ukraine, an independent monitor has said.

Many in Russia had been sceptical about Putin's plans to attack the pro-Western neighbour.

Moscow was asleep when Putin ordered an air and ground assault on Ukraine in the small hours of Thursday.

As troops advanced, the Kremlin said it was certain that Russians would "support" the war and that Ukraine needed to be "liberated and cleansed of Nazis".

Police officers detain demonstrators in St. Petersburg - AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky
Police officers detain demonstrators in St. Petersburg - AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky

But with shocking scenes of death in Ukraine, many prominent figures publicly spoke out against the war on Thursday and thousands of ordinary Russians defied draconian anti-protest legislation to take to the streets across the country.

Several thousand people gathered near Pushkin Square in central Moscow, while up to 1,000 people gathered in the former imperial capital Saint Petersburg, according to AFP correspondents at the scene.

09:02 PM

Putin and Macron hold a call

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone to French President Emmanuel Macron today and gave him an "exhaustive" explanation of the reasons for Russia's actions in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin said the call took place at Macron's initiative, and he and Putin agreed to stay in contact.

French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow - SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow - SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Mr Macron inserted himself as Putin's go-to president in the weeks before invading, even travelling to the Kremlin.

It is not known if other world leaders knew about this latest call. Earlier, US President Joe Biden said he had not been in contact with Mr Putin.

The Elysee has said that Macron called Putin to 'demand immediate halt' to the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

08:51 PM

Barack Obama releases statement on invasion

Former US President Barack Obama has released a statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In it, he says: "Over the long term, we app face a choice between a world in which might makes right and autocrats are free to impose their will through force, or a world in which free people everywhere have the power to determine their own future."

08:45 PM

100,000 Ukrainians have left their homes

The UN refugee agency has said that around 100,000 people had fled their homes in Ukraine and several thousand more had left the country since neighbouring Russia invaded early on Thursday.

"We believe that some 100,000 people must have already left their homes and may be displaced inside the country, and several thousand have crossed international borders," UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told AFP.

08:41 PM

Key airfield recaptured by Ukrainian forces

Ukrainian forces have recaptured an airfield in north-west suburbs of Kyiv, a presidential adviser has told Reuters.

Control of Hostomel Airfield is thought to be key for Russia's ability to assault Kyiv.

Smoke rising near the town of Hostomel and the Antonov Airport - DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images
Smoke rising near the town of Hostomel and the Antonov Airport - DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images

Tom Tugenhadt, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee has reacted to the news by tweeting: "This is extraordinary courage. I can only imagine how exhausted those Ukrainian soldiers are. They’re fighting for their freedom."

08:32 PM

Czechs, Latvia, Lithuania halt visas for Russians

The Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania on Thursday announced they had stopped issuing visas to Russian citizens in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

"We are suspending the processing of visa applications from Russian nationals at all our consular offices with the exception of humanitarian cases," Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala told reporters.

 Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala  - REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala - REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo

He also announced the closure of Czech consulates in Saint Petersburg and Yekaterinburg and said Russia's consulates in the Czech cities of Karlovy Vary and Brno were no longer permitted to operate.

Lithuania's foreign ministry said in a statement that it was also suspending visas for Russians "in solidarity with Ukraine and its people undergoing Russian military aggression".

Fellow Baltic state Latvia took the same decision.

08:30 PM

US to deliver more weapons, says Ukraine

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said that he had spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who told him about "plans to deliver new defensive weapons to help Ukraine defend itself".

Mr Kuleba made the remarks on Twitter, but did not give details. He added, "We need the world to help us".

08:25 PM

Liz Truss to travel to US and Europe

The Foreign Secretary will visit the US and Europe "in the coming days" to "galvanise the international response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine."

Earlier today she summoned Russia's ambassador to the UK but dismissed him within ten minutes after a dressing down.

A source told Sky's Beth Rigby: “It was a heated meeting. Liz Truss kicked him out early. Said he should be ashamed of himself, that Russia has lied repeatedly and lost its last shred of credibility with the international community”

Liz Truss departs Downing Street after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired an emergency Cobra meeting - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Liz Truss departs Downing Street after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired an emergency Cobra meeting - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

08:14 PM

MoD posts invasion map

This is a very clear breakdown by the UK of Russia's assault on Ukraine.

