137 dead, hundreds wounded as Russia launches full-scale military attack on Ukraine

At least 137 people were killed and 316 more were wounded as the Russian government launched a full- scale military attack on Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address early Friday that those who died were both military personnel and civilians, calling them “heroes.”

“They’re killing people and turning peaceful cities into military targets. It’s foul and will never be forgiven,” Zelenskyy said.

Russia’s full-scale military attack opened with air and missile strikes on Ukrainian military facilities as Russian troops and tanks rolled across the country’s borders from the north, east and south.

Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces fought back on multiple fronts as civilians hurried up into their cars and into trains to flee. By Thursday night, many residents were taking shelters deep underground in metro stations, bringing with them sleeping bags, blankets and other necessities. The United Nations (UN) refugee agency said an estimated 100,000 Ukrainians have fled their homes as it urged neighboring countries to keep their borders open for Ukrainian refugees.

A United States official said based on their initial assessment, the Russian attack is designed to
decapitate Ukraine’s government, centering its assault at its capital Kyiv.

“The indications we’ve seen thus far, in just these first, not even 12 hours, are in keeping with our assessment earlier, that would be his goal: to decapitate this government,” said a senior US defense official who requested not to be named.

Ben Barry, senior fellow for land warfare at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said the Russian troops are moving very quickly to isolate and take over Kyiv.

“This is to prevent a coherent Ukrainian defense from forming and, if they can, disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reserves,” Barry said.

Though Ukrainian forces managed to fight back, they were vastly outnumbered and outmatched in firepower by their Russian opponents.

Within Ukraine’s borders alone, around 200,000 Russian troops have been on standby since a few months back and an additional 30,000 troops were deployed in Belarus, not to mention the Russian naval forces that amassed in the Black Sea a few weeks before Thursday’s initial attack.

The IISS claimed that Russia has 900,000 troops, two million reserves and more than 500,000 personnel in other forces while Ukraine only have a little over 200,000 military forces, 900,000 reserve soldiers and some 100,000 other forces personnel.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed they had destroyed 83 Ukrainian military facilities and took control of the Chernobyl nuclear site and Hostomel airfield as of Friday.

Alyona Shevtsova, an adviser to the commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces, said all staff at the Nuclear site were “taken hostage” when Russian troops seized the facility.

Zelenskyy said he received information that he is the No. 1 target in the Russian attack but claimed he is determined to remain in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.

The Ukrainian president lamented that his country was “left alone” to fight Russia, reiterating his earlier call to the United States and to the European Union (EU) to “stand side by side with Ukraine and stop the aggressor,” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

United States President Joe Biden earlier said American forces will not fight in Ukraine but had sent hundreds of troops to the eastern flank allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.

Biden said the deployment of US troops aims to defend eastern European NATO countries, three of which share borders with Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.

However, Biden said the US and the EU have already set a list of sanctions against Russia, which he said will hit Putin’s inner circle and Russia’s financial system, isolating it from the global economy.

“Putin is the aggressor; Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences,” he said, assuring that giving sanctions on Putin himself is “on the table.”

The US sanctions target four Russian banks that hold more than $1 trillion in assets, including the country’s largest bank, Sberbank.

“That means every asset they have in America will be frozen,” Biden said.

Sanctions will also be given to wealthy Russians who are close to Putin.

Biden said the US will also impose export controls to starve Russian industries and the military of US semiconductors and other high-tech products.

Biden added the sanctions will also include 24 individuals and entities, military and financial institutions including two state-owned banks in Belarus, which Russia has used as staging ground for its troops.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would also move to cut Russia off from their financial market and freeze the assets of all big Russian banks, including VTB Bank, its second-biggest.

Johnson said they also plan to ban Russian companies and the Russian government itself from raising money on its markets, ban the export of a wide range of high-tech products particularly semiconductors, and prevent Russia’s flagship airline, Aeroflot, from landing at UK airports.

Ursula von der Leyen, chief of the EU Commission, said a package of massive sanctions await Russia, particularly on the financial aspect that target 70 percent of Russian banking market and key state- owned companies, including its defense, aviation and maritime sectors.

Taiwan, Australia, Japan and New Zealand are also finalizing their list of sanctions against Russia, which targets several Russian elite citizens and lawmakers, financial institutions, exports for military equipment and security forces, and on travel.

“The world is speaking and sending a very clear message to Russia that what they have done is wrong and they will face the condemnation of the world,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

World leaders are eyeing to impose more sanctions as the conflict escalates.

Mairead McGuinness, EU’s financial services commissioner, said they have not yet decided if they will cut Russia off from the SWIFT global interbank payments system but claimed they are considering it as a possible sanction.

“The possibility of cutting Russia from SWIFT is still on the table. It may not emerge tonight but it is not off the table,” McGuinness said Thursday.

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