More than 100 killed in Ukraine; report of hostages at Chernobyl
More than 100 people are dead and control of the Chernoybl nuclear plant site is uncertain after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says 137 civilians and military personnel have been killed so far in the Russian invasion of his country. He calls them “heroes” in a video address released early Friday in which he also says hundreds more have been wounded.
Zelenskyy says that despite Russia’s claim it is attacking only military targets, civilian sites also have been struck. In his words: “They’re killing people and turning peaceful cities into military targets. It’s foul and will never be forgiven.”
The president says all border guards on Zmiinyi island in the Odesa region were killed Thursday. Ukraine’s border guard service earlier in the day reported that the island was taken by the Russians.
Zelenskyy ordered a full military mobilization to challenge the Russian invasion.
Ukraine loses control of Chernoybl
The White House is expressing outrage at “credible reports” from Ukrainian officials that the staff at the shuttered Chernoybl nuclear plant have been taken hostage by Russian troops.
Press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that “we condemn it and we request their release.”
Psaki says the U.S. has no assessment on the state of the plant where radioactivity is still leaking decades after the worst nuclear disaster in history. But she says hostage taking could hamper efforts to maintain the nuclear facility and is “incredibly alarming and greatly concerning.”
Psaki spoke after Alyona Shevtsova, an adviser to the commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces, wrote on Facebook that the staff at the Chernobyl plant had been “taken hostage” when Russian troops seized the facility.
Earlier, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said it was informed by Ukraine that “unidentified armed forces” have taken control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant, adding that there had been “no casualties or destruction at the industrial site.”
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi called for “maximum restraint” to avoid actions that could put Ukraine’s nuclear facilities at risk.
The nuclear reactor in then-Soviet Ukraine exploded in April 1986, spewing radioactive waste across Europe in the world’s worst nuclear disaster. The exploded reactor has been covered by a protective shelter to prevent radiation leak and the entire plant has been decommissioned.
Russia reports destroying Ukrainian facilities
Russia’s Defense Ministry says its military has destroyed 83 Ukrainian military facilities, including 11 air bases. They also confirmed the loss of a Russian Su-25 attack jet due to "pilot error."
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered that Ukrainian servicemen be treated “with respect” and those who lay down their weapons offered safe corridors.
Ukrainian border guards released footage of what they said were Russian tanks moving in. Big explosions were heard in Ukrainian cities Thursday. Ukrainians fled some cities.
The Russian military claimed to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defenses in a matter of hours.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claims the invasion is intended to protect civilians. In a televised address early Thursday, he said the action comes in response to threats coming from Ukraine. He added that Russia doesn’t have a goal to occupy Ukraine.
Putin says the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian “regime.”
Zelensnkyy: Ukraine didn’t choose war
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensnkyy urged Moscow to end hostilities, adding that Russian airborne troops have been checked outside Kyiv.
“It wasn’t Ukraine that chose the path of war, but Ukraine is offering to go back to the path of peace,” he said Thursday.
He said a Russian airborne force in Hostomel airport outside Kyiv, which has a big runway, has been stopped and is being destroyed.
The Ukrainian leader said many Russian warplanes and armored vehicles were destroyed but didn’t give numbers. He also said an unspecified number of Russian troops were captured.
He appealed to global leaders, saying that “if you don’t help us now, if you fail to offer strong assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door.”
Refugees arrive in Poland
Some of the first refugees from Ukraine have arrived in European Union member Poland by road and rail.
A scheduled train from Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine arrived Thursday afternoon in the Polish town of Przemysl, near Ukraine’s western border, carrying a few hundred passengers.
The passengers of various ages, arriving with bags and backpacks, told The Associated Press they were fleeing war. Some live in Poland and were returning urgently from visits to their homeland.
The chief of Poland’s border guards, Gen. Tomasz Praga, said there was a visible increase in the number of people wanting to cross into Poland.
Officials said Poland has prepared at least eight centers with food, medical care and places to rest.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that “innocent people are being killed” in Ukraine and appealed to the Poles to extend every possible assistance to the Ukrainians who have found themselves in need of help.