Updated Feb 27, 2022 - World

Russian troops enter Ukraine's second-largest city as assault continues in Kyiv

Apartment building bombed

The aftermath of a rocket strike on an apartment building in Kyiv. Photo: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Ukrainian troops were holding off a massive assault from Russia's military in Kyiv on Sunday, as streetfighting erupted in Kharkiv after President Vladimir Putin's forces entered Ukraine’s second-largest city on the fourth day of the unprovoked invasion.

The latest: Putin said Sunday that "aggressive statements" made by Western countries have led him to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty," marking the second time he has alluded to Russia's nuclear arsenal.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday rejected the Kremlin's offer of negotiations in Belarus due to the neighboring country not being neutral territory. He said he's willing to hold talks "in a country from whose territory rockets are not being fired."
  • Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a statement praising Ukrainian resistance Sunday, "Where are all those who promised to capture Kiev in 2 hours? Where are they at? I can't see them. ... The darkness will retreat. The dawn is near."

Meanwhile, Ukraine confirmed that Russian forces blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv. The city on the Russian border in northeast Ukraine has endured some of the most intense fighting of the war.

  • Warning that Russia would continue to cause "man-made disasters" by assaulting chemical plants and critical infrastructure, authorities posted instructions for civilians to close their windows and take other safety precautions.

What else is happening: Russia's defense ministry said all units were ordered to resume their offensive from all directions after a "pause" on Friday for possible negotiations with Ukraine, per state media.

  • A senior U.S. defense official told reporters Putin has "more than 50% of his total assembled power now committed inside Ukraine," and "tens of thousands" of troops have entered in the country in the last 24 hours.
  • The official added there were indications Russia didn't anticipate this level of resistance and had to commit more logistics and supplies, such as fuel, than initially planned.
  • Russia has restricted Twitter and Facebook within the country, as state media feeds viewers falsehoods about the invasion.

What they're saying: "Today we've seen a shift in Russian targeting towards critical civilian infrastructure, greater use of MLRS, and artillery in suburban areas. Unfortunately, my concern that this was going to get a lot more ugly and affect civilians is starting to materialize," tweeted CNA's Michael Kofman, one of the preeminent experts on Russia's military.

  • "The simple takeaway might be that the Russian military is getting frustrated, etc. but I also don't think we've quite judged the initial days of fighting very accurately ... My fear, looking at this 72 hours in, is all the worst is yet to come."
Screenshot of CNN
Screenshot via CNN

Zoom out: The European Union, U.S. and other Western allies reached an agreement on Saturday to disconnect select Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system and impose restrictions on Russia's Central Bank.

  • Germany announced it would send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine — a major reversal of its strict arms export policies that came after weeks of public pressure.
  • The White House has asked Congress to authorize $6.4 billion in emergency assistance for Ukraine, which would be divided between humanitarian and military aid.
  • Estonia, Lithuania, Romania and Latvia said Saturday they would ban Russian airlines from their airspace. The move followed similar announcements from Poland, the United Kingdom, Moldova and the Czech Republic.
"We will paralyse the assets of Russia’s central bank," said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday. "This will freeze its transactions.  And it will make it impossible for the Central Bank to liquidate its assets." Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What to watch: The United Nations Security Council will vote Sunday on whether to convene a special session of the UN General Assembly to debate Russia's invasion.

  • The procedural vote, which requires a nine-member majority to pass, is expected to advance since Russia can't exercise its veto power.
  • On Sunday, Zelensky called for Russia to be stripped of it's security council seat, saying "“Russia has taken the path of evil, and the world should come to depriving it of its U.N. Security Council seat."
  • Zelensky also announced that Ukraine had submitted a request to the International Court of Justice to investigate Russia. "Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression."

By the numbers: The UN has confirmed at least 240 civilian casualties since the invasion began, but believes the "real figures are considerably higher."

  • More than 350,000 refugees have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries since Russia launched its invasion.
  • At least 100,000 refugees are displaced internally in Ukraine and "the numbers are most likely much higher," the UN said on Saturday.

Between the lines: Zelensky has emerged as a resolute and unifying wartime leader for his country during the first days of the Russian invasion, calmly delivering patriotic speeches from his phone on the darkened streets of Kyiv.

Go deeper: The latest on the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.

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