Ukrainians were desperately trying to hold off the Russian invasion in the early hours of Saturday, at the end of a long night that saw Vladimir Putin’s forces advance from the north, south and west.
Ukraine’s armed forces tweeted as dawn broke on Saturday: ‘During the night the Russian occupiers did not take any city!
‘Kyiv is being cleared of the remains of saboteurs. Thank you to the courageous defenders of Ukraine!’
Ukrainians were emerging from their bunkers after a restless night to find a country still defiant, despite the barbarity unleashed by Moscow.
The night began with Ukrainians still in the cities seeking refuge in the subway for the third night in a row.
As dusk fell at 5:30pm local time on Friday, the streets were eerily empty and quiet.
Kyiv’s empty streets are pictured on Friday night as the nervy residents awaited the expected onslaught
Residents of Kyiv take cover in a bomb shelter in the early hours of Saturday
Kyiv locals endured a terrifying and sleepless night on Friday, as the bombardment began at around 3am Saturday
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, appeared on social media shortly after midnight, warning his people that the coming hours would be decisive.
In a stirring speech from his bunker in a secret location in Kyiv, Zelensky, 44, said that ‘the fate of Ukraine is now being decided.’
He told his people: ‘This night, the enemy will use all the forces available to break our resistance — treacherously, viciously, inhumanly.
‘This night, they will make an assault upon us. We all have to understand what we are going to face. This night, we have to withstand.’
It later emerged that the United States had once more offered Zelensky and his family – his wife Oleana and their daughter Aleksandra, 17, and nine-year-old son, Kiril – the opportunity to be evacuated from Ukraine.
Zelensky refused. On Thursday night, he insisted he was staying put, and indeed on Friday morning he went out into Kyiv to film a short video for the nation, urging resilience.
Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, is seen addressing the nation on Friday night
The first sign that Putin was indeed launching his attack came from Vasylkiv, 20 miles south of the capital.
The city, home to a Cold War-era air base, was the scene of the first major incident when a Russian IL-76 military transporter plane was brought down – reportedly with 150 paratroopers on board.
Sources in the city then claimed that Russian soldiers, dressed as Ukrainian police, ambushed a checkpoint.
Heavy fighting ensued in Vasylkiv, as Putin’s forces tried to gain a foothold in the south from which to launch their attack on Kyiv.
Kyiv was in flames in the early hours of Saturday
A second Russian IL-76 was brought down south of Kyiv, in the city of Bila Tserkva, according to reports.
In the east of the country, Ukraine’s air defenses brought down a Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet and a helicopter, the Ukrainian military claimed.
And as the aggressors were trying to advance from the south, another attack was being attempted from the north – even closer to the center of Kiev.
Russian troops were launching an attack on the northern Kyiv suburb of Troieshchyna – site of a thermal power station.
The suburb had been attacked earlier in the week, as Russia tried to wrest control of the strategic jewel on the banks of the Dnieper river.
Unconfirmed reports suggested dozens of Russians had been arrested.
Meanwhile, the Russians were also advancing from the west.
Dramatic footage showed explosions near the Beresteiska metro station, towards the edge of the city.
Locals living along Peremohy Avenue – a main artery into central Kyiv from the west – shared images on social media of vehicles ablaze.
Russian forces were said to be advancing towards Kyiv zoo, towards the Shuliavka district of the city.
The fighting was fierce, yet Ukraine’s interior ministry said they repelled the attack – blowing up a bridge along Peremohy Avenue to stop the advancing Russian forces.
Significant explosions were seen from Beresteiska metro station in the west of Kyiv
Smoke and flames are seen billowing over Kyiv’s Peremohy Avenue in the west of the city, near the zoo, in the early hours of Saturday morning
Ukraine’s army claimed that the Russians had suffered heavy losses, with 3,500 killed and 200 taken prisoner.
They said Russia had lost 14 airplanes and eight helicopters, plus 102 tanks and 536 armored cars.
Ukraine’s interior ministry warned people to stay indoors, saying active battles were taking place in the streets of Kyiv.
Shortly after, Zelensky posted a video to social media of him walking through the streets of Kyiv, captioned: ‘Do not believe the fakes.’
The Ukrainian armed forces tweeted in the early hours of Saturday that the attack from the west, near the city’s zoo, had been repressed, stating: ‘Russian war criminals attacked one of the military units in Kyiv on Victory Avenue. The attack was repulsed’