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Zelenskyy urges Ukrainians to stand firm as Kyiv comes under Russian assault

Natali Sevriukova reacts next to her house following a rocket attack the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Natali Sevriukova reacts next to her home following a rocket attack the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.

Updated February 26, 2022 at 12:13 PM ET

Fierce street fighting is being reported in Kyiv as Ukrainian troops defend the capital city against the ongoing Russian invasion. Air raid sirens blared throughout the night as the city was hit by missiles and rockets. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is urging Ukrainian citizens to stay inside, take cover and "stand firm."Zelenskyy has released two videos in the last few hours, cautioning that he and his family are top targets and disputing what he says is disinformation being spread that he has called on his army to surrender."We have withstood and successful repelled enemy attacks," Zelenskyy said in a video message, according to a BBC translation. "The fighting continues in many cities and districts of our state. We are defending our country, the land of our future children."Kyiv and key cities around the capital are controlled by our army," he said. "The occupiers wanted to block the center of our state and put their puppets here, as in Donetsk. We broke their plan."A senior U.S. defense official confirms that Russians are facing stiff resistance by Ukrainian forces, and have not yet taken any major cities. About half of the estimated 190,000 Russian forces that had been deployed near Ukraine prior to the invasion were in Ukraine as of Saturday afternoon local time.Russian troops were about 19 miles outside Kyiv, but Russian reconnaissance — likely part of the Spetsnaz special forces — were inside the city, the U.S. official said. Thousands had landed by ship in the southern city of Mariupol, and were heading north to Donbas.

Biden approves additional military aid for Ukraine

President Biden authorized $350 million in military assistance Friday, which includes Javelin anti-tank missiles, small arms and body armor to support Ukraine's front-line military defending against the Russian attack, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. That brings the total U.S. assistance to $1 billion over the past year, he said.Ukraine's health minister reported Saturday that 198 people had been killed and more than 1,000 wounded so far. Damage includes a missile that struck a high-rise apartment in southwestern Kyiv overnight, injuring several people. "Stop Russian war criminals!" Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a tweet.Daily life in Ukraine has been upended since the invasion began Thursday. Schools are suspended; many families are hunkered down at home, but many are also trying to flee the country, jamming highways. Satellite imagery shows a 4-mile-long traffic jam of people, cars and trucks trying to cross into Romania near the Siret border crossing.

Nearly 120,000 people have fled Ukraine

The United Nations says nearly 120,000 people have fled to neighboring countries in recent days. Most of those leaving are women and children; men ages 18 to 60 aren't permitted to cross the border, since they may be drafted into the fight.The White House announced Friday that it would join European allies in sanctioning Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The sanctions will include a travel ban.Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Zelenskyy in a phone call Saturday that his government is trying to broker an immediate ceasefire, Reuters reports.Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on Friday calling on Moscow to end its invasion. President Biden was set to meet with his national security team Saturday to discuss the latest developments.NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman contributed to this report. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.