Ukraine’s president said Friday that “enemy sabotage groups” have entered the capital Kyiv and called on the public to be careful and follow curfew rules.
In a video message on Facebook, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian army has managed to protect almost the entire territory, Ukraine's official Ukrinform news agency reported.
Zelenskyy also noted the recapture of Hostomel airport in the Kyiv region from Russian forces.
137 people – soldiers and civilians – killed
According to preliminary data, at least 137 people – soldiers and civilians - – were killed on the first day of the Russian attacks, he added.
Zelenskyy said he remains in the government quarter.
“According to our information, the enemy has identified me as the number one target. My family is the number two target.
“They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state,” he added.
Not afraid to talk about neutral status with Russia
Referring to his phone calls with leaders, Zelenskyy said: “We're alone for the defense of our country. Who will fight along with us now? Honestly, I see no one."
“We are not afraid to talk about a neutral status with Russia,” he said, asking what kind of security guarantees will Ukraine have.
“Who is ready to guarantee Ukraine joining NATO? Everyone is afraid,” he added.
Zelenskyy also pointed out that Moscow has sent a message that they are for negotiations.
“They want to talk about the neutral status of Ukraine,” he said. “The fate of our country is now being determined.”
“I am asking them, ‘Are you with us?’ They say they are with us, but they are not ready to accept us in NATO. All of them are afraid,” he said.
“The fate of the country depends on our army and our security forces.”
Zelenskyy said that Russia lost an estimated 30 tanks, around 130 armored vehicles, seven planes and six helicopters.
Donbas crisis and Russia's military intervention
The February 2014 “Maidan revolution” in Ukraine led to former President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country and a pro-Western government coming to power.
That was followed by Russia illegally annexing the Crimea region and separatists declaring independence in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Donbas in eastern Ukraine, both of which have large ethnic Russian populations.
As clashes erupted between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian army, the 2014 and 2015 Minsk Agreements were signed in Moscow after the intervention of Western powers.
The conflict, however, simmered for years with persistent cease-fire violations. As of February 2022, some 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Tensions started escalating late last year when Ukraine, the US and its allies accused Russia of amassing tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine.
They claimed that Russia was preparing to invade its western neighbor, allegations that were consistently rejected by Moscow.
Defying threats of sanctions by the West, Moscow officially recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states earlier this week, followed by the start of a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the operation aims to protect people “subjected to genocide” by Kyiv and to “demilitarize and de-Nazify” Ukraine, while calling on the Ukrainian army to lay down its arms.