Russia continues to hit Ukraine targets even as both sides voice intention to start dialogue

Russian forces crossing the Siversky Donets river in Luhansk. (Xinhua/IANS)

Russia continues to hit Ukraine targets even as both sides voice intention to start dialogue

Moscow, February 26, 2022

Moscow continued to exert hefty pressure on Kyiv by striking more military targets in Ukraine on the third day today even as the two sides have expressed their intention to start direct dialogue.

The Russian armed forces have disabled 211 military infrastructure facilities in Ukraine since the operation began on early Thursday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Friday night, up from 118 facilities reported in his morning briefing.

During the fighting, a large number of weapons supplied by Western countries to Ukraine over the past few months have been seized, including the Javelin anti-tank missile systems from the US, Konashenkov said.

The Russian forces have blockaded Kyiv after capturing the Gostomel airfield in a suburb of Kyiv, killing more than 200 members of Ukraine's special units.

Russia has also taken full control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and military units of the two sides there have reached agreement on the protection of the nuclear facilities and the sarcophagus.

Eleven military airfields, 13 command posts and communication centres of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, 14 S-300 and Osa anti-aircraft missile systems, and 36 radar stations were among the facilities put out of order, the Ministry's Zvezda broadcaster reported, citing Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

Five combat aircraft, a helicopter and five drones of Ukraine have been shot down and dozens of vehicles have been destroyed so far, he added.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has instructed Russia's armed forces to "treat Ukrainian troops with respect" and create safety corridors for those servicemen who "have laid down their arms," according to the spokesman.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting with permanent members of the country's Security Council via video link on Friday, commending the performance of Russian soldiers and officers.

"The Russian army's main armed clashes are taking place not with regular Ukrainian armed forces' units but with nationalist groups," he said.

The president noted that Ukraine's nationalists are deploying heavy weapons, including multiple-rocket launchers, right in the central districts of large cities, including Kyiv and Kharkov.

Putin urged the Ukrainian military to "take power into your own hands."

Russia has no intention of occupying Ukraine and Moscow is ready to hold negotiations straight after the Ukrainian forces "lay down their arms," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference on Friday.

Also on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address that he wants to hold dialogue with Russia.

Putin agreed to send a Russian delegation to the Belarusian capital of Minsk for negotiations with Ukraine at the level of representatives of the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the presidential administration.

But Kyiv later suggested holding talks in Poland's Warsaw and then stopped responding, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Ukraine and Russia are currently discussing a date and a place of possible negotiations, as the sooner dialogue begins, the more chances there will be to resume normal life, Zelensky's press secretary Serhiy Nikiforov said on Friday night.

Meanwhile, videos have been circulating online showing what appears to be a series of explosions in the Ukrainian capital on Friday night. The blasts are reportedly concentrated in the north-west area of Kyiv, RT reported.

The blasts reportedly took place near Beresteiska metro station, which is located next to a military facility.

An eyewitness can be heard saying in one of the videos shared online that the sounds of explosions appear to come from the direction of the base, RT reported.

Another video purports to show a blaze raging in the middle of the road.

Russia's "special operation" in Ukraine is now in its third day after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military action aimed at "demilitarizing" and "denazifying" the country.

Moscow has said the offensive was a necessary measure to protect the Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics in the Donbass, which formally requested Russian military assistance this week against "Ukrainian aggression."

The Kremlin had argued that Kyiv was poised to reclaim Donbass republics - that split from Kyiv following the US-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014 - by force as one of the reasons behind the urgent military action. The government of President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, denied having any such plans.

IANS

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