Russia and Ukraine: Russian forces intensify their attacks and Kiev prepares for the siege

The Russian forces are only 25 km from the Ukrainian capital, according to the latest intelligence report from the UK Ministry of Defence.

This Saturday morning, intense fighting has been reported in the northwest of the capital.

Also, in Vasylkiv, south of Kiev, a Ukrainian military airfield was hit by Russian missiles.

The town鈥檚 mayor said the attack destroyed the runway and a fuel depot, as well as causing explosions at an ammunition store. Images showed thick black smoke billowing from the airfield.

The British intelligence report says that the large Russian column north of the capital has dispersed, 鈥減robably to support an attemptto surround the city.

鈥淚t could also be an attempt by Russia to reduce its vulnerability to Ukrainian counterattacks, which have claimed a significant number of lives among Russian forces,鈥 adds the British Ministry of Defense.

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine reported that mas 2,000 people were evacuated in the Kiev region on Saturday.

According to a statement from the agency, an evacuation convoy of 40 buses arrived in the village of Bilohorodka on Saturday afternoon.

Attacks in more cities

Elsewhere, the cities of Chernihiv, JarKiv, Mariorpol and Sumy are surrounded and face heavy bombardment.

The situation in Mariupol is particularly desperate after two weeks of shelling, the UN says, with little access to food, water and power.

In Chernihiv, to the north, there is no water supply and parts of the city have no electricity.

The southern port of Mykolaiv, which lies between the Russian-occupied city of Kherson and Ukraine鈥檚 third-largest city, Odessa, has also come under renewed bombardment.

Meanwhile, humanitarian corridors are being established from Mariupol, Sumy and towns and villages on the outskirts of the capital.

But new attempts to evacuate civilians from besieged cities in Ukraine are being complicated by constant Russian shelling, according to Ukrainian officials.

A frozen food storage warehouse in the Kiev region caught fire on Saturday as a result of the shelling, according to Ukraine's State Emergency Services (SES).
A warehouse in the Kiev region caught fire on Saturday according to reports from Ukraine.

On the diplomatic front, efforts are being made to try to achieve a ceasefire.

But a call between the French, German and Russian leaders did not produce any concrete results.

President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Olaf Schulz called for a ceasefire, but as Macron鈥檚 office indicated, Vladimir Putin showed no willingness to end the war in Ukraine.

For his part, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said at a press conference this Saturday that about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have died in the first 17 days of the Russian invasion.

Zelensky added that some 500 to 600 Russian soldiers had surrendered to Ukrainian forces on Friday.

Western sources estimated on Friday that around 6,000 Russian soldiers have also been killed in that period.

The BBC cannot independently verify these figures.

The battle near Kiev leaves a blackened wasteland

Lyse Doucet, BBC Chief International Correspondent, Kyiv

The pace of the war in the capital, Kiev, is measured in kilometers these last 17 days.

We have just received word from the UK Ministry of Defense that the bulk of the Russian forces are now only 25km from the center of Kiev.

But even as we get these reports of the Russian advance, from the northwest, from the northeast, they are advancing under Ukrainian fire, with infantry, with Western-supplied anti-tank weapons, and with drones.

As always, the defenders rely on and benefit from the intelligence of a very patriotic local population.

Before and after the defense of Kiev.

But we also hear that the Russians are blocked by their own problems: logistical difficulties and supply shortages.

We should note that while most of the forces are only 25km away, some are even closer.

We have been reporting on what has been happening in the city of Brovary, 13 km from the center of Kiev.

Brovary is the Ukrainian word for 鈥渂reweries鈥. It used to be famous for its specialty beers and nice parks. It is now famous for images of the Ukrainian army using heavy artillery to repel a Russian armored column.

That is the scene throughout the capital, particularly in the northwest and northeast: intense fighting for control of the small towns, the gateways to the city.

And what do they leave behind? Large swaths of neighborhoods are now blackened wastelands.

Kiev is transformed into a fortress

Jeremy Bowen, BBC News, Kyiv

Barricades in Kiev.
Getty Images

Fighting around Kiev has been concentrated in the northwest and has dragged on since early morning, when Russian airborne troops landed at a cargo airport near Hostomel and Irpin, small commuter towns that evacuees say are now badly damaged. . They seemed to be trying to secure an area from which to launch an advance towards Kiev. But the Ukrainian troops stopped them.

In recent days, I have seen more defenders advance to continue the fight around Irpin and Hostomel airport and heard constant fire from the Ukrainian side, from artillery lines hidden in the thick forests.

The hotly contested northwest is just a 20-minute drive from central Kiev, which has hardly been touched, though sirens wail regularly.

In the week that I have been here, the Ukrainians have improved their physical defenses, which in some places barely existed. The checkpoints that were a few concrete blocks have become barricades.

A car positioned behind a barricade in Kiev.
BBC/Jeremy Bowen
Barricade with Molotov cocktails in Kiev
BBC/Jeremy Bowen

All over the city sandbags are being filled and placed. Kiev metalworkers have been busy: at strategic junctions and on two-lane highways leading out of Kiev, steel anti-tank obstacles are ready.

Kiev is a large city of wide avenues, bisected by narrower streets, often paved with uneven cobblestones. Many of the buildings have large basements and cellars. Street fighting here, if it occurs, could drag on for months.

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