Putin tells Ukrainian military to ‘take power into own hands’ and overthrow Zelensky

Russian president claims servicemen in Ukraine acting ‘bravely, professionally and heroically’

Joe Middleton
Friday 25 February 2022 19:00 GMT
Putin tells Ukrainian military to ‘take power into own hands’ and overthrow Zelensky

Vladimir Putin has today called on the Ukrainian military to seize power in their country and overthrow President Volodymyr Zelensky.

During a televised address Mr Putin told the Ukrainian military it would be “easier for us to make a deal with you” than with “this gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis”, in an apparent reference to the Ukrainian leadership.

The Russian leader said: “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.

“Take power into your own hands, it will be easier for us to reach agreement.”

Mr Putin added that Russian servicemen in Ukraine were acting “bravely, professionally and heroically”.

It comes as the Kremlin said that Mr Putin is ready to send a delegation to Minsk for negotiations with representatives of Ukraine, after the Russian leader held a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

This map details the progress of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during Thursday and Friday

Armed civilian volunteers stand alert on a street in Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen ride on tanks towards the front line with Russian forces in the Lugansk region of Ukraine on Friday

Mr Putin told Mr Xi that the United States and Nato had long ignored Russia’s legitimate security concerns, repeatedly reneged on their commitments, and continued to expand military deployment eastward, according to a statement on the Chinese foreign ministry website.

Russia is willing to conduct high-level negotiations with Ukraine, Mr Putin was cited as saying.

China has refused to call Russia’s action in Ukraine an “invasion” or criticise Moscow despite intensifying assaults from Russia’s military, and has repeatedly called for the crisis to be resolved through dialogue.

Earlier in the day Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that the country was willing to send a delegation to the Belorussian capital including foreign and defence ministry officials.

The Russian president’s comments came as troops and tanks entered the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, on Friday morning, amid continued heavy fighting with Ukrainian military forces.

Kyiv‘s mayor, former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitchko, said: “The city has gone into a defensive phase. Shots and explosions are ringing out in some neighbourhoods. Saboteurs have already entered Kyiv.

“The enemy wants to put the capital on its knees and destroy us.”

Mr Zelensky tweeted that there had been heavy fighting with people killed at the entrance to the eastern cities of Chernihiv and Melitopol, as well as at Hostomel.

Ukrainian officials have reported at least 137 deaths on the Ukrainian side and claimed hundreds on the Russian one. Russian authorities have released no casualty figures.

A senior US defence official said on Friday that Russia is facing more resistance than Moscow anticipated in its invasion of Ukraine.

“We do assess that there is greater resistance by the Ukrainians than the Russians expected,” the official said, adding Ukraine’s command and control of its military “remains intact”.

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