Kiev ‘could fall to Russians within hours as Ukraine air defences eliminated’

Warning from senior western intelligence official comes as Kremlins says 83 Ukrainian military sites destroyed

Rory Sullivan
Thursday 24 February 2022 19:58 GMT
Thousands stuck in traffic jams as Ukrainians flee Kiev hours after Russian invasion
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The Ukrainian capital Kiev could fall to the Russians “within hours”, a senior western intelligence official has said.

The warning, first reported by Bloomberg, comes after Moscow targeted air bases and other military infrastructure across Ukraine on Thursday, following president Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade his neighbour.

Russian troops poured across the border on Thursday morning from their own territory as well as from Belarus.

The Kremlin’s forces have so far destroyed 83 of Ukraine’s “above-ground military facilities” since the invasion began, according to a Russian defence ministry spokesperson.

Explosions have been heard near the cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol and in Kiev during a multi-pronged attack by Moscow.

The southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol came under particular intense fire, a diplomatic source told Reuters.

A wounded woman outside a hospital in Chuguiv, eastern Ukraine, on Thursday. (AFP via Getty Images)

Elsewhere, Russian troops entered the zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, capturing the area on Thursday afternoon.

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An adviser to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed that Kiev had lost control of the site, located about 100km north of the capital, after fierce fighting.

Ukraine’s health ministry said on Thursday evening that 57 Ukrainians have been killed so far, with one of the casualties said to be a young boy, who was hit by a shell in the Kharkiv region.

Meanwhile, the first Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Poland by road and rail after fleeing their homes.

Much of the international community has condemned the Russian assault, with G7 leaders calling it an “unprovoked and completely unjustified” that violates international law.

Ukrainians shelter in Pushkinskaya underground station in Kharkiv. (EPA)

“This crisis is a serious threat to the rules-based international order, with ramifications well beyond Europe,” they said in a joint statement.

The leaders added: “President Putin has re-introduced war to the European continent. He has put himself on the wrong side of history.

“We call on the Russian Federation to stop the bloodshed, to immediately de-escalate and to withdraw its forces from Ukraine.”

Countries including the UK and the US have announced further sanctions against Moscow for its aggression against Ukraine. These economic measures will cut Russian banks off from sterling and dollar markets.

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