Ukraine’s government claimed on Thursday to have retaken an airport on the outskirts of Kyiv that Russian airborne troops had earlier seized, as President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered compulsory enlistment and banned all men aged 18-60 from leaving the country.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces in an update at 8pm local time (1pm ET) said they believe more than 60 Russian battalion tactical groups – the equivalent of between 30,000 to 60,000 troops – have been deployed on Ukrainian territory.
It said the ‘enemy has an extremely low morale’.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, sent in his forces early on Thursday in what he termed a ‘special military operation’.
Prior to the invasion, analysts and intelligence experts believed Putin had up to 190,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders at various locations.
Before dawn broke, Russian forces were attacking from the south, through Crimea; from the east, with the city of Kharkiv coming under intense pressure; and from the north, with troops from both Russia and Belarus rolling across the Belorussian border in tanks.
Loud explosions were heard in the vicinity of the capital, Kyiv, in the early hours of Thursday, and U.S. officials said they expect the city to fall by the end of the weekend.
General George Joulwan, who commanded NATO during the Balkan war, said on Thursday night he expects Kiev to fall within 24-36 hours.
As night fell on Thursday, residents were seeking shelter in the city’s deep subway system, knowing that an overnight barrage was likely.
Smoke was seen billowing above the city in afternoon, and one strike believed to have hit near a railway bridge in central Kyiv.