Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has given a defiant video address to the nation from Kyiv as Russia made deeper advances into the country and incursions into the capital.
Western officials suspect Russian troops are aiming to encircle Kyiv and overthrow the democratically-elected government.
In an evening video address to the nation to shore up confidence that he was still in charge of the country, Zelenskyy said:
“Good evening everyone. The leader of the presidential party is here. The leader of the presidential office is here. The prime minister is here. The advisor to the leader of the presidential office is here. The president is here. We are all here. Our service members are all here. Citizens are here. We all protect our independence and our country, and it will stay like that. Glory to the heroes, glory to Ukraine.”
Western officials have suggested that Russian forces will try to kill Zelensky and his ministers if they seize control of Kyiv.
One said: “The Ukrainian regime has been characterised by Putin and his spokesperson as Nazis, guilty of genocide, I think today they were described as Nazis and drug takers.
“So it’s clear the kind of vitriol coming from Russia about the Ukrainian leadership so I think we can expect that they would be targets for Russian forces coming into the city.”
Zelenskyy also said in an early Thursday-morning address that Russian saboteurs had entered Kyiv and said intelligence found “the enemy has identified me as the number one target”.
Earlier, the president issued a sombre warning to leaders of the European Union
Italian prime Minister Mario Draghi told his parliament on Friday morning of Zelenskyy: “We were supposed to talk on the phone this morning, but he was no longer available.”
Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson, who was also on the Thursday-night call with Zelenskyy, reportedly told the Swedish News Agency that “this may have been the last time we saw Zelensky”.
It comes as frustrated Russian forces are prepared to “indiscriminately” use thermobaric bombs to seize control of Ukraine, Western officials believe.
One official said it was “likely” that Russia failed to achieve its main objectives on day one of its invasion of Ukraine.
The official added: “And my fear with those objectives, that timescale not being met, is if that continues to be a theme where they are delayed and then my concern is that that Russia uses indiscriminate use of indirect fire, particularly artillery systems, thermobaric weapons - which we know Russia has both in its armoury and has used in previous conflicts.
“At the moment we’re not seeing the use of those particular weapons. But my fear would be that if they don’t meet the timescales and objectives that they would be indiscriminate in the use of violence and they don’t adhere to the same principles of necessity and proportionality and rule of law that Western forces do.
“I would be very concerned at the attitude they would adopt.”
A thermobaric bomb uses oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion, making it more deadly than a conventional weapon.