News ‘We will not put down weapons’: Defiant Ukraine fighters retain control of Kyiv
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‘We will not put down weapons’: Defiant Ukraine fighters retain control of Kyiv

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President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed Ukraine won’t lay down weapons as the Russian army faces stiff resistance in its battle to overthrow the capital Kyiv.

Mr Zelenskiy said the capital and other important cities remained under the control of the Ukrainian army amid Russian attacks as he took to Twitter to disprove reports he had fled Ukraine.

In a video the defiant president said ‘I’m still here’ while in other Twitter posts he thanked a number of world leaders he had spoken with for their support, including France, Greece and Turkey.

Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) leading democratic economies are convening an emergency online conference to discuss coordinated respeonses to Russia’s aggression.

Meanwhile, the US, Britain, Europe and Canada have moved to block Russia’s access to the SWIFT international payment system as part of another round of sanctions.

The measures, which will also include restriction on the Russian central bank’s international reserves, will be implemented in the coming days, the nations said in a joint statement.

“This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,”Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in a statement on Saturday.

Fighting on many fronts

The battle against Russian forces is continuing across Ukraine as Russia pressed ahead for a third day on a mission to capture the centre of Kyiv and “install their puppets here,” said Mr Zelenskiy.

“We will not put down weapons. We will defend our state,” he said.

But fears of urban warfare in the capital have not yet come to pass even though the city has been rocked by the sounds of gunfire and explosions overnight and troops had advanced into the northern districts.

The mayor of Kyiv extended a curfew from 5pm until 8am every day.

Mr Zelenskiy had earlier warned Ukrainians that Russian troops would likely “storm” the city during the night and called on people to “stop the enemy wherever possible”.

Ukrainian civilian volunteers check their guns at home. Photo: Getty

Heavily armed Kyiv residents, many toting automatic weapons handed out to the populace in recent, patrolled the city, setting up road blocks and establishing ambush zones.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Mr Zelenskiy, said Russian forces were still trying to move a large number of troops and equipment into the city and that fighting was taking place in outlying areas.

But Ukrainian troops were mounting a strong defence and “both in the city itself and on the outskirts of Kyiv, the situation is under control,” Mr Podolyak said in comments carried by Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency.

In order to disrupt the Russian advance, the Ukrainian Road Administration called for roads signs to be dismantled.

“The enemy has a pathetic mobile connection, he cannot orient himself by terrain,” the authority announced via the Telegram message channel.

“Let’s help him go straight to hell.”

Authorities told people in Kyiv to hunker down in bomb shelters if they can and take precautions like staying away from windows.

“Last night was difficult but there are no Russian troops in the city,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a video published on the Telegram news channel on Saturday morning.

But he added: “The enemy is trying to advance into the city.”

By any means necessary

Kyiv’s infrastructure was still intact and underground trains were running.

The Ukrainian army meanwhile called on the population to help stop the invasion in every possible way.

“Cut down trees, build barricades, burn tyres! Use everything available!” the armed forces said in a statement quoted by the country’s UNIAN news agency.

Smoke rises from a Russian tank destroyed by Ukrainian forces. Photo: Getty

Both Russia and Ukraine released new figures on the war’s toll in terms of lives and infrastructure, although the information could not be independently verified.

Russia has crippled the operations of more than 800 Ukrainian military infrastructure sites, including airfields, command posts, anti-aircraft missile systems and radar stations, the Defence Ministry in Moscow said on Saturday, the third day of Russia’s offensive.

Russia insists it is only going after military targets — despite allegations to the contrary from Kyiv and witnesses on the ground — and says it is Ukrainian forces that are shelling residential areas in the eastern Donbass region.

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry said 3500 Russian soldiers had been killed and 200 others captured.

In addition, it said 14 planes, eight helicopters and 102 tanks as well as more than 530 other military vehicles were destroyed.

According to the Ukrainian government, at least 198 civilians have been killed and 1115 people injured across the country, including 33 children, after three days of attacks by Russian ground and air forces.

Among the dead were three children, Health Minister Viktor Liashko wrote on Facebook.

Women and babies from Ukraine after crossing into Poland. Photo: Getty

Meanwhile, Ukrainians continued to try and escape the violence by crossing into neighbouring countries.

The Polish deputy interior minister said on Saturday about 100,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in the country since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

The world demands peace

Protesters at the White House in America. Photo: Getty

Thousands of anti-war protesters in Russia have been detained as they  defied warnings from the authorities and took to the streets to voice their anger.

Nearly 2,700 people had been arrested since Thursday, according to the independent protest monitoring site OVD-Info.

Calls are growing inside Russia for President Vladimir Putin to stop the war against Ukraine.

Dozens of Russian humanitarian organisations published an open letter to Mr Putin, asking him to stop the war: “War is a humanitarian catastrophe that leads to pain and suffering… We consider violent solutions to political conflicts inhumane and call upon you to cease fire and begin negotiations.”

Even a member of the Russian Communist Party demanded an end to the war.

He said that it had not been his intention to unleash a war with his vote in parliament to recognise the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.

“I think that the war should be ended at once. When I voted for the recognition of DNR/LNR, I voted for peace and not for war,” Mikhail Matveev said, using the Russian acronyms for the self-declared republics.

On social media, many Russians have voiced their dismay at the war in Ukraine.

A tweet from Prince William and his wife Kate announced that they stood with the people of Ukraine as they “bravely fight” the invasion by Russia.

It was a rare public comment for British royals on political issues.

“In October 2020 we had the privilege to meet President (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy and the First Lady to learn of their hope and optimism for Ukraine’s future,” Queen Elizabeth’s grandson William and Kate said on Twitter.

“Today we stand with the President and all of Ukraine’s people as they bravely fight for that future.”

In a sea of blue and yellow flags and banners, protesters around the world have shown their support for the people of Ukraine and called on governments to do more to punish Russia and avoid a broader conflict.

A protester in Sydney upset by the invasion of Ukraine. Photo: AAP

Several hundred people marched through heavy rain in Sydney chanting “Ukraine will prevail” while protesters in Tokyo called for Russia to be expelled from the United Nations Security Council.

Thousands of people also took to the streets in Europe, with protesters — including many Ukrainians living abroad — in London, Nicosia, Berlin, Athens, Helsinki, Madrid and Milan draping themselves in flags and holding “stop the war” placards.

A rally that organisers estimated to number 20,000 people was held in the Swiss capital of Bern.

In Istanbul, Ukrainians living in Turkey sang their national anthem and held banners with images of bloody handprints.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in the square in front of the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, carrying signs such “Make Ukraine a member of NATO now” and “Say no to Putin”.

The protests come on the heels of other demonstrations around the world in the past days.

In Latin America, protesters joined rallies on Friday in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Peru, chanting “Long live Ukraine”.

-with AAP