The Ukrainian government mobilized reservists, barred men ages 18–60 from leaving the country, and handed out firearms to volunteers as Russian armed forces continued their campaign to take over the Eastern European country of 44 million.
By the end of Feb. 25, Russian troops had made advances on various fronts, critically in the suburbs of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. Airstrikes, artillery, and rockets pounded the metropolis of 3 million in the night as the attackers attempted to achieve an encirclement.
In a televised speech made Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the Ukrainian military to overthrow the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, calling his government a “gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis.”
It would be “much easier for us to deal with you” than with Zelensky, Putin said of the Ukrainian military personnel. The Kremlin said that Putin is willing to meet Ukrainian officials in Belarus, to discuss terms.
While the Russians have progressed on most fronts, resistance to the invasion has been determined, with at least hundreds of casualties on both sides. No reports of mass desertions or defection have emerged since the war began.
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The Pentagon warned on Feb. 24 that Russia was likely seeking to “decapitate” the Ukrainian government and replace it with a pro-Kremlin leadership upon encircling and seizing Kiev.
Russian armor, helicopters, infantry, and other forces attacked in the direction of the capital via neighboring Belarus, which is allied with Russia. They fought with Ukrainian defenders at the deactivated Chernobyl nuclear power station, taking the site of the infamous meltdown before continuing to Kiev.
West of the Dnieper river, which bisects Kiev, Russian VDV airborne troops attempted to take a cargo airport in Gostomel, a short drive from the city. They were attacked and repulsed by Ukrainian troops on Feb. 24; however, the airport fell the next day, according to various reports.
Russian troops arrived from the northwest of Kiev from Belarus to join the elements advancing from the east on Feb. 25, threatening to surround the capital.
Rob Lee, a PhD student at Columbia University and former U.S. Marine focusing on Russian defense policy, tweeted on Feb. 25 that Ukraine’s chances of repelling the Russians are low.
“The question is whether Russian troops will go into cities and how bad that could get. It appears Russian forces are trying to bypass some cities, but probably not Kyiv,” he said.
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The Kremlin has presented Ukraine, which used to be part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, as a threat to Russia insofar as it could join NATO and threaten Moscow’s national interests. Putin and other Russian officials have also questioned Ukraine’s legitimacy as a nation, citing the country’s deep cultural and historical ties to Russia.
Speaking in an emergency address the morning of the invasion, Putin said that his country’s actions were a “special military operation” launched to “demilitarize” and “denazify” the Ukraine.
Ukraine has had tense relations with Russia since the beginning of the century, with many in the country expressing anger about Russian influence over Kiev, the 2014 Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and Moscow’s military support of separatists in the eastern Ukrainian Donbass region up to the beginning of all-out hostilities on Thursday.