Gunbattles heard near government center and north of capital; Ukraine government tells citizens to fight with firebombs; Israel decides not to move embassy to Poland
https://www.timesofisrael.com/-By TOI staff
People look at a damaged residential building at Koshytsa Street, on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where a military shell allegedly hit, on February 25, 2022. (GENYA SAVILOV / AFP)
- The Times of Israel is liveblogging Friday’s events as they unfold.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in a telephone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, praises the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying it is a “correction of history.”
“President Assad stressed that what is happening today is a correction of history and a restoration of balance in the global order after the fall of the Soviet Union,” according to a statement from the Syrian presidency.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses NATO and the European Union of failing to take a “determined stance” on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“NATO should have taken a more decisive step,” Erdogan, whose country is a member of the military alliance, tells reporters.
“The EU and other pro-Western [bodies] have failed to take a serious and determined stance at the moment. They are all providing Ukraine with plenty of advice.”
MOSCOW — The Kremlin says it will analyze the Ukrainian president’s offer to discuss a non-aligned status for his country, as a Russian military invasion pushes closer to Kyiv.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was ready to hold talks on the issue.
Asked about Zelensky’s offer, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov describes it as “a move in a positive direction.”
He says in a conference call with reporters that “we paid attention to that, and now we need to analyze it.”
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Zelensky “is simply lying” when he offers to discuss non-aligned status for Ukraine. Lavrov said Zelensky “missed the opportunity” to discuss a neutral status for Ukraine in NATO when Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed it.
The synagogue of Kremenchuk in Ukraine. (Foundation for Jewish Heritage/The Center for Jewish Art)
Israel will send NIS 10 million ($3.07 million) in aid to Ukraine’s Jewish community immediately as Russia’s military offensive against the country intensifies, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry says.
“This decision comes from the unique mandate of the State of Israel, and in particular, its Diaspora Ministry, as the nation-state of the Jewish people, to support Jewish individuals and communities in harm’s way,” the ministry says. “It’s become quite clear at this stage that both immediate and ongoing support are needed.”
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai announced plans to send aid to the Ukrainian Jewish community yesterday, but it was initially believed that it would take several days before the matter could be brought before the government for a vote. It is not immediately clear why the proposal went through faster than expected.
The ministry says the aid will come in four main forms: food and medicine; funding for security guards around Jewish centers to protect them from rioting and looting; helping refugees in widescale evacuations; and transporting people to safer areas.
“We are following developments in the area with great concern. Our hearts are with the Jewish people of Ukraine,” Shai says. “We will continue to closely monitor the needs and developments in the field, and respond accordingly.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov moderates Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual press conference at the Manezh exhibition hall in central Moscow, December 23, 2021. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP)
The Kremlin says Russia will retaliate against new sanctions, as the West hit Moscow with a wave of economic punishments over its invasion of Ukraine.
“It goes without saying that retaliatory measures will follow,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters.
“Just how symmetrical or asymmetrical they will be depends on the analysis, the restrictions have yet to be analyzed,” he adds.
Poland’s Border Guard says that some 29,000 people were cleared to enter through the country’s land border with neighboring Ukraine on Thursday, the day Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
Before that, there were some 12,000 average daily entries from Ukraine into European Union and NATO member Poland, through land, sea and airport checkpoints, according to Border Guard statistics.
Poland has lifted the requirement of COVID-19 quarantine or vaccination certificates for refugees from Ukraine. A number of reception centers with camp beds, soup kitchens and medical care have been organized in locations close to the border with Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is ready for talks with Kyiv if the Ukrainian army surrenders, as Russian invading forces advance on the capital.
“We are ready for negotiations at any moment, as soon as the armed forces of Ukraine respond to our call and lay down their arms,” Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow.
But he says Russia must first complete its objectives in the country.
He claims Russia has no plans to occupy Ukraine, but merely to “demilitarize” and “denazify” it.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk expresses disappointment with the level of backing Jerusalem is giving his country, but says talks are underway for a humanitarian aid package.
Korniychuk tells reporters he would like Israeli diplomats to use their weight in Moscow to sue for a peaceful resolution to the Russia-initiated conflict, which is now in its second day.
“We are fighting on our own,” he says.
While the ambassador confirms that he did not ask Israel for military assistance, he says his government is in the final stages of negotiating a humanitarian assistance package from Israel.
“We’re not talking about Israeli soldiers, you have your own security concerns [with Russia in Syria],” Korniychuk says
. “We’re smart enough not to ask you something you won’t do.”
The package is expected to include medical supplies and equipment.
Korniychuk, who was visibly distraught before and during the press conference, shares with The Times of Israel that his daughter is currently living in Ukraine.
The Kyiv city council is telling residents to prepare for heavy fighting in the Obolonsk area north of the city.
“Be vigilant and stay indoors – at home or in shelters. Going outside is very dangerous now due to the approaching enemy,” it says in an alert on Facebook.
Separately, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry has sent out information on how to make firebombs for citizens willing to resist invading Russian forces.
In Kharkiv, residents are being told to go to shelters as air raid sirens are reportedly followed by loud explosions.
The Russian military claims it has destroyed 118 Ukrainian military assets since the beginning of its assault on its neighbor and as it pushes into the outskirts of Kyiv.
The claim could not be independently verified and was not confirmed by Ukraine amid a flurry of claims and counterclaims by each side.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov says that among the targets were 11 Ukrainian air bases, 13 command facilities, 36 air defense radars, 14 air defense missile systems, 5 warplanes, 18 tanks and warships.
However, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace rejected Russian claims of success on the first day of its invasion of Ukraine, saying it had “failed to deliver” on its day one objectives.
Wallace tells Sky News that the Western assessment is that Russia had failed to take its major objectives and is behind on its timetable for advance.
“They’ve lost over 450 personnel,’’ he says.
The Ukrainian defense ministry is calling on any citizen willing to fight to do so, regardless of age.
In a Facebook post, it says the city of Konotop, east of Kyiv, has fallen but reports success in pushing back or bogging down Russian forces in other areas.
It claims the Gostomel airfield has been too badly damaged to be used by Russian troops, forcing them to approach Kiev from Belarus.
CNN reports that Ukrainian forces also saw success in a battle for control of a river crossing near Kherson.
By Lazar Berman
It was “next to impossible” to buy food in Ukraine’s capital on Thursday, says Julia Goldenberg, founder of the All-Ukrainian Charitable Fund “To You” (ACF 2U), speaking to the Times of Israel by phone on Friday morning.
“There were queues in the supermarkets, no delivery from different suppliers,” she says.
She did not hear explosions overnight, but her friends in other parts of the capital did, Goldenberg says.
“People actually were woken up yesterday because of this,” she says.
Traffic jams out of Kyiv were so bad that residents who left at 4 p.m. were only reaching Zhitomyr, 135 kilometers away, in the morning.
Two nights ago, residents were expecting a Russian attack at 4 a.m., she says. “So at quarter to five, I decided to go to sleep.”
“We hear the alarm from time to time,” says Goldenberg, whose grandfather fought to Berlin with the Red Army in World War II. Other members of her family were murdered at Babi Yar in Kyiv in late 1941.
ACF-2U provided food and supplies to its most needy clients yesterday.
“They are extremely worried,” she says. “Some even asked how to leave the country.”
“People are exhausted, people are stressed,” she says sadly. “People should know the Russians are aggressors. They kill civilians. They are bastards.”
She hasn’t been in touch with the Israeli embassy so far. “I haven’t wanted to live in Israel because there are bombings, because it’s always under the threat of war.”