Ukraine’s capital was rocked by explosions Friday as a Russian advance left its residents and leaders bracing for the city to be overrun.
Invading Russian troops bore down on Kyiv despite a desperate day of Ukrainian defense in which hundreds of its troops were killed and injured.
Explosions and the wail of air-raid sirens sounded before dawn in the city of 3 million people, with residents huddled in shelters as Russia pressed forward with the invasion of its democratic neighbor.
“Horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv,” Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter. “Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he was “the number one target” of Putin’s invasion — backing up Western intelligence that Russia intends to decapitate his Western-leaning government and possibly replace it with a regime closer to Moscow.
The assessment came after Russia attacked key cities across Ukraine, leading to hundreds of casualties and prompting a warning from the Ukrainian president that saboteurs have entered Kyiv.
Zelenskyy said in a statement that at least 137 people had been killed and 316 had been injured during the first day of the invasion.
“They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state,” he said in an emotional video address.
Around the same time, an apartment building in Kyiv was hit with debris after an aircraft was shot down, according to Ukrainian officials and the country’s emergency services.
Retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former supreme Allied commander of NATO and an NBC News contributor, said in an interview on the “TODAY” show that he thought Russian forces would likely try to capture Zelenskyy.