KYIV: Russian missiles pounded Kyiv, families cowered in shelters and authorities told people to prepare petrol bombs to defend their capital on Friday, as Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the Ukrainian military to seize power and make peace.
After weeks of warnings from Western leaders, Putin unleashed a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine from the north, east and south before dawn on Thursday, in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.
“I once again appeal to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: do not allow neo-Nazis and (Ukrainian radical nationalists) to use your children, wives and elders as human shields,” Putin said at a televised meeting with Russia’s Security Council on Friday. “Take power into your own hands, it will be easier for us to reach agreement.”
Putin says he does not plan a military occupation, only to disarm Ukraine and remove its leaders, alluding to Ukrainian far-right nationalists who collaborated with Nazi invaders in World War Two to fight Soviet Russia. But it is not clear how a pro-Russian leader could be installed unless Russian troops control much of the country.
Moscow said it had captured the Hostomel airfield northwest of the capital - a potential staging post for an assault on Kyiv that has been fought over since Russian paratroopers landed there in the first hours of the war. This could not be confirmed and the Ukrainian authorities reported heavy fighting there.