Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russian forces have allegedly blocked Kyiv from the west

(NEW YORK) — Russia’s military launched a long-feared invasion of Ukraine early Thursday, attacking its ex-Soviet neighbor from multiple directions despite warnings of dire consequences from the United States and the international community.

Thursday’s attacks followed weeks of escalating tensions in the region. In a fiery, hourlong speech on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognizing the independence of two Russia-backed separatist areas in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region: the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for stoking the crisis and reiterated its demands to NATO that Ukraine pledges to never join the transatlantic defense alliance.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 25, 10:31 am
EU moving toward sanctioning Putin, Lavrov: Top diplomat

The European Union is moving toward sanctioning Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Russia’s war against Ukraine, the EU’s top diplomat confirmed.

But the decision has not been made and requires unanimous approval by the 27 member states, diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters Friday.

“If there is no surprises and nobody objects — because we require unanimity — yes, Putin and Lavrov will be on the list,” Borrell said.

He said even these EU sanctions on Putin and Lavrov would “certainly” not be enough.

“We are facing a full-fledged invasion of a country by another. It’s not a special forces operations like Russia pretends us to believe — it’s a fully-fledged invasion with bombing, with killing of civilians, with confrontations among two armies,” he said. “This is the worst thing that has happened in Europe, if I may say, since the end of the Cold War, and nobody knows what’s happening afterwards. Nobody knows which are the real intention of Putin.”

Feb 25, 8:57 am
Russia may be reinforcing, resupplying before moving in on Kyiv

There was an eerie quietness across Kyiv on Friday afternoon, as Russian forces closed in on the Ukrainian capital.

A senior U.S. official told ABC News that he believes the pause around Kyiv was due to the Russian military reinforcing troops and resupplying ammunition and food, and that Russia still wants a stranglehold on the city over the next 24 to 48 hours.

The official also expressed great concern about civilian causalities if Russian forces do move in. While there appeared to be a renewed effort at diplomacy on Friday, the United States believes any noise Russia makes about negotiations is simply stalling, the official said.

-ABC News’ Martha Raddatz

Feb 25, 8:35 am
Kremlin claims Zelenskyy has agreed to discuss neutrality

Russia claimed Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has agreed to discuss neutrality for his country.

“Zelenskyy stated his readiness to discuss the neutral status of Ukraine,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a daily call. “From the beginning, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin spoke about how the goal of the operation to the [separatist regions], including a path to the demilitarisation and de-Nazification of Ukraine. But that is actually also an essential component of neutral status.”

Peskov added that Putin is prepared to send a delegation to neighboring Belarus to hold talks with Ukrainian officials in Minsk.

If the Kremlin’s claims are true, it would amount to Zelenskyy surrendering to Russia’s demand that Ukraine pledges to never join NATO.

Earlier Friday, Zelenskyy called on Putin to hold talks “to stop people dying.” But he did not mention neutral status.

The comments came as Russian troops reached the center of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and engaged in fighting with Ukrainian troops.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 8:35 am
Kremlin claims Zelenskyy has agreed to discuss neutrality

Russia claimed Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has agreed to discuss neutrality for his country.

“Zelenskyy stated his readiness to discuss the neutral status of Ukraine,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a daily call. “From the beginning, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin spoke about how the goal of the operation to the [separatist regions], including a path to the demilitarisation and de-Nazification of Ukraine. But that is actually also an essential component of neutral status.”

Peskov added that Putin is prepared to send a delegation to neighboring Belarus to hold talks with Ukrainian officials in Minsk.

If the Kremlin’s claims are true, it would amount to Zelenskyy surrendering to Russia’s demand that Ukraine pledges to never join NATO.

Earlier Friday, Zelenskyy called on Putin to hold talks “to stop people dying.” But he did not mention neutral status.

The comments came as Russian troops reached the center of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and engaged in fighting with Ukrainian troops.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 8:13 am
Russia claims to have blocked Kyiv from west

Russia claimed on Friday afternoon that its forces have blocked Kyiv from the west, which would begin a partial encirclement of the Ukrainian capital.

According to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense, Russian forces also have completely blocked the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, about 90 miles north of Kyiv, and now have full control of a key Ukrainian military airport in Hostomel, a town on the edge of the capital. Some 200 Russian helicopters were allegedly used in the attack on the airport.

While ABC News could not independently verify Russia’s claims, the Ukrainian military has acknowledged that it does not have full control of the airport in Hostomel.

