The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Blasts heard in Kyiv as Russian forces close in

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Ukrainian soldiers in the early hours of Feb. 26, saying, “We have to persevere tonight.” (Video: The Washington Post)
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This live coverage has ended. For Saturday’s live updates, click here.

KYIV, UKRAINE — A barrage of explosions thundered in Kyiv overnight Saturday, hours after the nation’s leader hauntingly predicted a full-scale attack on the capital city, determining the fate of the country.

Shelling in northern Kyiv and a suburb near the city center sounded as Ukrainian and Russian forces clashed near the seat of government. Earlier in the evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his citizens in a video message to prepare for Russians storming Kyiv, saying Ukraine “can’t lose the capital.”

“This night they will begin to storm,” Zelensky said. “We all have to know what awaits us, and we have to withstand. The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now.”

A senior U.S. defense official said Friday that the Russian military has lost momentum in its offensive, while cautioning that this could change in the coming days.

Ukrainians flee as Russia attacks

Here’s what to know

  • The United Nations failed to adopt a U.S.-backed resolution condemning the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine after Russia vetoed the measure. Beijing’s decision to abstain was seen as an achievement for the United States.
  • The United States plans to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Friday after E.U. foreign ministers agreed to freeze the assets of Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
  • Putin has called on Ukraine’s armed forces to “take power” from Zelensky and a group in Kyiv that the Russian president described as “neo-Nazis.”
  • Radiation levels at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site in Ukraine remain in a safe range after Russian forces captured the facility Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
  • More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled the country in less than 48 hours, mostly to Poland and Moldova, according to the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi.
11:48 a.m.
Headshot of Siobhán O'Grady
Siobhán O'Grady: KYIV, Ukraine — As sirens blared in the streets of Kyiv, signaling that residents should head to underground bunkers, Washington Post journalists headed to their hotel’s basement where staff and their families were also sheltering. There, hotel workers served up heaping plates of spaghetti bolognese and Greek salad — a welcome surprise considering the restaurant is closed and supplies are dwindling.With a shortage of plates, some guests shared, and others took turns waiting for plates or silverware to be washed. One man handed out pieces of carpet for guests to put over the cold tile floor. The elderly and children have been given priority for seating. Afterward, a jovial hotel staffer walked around mopping up spilled sauce and lettuce.The shared sense of camaraderie in the basement bunker was a glimmer of light in an otherwise dark time.
Siobhán O'Grady, Cairo bureau chief
5:20 a.m.
Headshot of Isabelle Khurshudyan
Isabelle Khurshudyan: KHARKIV, Ukraine — There were loud booms just now in the center of Kharkiv, much closer than they had been in recent days. Four guys who had been walking on the street started running. One group of people in a long line for the pharmacy looked around confused before dispersing. It’s very snowy today. Smell of sulfur in the air. One upscale hotel told people to take shelter in its underground garage and handed out chairs. There are kids and pets and media crews in here.
Isabelle Khurshudyan, Foreign correspondent based in Kyiv
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