It shows advances from the North, East and South as well as attacks on 13 sites.

08:09 PM

France says Putin needs to understand Nato has nuclear weapons

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin, when making threats about using nuclear weapons, needs to understand that Nato, too, is a nuclear alliance.

Asked whether Putin's threat of "such consequences that you have never encountered in your history" was tantamount to threatening to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict, Le Drian said it was understood as such.

"Yes, I think that Vladimir Putin must also understand that the Atlantic alliance is a nuclear alliance. That is all I will say about this," Le Drian said on French television TF1.

07:51 PM

Sporting events called off

Due to concerns over player safety and uncertainty related to international travel following the recent escalation of events between Russia and Ukraine, next week’s ATP Challenger tournament in Moscow will not take place as scheduled, the ATP has announced.

This comes as UEFA is expected to announce that the Champions League final will not be held at the 68,000-capacity Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg.

Zenit St Petersburg captain Artem Dzyuba playing in the Gazprom Arena - Alexander Demianchuk\\TASS via Getty Images
Zenit St Petersburg captain Artem Dzyuba playing in the Gazprom Arena - Alexander Demianchuk\\TASS via Getty Images

In Formula One, team bosses will meet with the sport's CEO Stefano Domenicali to discuss the situation this evening. The Russian Grand Prix is scheduled to take place in September, but already four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has said he will not race if the event is held there. Reigning world champion Max Verstappen also expressed his reservations.

07:42 PM

Airspace clear over Ukraine

This graphic from FlightRadar24 shows the difference in just a week.

Planes are avoiding Ukrainian airspace.

07:39 PM

Pentagon announces new troop movements

"At the direction of the President, Secretary of Defence Austin has ordered the deployment to Europe of approximately 7,000 additional Service Members," a statement says.

"This would comprise an armoured brigade combat team with associated capabilities and enablers."

07:33 PM

Russia seeking to mass 'overwhelming force' around Kyiv

Russia is looking to advance massive forces on Ukraine's capital Kyiv as Moscow seeks to press its offensive deeper into its neighbour, a senior Western intelligence official told AFP.

"A lot will depend on the resistance that the Ukrainians can put up, but I'm confident that the Russians will in the coming hours seek to apply an overwhelming force on the capital," the official said on condition of anonymity.

07:25 PM

'We cannot and will not just look away,' says PM

In a new tweet, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says: "Ukraine is a country that for decades has enjoyed freedom and democracy and the right to choose its own destiny. We – and the world – cannot allow that freedom just to be snuffed out. We cannot and will not just look away."

Downing Street has tweeted a picture of Number 10 lit up in blue and yellow.

07:17 PM

1,400 Russians detained at protests

Russian police have detained almost 1,400 people at anti-war protests across Russia after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to invade Ukraine, an independent monitor has said.

"More than 1,391 people have already been detained in 51 cities," said OVD-Info, which tracks arrests at opposition rallies. More than 700 people have been detained in Moscow and over 340 people in the second-largest city Saint Petersburg, the monitor said.

07:12 PM

Ukraine announces 57 deaths

Ukraine's Health Minister has said that 57 people were killed and 169 were wounded following Russia's invasion today.

07:06 PM

Russia not removed from SWIFT

President Biden says Russia won’t be removed from the SWIFT international banking system for now because "right now that is not the position the rest of Europe wishes to take."

Ukraine has asked the international community to take Russia of of SWIFT.

07:02 PM

Freedom will prevail

Mr Biden closes his remarks by saying: "In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake: Freedom will prevail."

Now he is taking questions.

07:02 PM

No US boots on the ground in Ukraine

"Our forces are not and will not be engaged in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine," says Mr Biden.

However, he adds that the US will defend "every inch of Nato territory."

“America stands up to bullies and we stand up for freedom. This is who we are.”

07:00 PM

Joe Biden speaking in the White House

The new sanctions announced by the White House include blocking four more major banks, including the second largest bank in Russia that holds $250 billion in assets and adding the names of Russian elites and their family members to sanction lists.

"This aggression cannot go unanswered," says Mr Biden.

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the East Room of the White House - MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the East Room of the White House - MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

"If it did, the consequences for America would be much worse.

"If Russia pursues cyber attacks against our companies, we will respond."

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