The Russian Ministry of Defense alleged that Russian forces are “doing everything possible to prevent civilian casualties” and “will not deliver any strikes on residential areas of Kyiv.” However, fighting is already taking place in residential areas and Ukrainian authorities said homes have been bombed in and around Kyiv.

-ABC News’ Anastasia Bagaeva and Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 7:47 am
Zelenskyy warns Russian invasion is start of ‘war against all Europe’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold negotiations and cease the deadly attacks on his country.

“Fighting is ongoing all over Ukraine. Let’s sit at the table for negotiations to stop people dying,” Zelenskyy said in a televised address Friday afternoon.

But he did not order Ukrainian troops to stop defending their country, instead telling them: “Stand tough. You’re everything we have. You’re everything that is defending us.”

Zelenskyy criticized Europe’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling it too slow and noting divisions. He also issued a dire warning to the rest of Europe.

“It’s not just Russian invasion in Ukraine, it’s the beginning of the war against all Europe, against its unity, all human rights, against all the rules of coexistence on the continent, against European countries’ refusal to change the borders by force,” he said.

-ABC News’ Julia Drozd and Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 7:15 am
UN refugee agency estimates 100,000 Ukrainians are displaced

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates some 100,000 Ukrainians have already been forced from their homes due to the ongoing Russian invasion, spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told ABC News on Friday.

Mantoo cautioned that the agency has not confirmed any exact numbers.

“But there clearly has been significant displacement inside the country and some movements towards and across the borders,” she said.

The news was first reported by AFP.

The United States is coordinating with its European allies and partners who will be on the front lines receiving refugees, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State told ABC News. That includes diplomatic engagements “to ensure neighboring countries keep their borders open to those seeking international protection,” the spokesperson said.

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

Feb 25, 6:42 am
Russia says negotiations will begin after ‘democratic order’ restored

Russia will begin negotiations again once “democratic order” is restored in Ukraine, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said Friday, amid an ongoing invasion of the neighboring country.

“We are ready for negotiations, at any moment, as soon as the Armed Forces of Ukraine respond to the call of our president to cease resistance and lay down their arms. No one intends to attack them,” Lavrov said during a televised meeting in Moscow with pro-Russian separatist leaders from eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov’s comments come as Russian forces attacked Ukrainian troops in Kyiv on Friday morning, as the fighting drew closer to the capital’s city center.

-ABC News’ Anastasia Bagaeva and Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 6:03 am
Russia claims to have disabled 118 Ukrainian military facilities

Russia claimed Friday that its forces have so far disabled 118 elements of Ukraine’s military infrastructure.

“These include 11 military airfields and 13 command and communication posts of the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

Konashenkov also alleged that more than 150 Ukrainian soldiers have “laid down their arms and surrendered during the fighting.”

-ABC News’ Anastasia Bagaeva

Feb 25, 5:43 am
Gunfire, explosions heard within Kyiv as fighting draws near

ABC News’ team in Kyiv saw a large explosion and heard intense gunfire in the distance early Friday afternoon.

The crackles of gunfire appeared to be several miles north of the center of the Ukrainian capital, but still well within the city limits.

Ukrainian authorities have told residents in the northern suburb of Obolon to take shelter and prepare for imminent military action. The area is a 10-minute drive from Kyiv’s center.

The capital remains on edge as Russian forces draw near. Earlier, Ukrainian troops were seen hurriedly moving with ammunition to set up positions in the city center as air-raid sirens rang out.

Thousands of people have tried to leave Kyiv and head west to the Polish border, with some spending hours stuck in long traffic jams.

The Ukrainian military said it has distributed 18,000 assault rifles to territorial defense volunteers in the capital. It has also begun handing out weapons to civilians who want to fight and has called on healthy men over the age 60 to join the defense force, if they wish.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 5:11 am
Ukrainian military claims to have killed Russian saboteurs in Kyiv

Ukraine’s military claimed Friday to have killed an advance group of Russian saboteurs disguised as Ukrainian soldiers during a gunfight in the capital, Kyiv.

The Ukrainian military released video purportedly showing the bodies of men in Ukrainian uniforms and a destroyed truck. The fighting allegedly happened in an area only 10 minutes north of the city center.

Russian forces that crossed into Ukraine from the north on Thursday have been trying to advance south toward Kyiv. Fighting was taking place near a town 20 miles north of the entrance to the capital on Friday morning, ABC News has learned.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

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