The Ukrainian capital Kiev could fall to the Russians “within hours”, a senior western intelligence official has said.
The warning, first reported by Bloomberg, comes after Moscow targeted air bases and other military infrastructure across Ukraine on Thursday, following president Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade his neighbour.
Russian troops simultaneously poured across the border from their own territory as well as from Belarus.
The Kremlin’s forces have so far destroyed 83 of Ukraine’s “above-ground military facilities” since the invasion began, according to a Russian defence ministry spokesperson.
Explosions have been heard near the cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol and in Kiev during a multi-pronged attack by Moscow.
The southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol came under particular intense fire, a diplomatic source told Reuters.
Elsewhere, Russian troops entered the zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, capturing the area on Thursday afternoon.
An adviser to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed that Kiev had lost control of the site, located about 100km north of the capital, after fierce fighting.
Dozens of Ukrainians have reportedly been killed so far in Russian airstrikes, with one of the casualties said to be a young boy, who was hit by a shell in the Kharkiv region.
Meanwhile, the first Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Poland by road and rail after fleeing their homes.
G7 leaders have condemned Russia’s “unprovoked and completely unjustified attack” on Ukraine as a “serious violation” of international law.
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