Updated Feb 28, 2022 - World

Russian troops advance on Kyiv as Ukraine continues to resist

Members of Ukrainian forces looks on from a public transport bus in downtown Kyiv, on Feb. 27. Photo: Aris Messinis / AFP via Getty Images

Explosions were heard in Kyiv as Russia's military pressed Ukraine's capital and air raid sirens were heard in several cities on Monday morning following reports of a night of shelling by Russian forces in Chernihiv and Kharkiv.

The latest: As Ukrainian and Russian officials prepared for peace talks Monday, the U.K. Defense Ministry issued a statement saying British intelligence supports Ukrainian forces' claims that they've "slowed down" Russia's offensive, adding: "Logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance."

  • The British statement concurs with comments by a Pentagon official on Sunday that the bulk of Russia's forces had stalled about 30 kilometers (19 miles), from Kyiv's city center.

Meanwhile, Russia's currency collapsed in overnight trading, with the ruble plummeting against the dollar, as the West ramps up sanctions over the invasion.

By the numbers: A senior Pentagon official said Sunday that Russia had committed two-thirds of its massed forces to fight in Ukraine and fired over 320 missiles, but still does not hold a major population center.

  • The invasion has caused at least 352 civilian casualties, including 14 children with another 1,684 people — including 116 children — injured, Ukraine's Ministry of Interior said Sunday.

State of play: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Sunday following a conversation with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that Russia and Ukraine had agreed to hold peace talks with "no preconditions" on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River.

  • Putin ordered Russia's nuclear deterrent forces on high alert Sunday. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said this was an attempt "to put additional pressure on the Ukrainian delegation" in peace talks.
  • Ukraine's Defense Ministry said all of Kharkiv — Ukraine's second-largest city, which lies on its eastern border with Russia and has endured some of the heaviest fighting of the war — was back under Ukrainian control Sunday.
  • The European Union announced sweeping sanctions on Russian aircraft and state media and said that, for the first time, the bloc will buy and deliver weapons to Ukraine — including transferring Soviet-era fighter jets.

What to watch: The United Nations will convene a rare emergency session of the 193-member General Assembly on Monday to vote on a resolution calling for peace in Ukraine.

What they're saying: Announcing the peace talks, Zelensky said: "Lukashenko has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation's travel, talks and return."

  • "Our president, from the beginning, even before the war started, was focused on the diplomatic solution," Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova said after the announcement, per CNN.
  • "But he always said, 'we’re ready for peace talks, we’re not ready to surrender," added Markarova, who compared Putin's tactics to those of Adolf Hitler.

Between the lines: It's unclear what exactly can be achieved from negotiations between envoys sent by Putin and Zelensky, given that Putin's unprovoked invasion appears to be aimed largely at removing Zelensky from power.

  • Putin has called on the Ukrainian military to topple their president and absurdly suggested that Zelensky's administration comprises Nazis (Zelensky is Jewish and lost family members in the Holocaust).

Zoom in: Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told AP Kyiv residents had water and electricity, "but the infrastructure is destroyed to deliver the food and medication," which he said could cause a "humanitarian catastrophe."

What else is happening: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the all "Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft," including the private jets of oligarchs, would be banned from European airspace.

  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared that Russia's invasion "marks a turning point in the history of our continent," and promised major new contributions to Ukraine and to Germany's own defenses.

The Kremlin and state media continue to tell Russians that no "war" or "invasion" is taking place, but instead states there's a limited defensive operation in eastern Ukraine.

What to watch: Having already threatened independent publications that report on Russian casualties or aggression with censorship, the Kremlin announced Sunday that "the provision of any assistance to a foreign state" during the "military operation" would be considered treason — punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Go deeper: The latest on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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

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