Day two of Russia’s war in Ukraine: What we know so far

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By Orlando Crowcroft  & Alice Tidey, David Mac Dougall, Natalia Liubchenkova
Ukrainians who live in Rome protest near the Russian Embassy in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.
Ukrainians who live in Rome protest near the Russian Embassy in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.   -   Copyright  Alessandra Tarantino/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Ukrainian refugees were flooding over the border into Poland and Russian troops were approaching the capital, Kyiv, on the second day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier on Friday, Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defence Hanna Malyar said that Russian troops were heading towards Kyiv followed by a convoy of military trucks. Later, Russia claimed that it had seized an airport north of Kyiv and destroyed dozens of military installations, as well as planes, tanks and helicopters.

In terms of death toll, true numbers were unclear. Ukraine claimed that 1,000 Russian soldiers had been killed while its own losses were over 100. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for foreigners with military experience to come and fight for Ukraine, as the government continued to arm civilians.

UN officials reported 25 civilian deaths, mostly from shelling and airstrikes, and said that 100,000 people were believed to have left their homes, estimating up to 4 million could flee if the fighting escalates.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians crossed the border into Poland and Hungary as others headed to safer parts of western Ukraine. But many of those who spoke to Euronews on Friday said that they were taking their children and other family members to safety before heading back east to take up arms against Russia.

“We have no fear. We are not afraid. We see how we are beating the Russians," Alex, 38, told Euronews.

“Maybe the Russians have more soldiers but they don’t know what they are fighting for. They were just ordered by Putin to fight. We are defending our land, our cities, our families, our homes.”

How did we get here?

President Vladimir Putin said that Russia invaded Ukraine to protect the breakaway regions in the east of the country but Thursday’s military assault, which began at 5 am, also came from the north and the south.

Hans Kristensen, an associate fellow at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told Euronews that rather than an operation to shore up the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, as Putin had claimed, the invasion is clearly an attempt to take as much of the country as Moscow can.

“This is total war, both in terms of how much territory they can take now and how much they can then hold after this is done. [Putin] wants to nullify the Ukrainian military so they can’t push back. So he can redraw the map," Kristensen said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that Russia's attack was "long-planned", echoing weeks of warnings from the White House that Putin would invade.

Ukraine's armed forces are heavily outgunned by Russia, experts say, but are stronger than in 2014, when Moscow seized Crimea and separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk began fighting for territory in the east.

Russia has about 280,000 personnel and its combined armed forces total about 900,000 and its 2,840 battle tanks outnumber Ukraine by more than three to one, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Although Ukraine trebled its defence budget in real terms from 2010 to 2020, its total defence expenditure in 2020 amounted to only $4.3 billion (€3.8 billion), just a tenth of Russia's, Reuters reported.

NATO and the US have provided military aid to Ukraine but have ruled out sending troops.

Putin warned on the first day of the conflict that if other nations did intervene, there would be "consequences that the world has never seen."

So, what is the rest of the world doing?

French Finance minister Bruno Le Maire promised "immediate sanctions" on Friday that will punish Russia for "the foolish decisions of Vladimir Putin".

“We want to isolate Russia financially. We want to cut all ties between Russia and the global financial system. We will dry up the financing of the Russian economy," he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that the European Union has agreed on an “unprecedented” 1.5 billion euro aid package for Ukraine.

France later also said it favoured banning Russia from the international SWIFT payments system, but Le Maire said that some European nations "had reservations". That decision was expected to be taken later on Friday.

The United Nations Security Council is also due to vote on Friday on a resolution that demands the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, although it can -- and will -- be vetoed by Moscow.

Asian countries including Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have backed sanctions or imposed their own.

Of the major Asian powers, only India has stopped short of condemning the invasion or acknowledging the sovereignty of Ukraine. China is the only major global power to back Russia and blame the West.

What's happening on the ground?

For Ukrainians from the east to Kyiv to as far west as Lviv, emotions have ranged from defiance to fear to confusion, and thousands of citizens have started to flee with their families.

Andriy Khlyvnyuk told Euronews on Friday that he had packed his kids off to his grandmother's house and now was waiting for instruction from the government.

"If it's needed I'll take my gun and go fight for my country," he said.

Kostyantyn, 33, a resident of Kharkiv was holed up in his mother's house with his brother and was, like many, waiting to see what happened next.

"Right now, everybody is staying at home. People have put fuel in their cars or got groceries. We are all waiting for the instructions from the government. It’s not safe to travel," he said.

Meanwhile, Alex - who is originally from Donetsk - explained how the war in Ukraine had become a family concern.

For weeks, Alex said, Ukrainians have been preparing for the war that many predicted would come as Russia massed troops on the border and backed the separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk.

His children, 11 and six, had spent time drawing up evacuation plans with instructions as to which parent should bring the medicine (their mother) and which should bring the food (Alex). On the day of the invasion, his 11-year-old daughter was furiously WhatsApping her school friends.

She looked up from her phone, he recalled, and said: “A lot of my friends, their fathers are fighting back: will you?”

“Of course it is frightening but they’re not scared. They know what needs to be done,” he said.

How will it end?

Experts have warned that while Putin will likely be able to take Ukraine, keeping it would be very difficult, not least in the face of growing sanctions that have now targetted Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.

Russia has already been stripped of the Champions League final, which was due to be held in St Petersburg and has now moved to Paris, and the Formula One race.

The Council of Europe also suspended Russia's rights of representation on Friday, further isolating Moscow.

But it could be the withdrawal of the SWIFT payments system that will be the hardest blow to Russia financially

SWIFT is an intermediary system that allows banks and institutions around the world to carry out payments with each other.

Withdrawal would mean that virtually all EU-Russia trade would come to a halt. Total trade in goods between the bloc and Russia in 2020 amounted to €174.3 billion, of which €79 million were EU exports.

Militarily, Radu Magdin, an analyst based in Bucharest, told Euronews that what happens in the future will depend on what Ukraine does next.

While Ukraine has successfully rallied the international community behind it, it remains to be seen whether it will be able to win on the battlefield in the coming hours and days.

That will determine what kind of presence Russia has in the country in the coming years.

"It is essential that the Ukrainian resist - and they are doing so now bravely - in the next few days until the international community gets pushed by global public opinion outcry to more decisive action," he said.

Additional sources • AP