The Russian military launched cruise missiles and bombarded Ukrainian cities with artillery fire for a third straight day, but a defiant Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, said the push to capture his capital, kyiv, and l ousting had been halted amid a consolidation of support from Western nations. .
“We derailed their plan,” he said, saying the Ukrainian army controlled the capital and the main surrounding towns.
In a selfie video shot against the backdrop of kyiv monuments to refute rumors that he had fled the country, the president ordered his army not to surrender.
He said, “I am here. We will not lay down any arms… This is our land, our country, our children and we will protect all of that.”
He also rejected an American offer to help him evacuate, saying, “I need ammunition, not a round.”
But the odds are stacked against Ukraine, which is vastly outnumbered by Russian military power.
On Saturday February 26, a high-rise apartment building in kyiv was hit by a missile as fighting continued in several cities, including Odessa in the south, Kharkiv in the northeast and Lviv in the west. Russian forces were only about 30 km from downtown kyiv, according to a British assessment on Saturday evening.
If Ukraine holds out in what will likely be a long and bloody war, it could weaken Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s grip on power and undermine his will to push Russia onto the world stage.
But if control of Ukraine passes into Mr Putin’s hands, the geopolitical balance in Europe could tip in Moscow’s favor and cause the US-backed NATO alliance to reconsider its defensive stance.
Warning that “the Kremlin’s objectives are not limited to Ukraine”, NATO activated for the first time on Saturday its rapid reaction force of 40,000 men to strengthen the defenses on its eastern flank.
The decision, taken at an emergency meeting, will see NATO stepping up military aid to Ukraine without sending combat troops to join the fight. The United States announced an additional US$350 million (S$473 million) in weapons such as small arms and ammunition to support Ukrainian fighters.
Stepping up the response to the worst security crisis in 77 years since World War II, the United States and the European Union have added Mr Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to their sanctions list. It is rare for the United States to sanction a sitting world leader and Moscow has previously said the move would amount to a de facto severance of relations.