Russians push towards Ukraine’s capital as residents take cover

From his post in Kyiv, ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports on a city under siege

Residents in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, braced on Saturday for another night sheltering underground, as Russian troops closed in and skirmishes were reported on the outskirts.

Ukraine’s leader, meanwhile, vowed to continue fighting the Russian assault as he appealed for more outside help. “The real fighting for Kyiv is ongoing,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message in which he accused Russia of hitting infrastructure and civilian targets. Central Kyiv appeared quiet on Saturday, though sporadic gunfire could be heard. And fighting on the city’s outskirts suggested that small Russian units were trying to clear a path for the main forces.

Britain and the US said the bulk of Russian forces were 30 km from the centre of the city. On Friday, the UK's Military of Defense (MoD) said the forces were 50km away.

Ukrainian service members collect shells after fighting with Russian raiding group in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Saturday morning. Credit: Getty

ITV News Europe Editor James Mates, who is posted in Kyiv, said on Saturday night that the city had been "evacuated downwards".

"Anti-aircraft warnings have gone out... basically the city is being evacuated downwards, everyone is being told to get into bunkers, get into air raid shelters,” he said.

Residents have since been allowed to reemerge from shelters.

Earlier on Saturday, President Zelenskyy issued an appeal for anyone overseas who is able to fight to join his defense forces in Ukraine.

"Everyone who can return to Ukraine, come back to defend Ukraine. We will then have lots of work to rebuild it.

"Everyone who can defend Ukraine abroad, do it ceaselessly, persistently and together. All friends of Ukraine who want to join the defense, come and we will give you arms."

His comments followed a night of explosions and street fighting that sent Kyiv residents seeking shelter underground.

But the streets quietened down later on Saturday morning after Ukrainian officials reported some success in fending off assaults.

Lucy Watson reports from a train filled with people fleeing Ukraine for Poland

Mr Zelenskyy had earlier appealed for holdout countries in Europe to cut Russia out of the SWIFT international payments system.

Late on Saturday night, the US, EU and UK pledged to remove "selected" Russian banks from SWIFT and impose restrictions on the Russian central bank.

The UK also pledged to continue supplying arms to Ukraine’s embattled troops. The US military announced $350 million in assistance to Ukraine on Saturday, including anti-tank weapons, body armor and small arms. Germany, likewise, said it would send missiles and anti-tank weapons to the country.Meanwhile, a Russian-flagged cargo ship in the English Channel was seized by French maritime officials for potential sanctions breaches. The ship, which was carrying cars, was taken to a port for investigation.

Amid the threat of more violence, Mr Zelenskyy has refused an American offer to evacuate, insisting on Saturday that he would stay and fight on.

In a video posted on Twitter on Saturday morning he said to "not believe in any fake news, I am still here", as he dispelled claims that Ukraine's military would lay down its weapons.

“We will protect the country,” he said. “Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that it’s our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of that.”

Ukraine's health minister reported on Saturday that 198 people, including three children, have been killed and more than 1,000 others have been wounded since the Russian offensive started before dawn on Thursday.

It was unclear whether the figure included both military and civilian casualties.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister said that Russian ground forces and missiles hit the city overnight, with a residential apartment being caught up in one of the attacks.

Footage shows smoke billowing out of a high rise apartment block, which has been left partially destroyed with a chunk of its middle section reduced to rubble.

A rescue worker says at least six civilians were injured by a rocket that hit the high-rise apartment building on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital.

A residential apartment was among the buildings damaged in Kyiv following a rocket attack on the city on Saturday

Ukraine's military reported shooting down a Russian transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles south of Kyiv, an account confirmed by a senior American intelligence official.

It was unclear how many were on board, but transport planes can carry up to 125 paratroopers.

A second Russian military transport plane was shot down near Bila Tserkva, 50 miles south of Kyiv, according to two American officials with direct knowledge of conditions on the ground in Ukraine.

James Mates reports live from Kyiv where he describes how the capital is bracing for more conflict as city officials impose a new curfew amid the threats of Russian saboteurs

Amid fears of attacks from Russian saboteurs, authorities in Kyiv extended a curfew until early Monday. The curfew was originally due to be lifted on Sunday.

“All civilians on the street during the curfew will be considered members of the enemy’s sabotage and reconnaissance groups," Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

The assault from Moscow has expanded to several fronts and is not just concentrated on Kyiv.

Listen to ITV News' What You Need To Know podcast for the latest expert analysis on Ukraine

The Russian military has taken control of the strategically important southern Ukraine city of Melitopol, where ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers is reporting from.

He says Russian forces will be looking to push north along the Dnieper river.

The attack appears to focus on Ukraine’s coastline, stretching from the Black Sea port of Odesa, in the west near the border with Romania, to the Azov Sea port of Mariupol in the east.

If the Russian troops succeed, Ukraine will be cut off from access to all of its sea ports, which are vital for its economy.

How have the people of Ukraine been affected by the Russian invasion?

The conflict has driven thousands of Ukrainians from their homes in search of safety.

UN officials said more than 150,000 Ukrainians have already left the country for Poland, Moldova and other neighboring nations.They estimate that up to 4 million could flee if the fighting escalates.

The conflict has resulted in hundreds of casualties and prompted officials to urge locals to take shelter, stay away from windows and take precautions to avoid flying debris or bullets.

People gather in the Kyiv subway, using it as a bomb shelter. Credit: AP

How long had the Russian invasion been anticipated for?

The assault on Ukraine was anticipated for weeks by the US and Western allies and denied to be in the works just as long by Putin.

He argued the West left him with no other choice by refusing to negotiate Russia’s security demands.

Why has Putin invaded Ukraine despite widespread opposition to the move from his own people? Robert Moore explains

Russia has long resisted Ukraine's move closer towards the European Union and the West's defensive military alliance, Nato.

Announcing Russia's invasion, Putin said the Western alliance threatened "our historic future as a nation".

How has the rest of the world reacted to Russian aggression?

The US and other Western nations have slapped ever-tougher sanctions on Russia as the invasion reverberated through the world's economy and energy supplies, threatening to further hit ordinary households.

The US, EU and UK have pledged to remove "selected" Russian banks from SWIFT and impose restrictions on the Russian central bank.

The UK has sanctioned more than 100 Russian individuals and entities, with several extremely wealthy oligarchs targeted by punitive economic measures. Boris Johnson said he will impose personal sanctions against Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister imminently.