Russian forces launch missile strikes on Ukrainian cities

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Russian forces launched coordinated missile and artillery attacks on Ukrainian cities on Saturday including the capital, Kyiv, where gunfire erupted near government buildings in the city centre, quoting military officials news agency Reuters reported.

Ukrainian authorities have urged citizens to help defend Kyiv from advancing Russian forces who invaded on Thursday in the worst European security crisis in decades.

But even as the fighting grew more intense, the Russian and Ukrainian governments signalled an openness to negotiations, offering the first glimmer of hope for diplomacy since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion.

Artillery shells exploded in Kyiv, a Reuters witness said.

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces fired cruise missiles from the Black Sea at the cities of Sumy, Poltava and Mariupol and there was heavy fighting near the southern city of Mariupol.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking in a video message from outside his Kyiv office, was defiant.

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

The air force command earlier reported heavy fighting near an air base at Vasylkiv southwest of the capital, which it said was under attack from Russian paratroopers.

It said one of its fighters had shot down a Russian transport plane. Reuters could not independently verify the claims.

The Interfax news agency said Russian forces had taken control of Kyiv’s hydro-electric power plant but Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the president’s office, said the situation in Kyiv and its outskirts was under control.

“There are cases of sabotage and reconnaissance groups working in the city, police and self-defence forces are working efficiently against them,” Podolyak said.

Kyiv residents were told by the defence ministry to make petrol bombs to repel the invaders.

Some families cowered in shelters and hundreds of thousands have left their homes to find safety, according to a U.N. aid official.

Ukraine said more than 1,000 Russian troops had been killed. Russia did not release casualty figures. Zelenskiy said late on Thursday that 137 troops and civilians been killed with hundreds wounded.

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