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Ukraine invasion: Russia says it has captured city of Melitopol

Russia captures Ukrainian city of Melitopol

A turret of burned Russian tank is left abandoned after the Ukrainian army attacked it the previous day near the city of Kharkiv. Photograph: Sergey Kozlov/EPA

Reuters/NAN

Russian forces captured the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol on Saturday, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported, as Moscow launched coordinated cruise missile and artillery strikes on several cities, including the capital Kyiv.

Ukrainian officials were not immediately available for comment on the fate of Melitopol, a city of about 150,000 people.

If confirmed, it would be the first significant population centre the Russians have seized since their invasion began on Thursday.

Earlier, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces fired cruise missiles from the Black Sea at Mariupol, as well as Sumy in the northeast and Poltava in the east.

Kyiv authorities said a missile hit a residential building and a Reuters witness said another hit an area near the airport. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Earlier, gunfire erupted near city-centre government buildings, a Reuters witness said. The cause was not clear.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking in a video message from outside his Kyiv office, was defiant. “We will not put down weapons, we will defend our state,” he said.

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Ukrainian authorities have urged citizens to help defend Kyiv from the advancing Russian forces but even as the fighting grew more intense, the Russian and Ukrainian governments signalled an openness to negotiations, offering the first glimmer of hope for diplomacy since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion.

The air force command earlier reported heavy fighting near an air base at Vasylkiv southwest of the capital, which it said was under attack from Russian paratroopers.

It said one of its fighters had shot down a Russian transport plane. Reuters could not independently verify the claims.

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the president’s office, said the situation in Kyiv and its outskirts was under control.

“There are cases of sabotage and reconnaissance groups working in the city, police and self-defence forces are working efficiently against them,” Podolyak said.

Kyiv residents were told by the defence ministry to make petrol bombs to repel the invaders.

Some families cowered in shelters and hundreds of thousands have left their homes to find safety, according to a U.N. aid official.

Ukraine said more than 1,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. Russia did not release casualty figures. Zelenskiy said late on Thursday that 137 soldiers and civilians been killed with hundreds wounded.

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