Zelenskyy appoints general to defend Kyiv as Russians close in

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appointed a military commander on Tuesday to lead the defense of Kyiv, as Russian-led armored columns advanced on the capital.

“The defense of our capital is now our most important priority,” Zelenskyy said in a video address posted on his Telegram channel.

The defense of Kyiv will be led by General Mykola Zhernov, said Zelenskyy, in collaboration with the city’s elected mayor, former heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko.

“I decided to appoint a professional military man as the head of the Kyiv city military administration for the duration of the war,” Zelenskyy said. “To guarantee the defense of the city, to block the enemy’s intrigues in our capital, so that the people of Kyiv have all that they need.”

Zelenskyy denounced what he said was a cruise missile strike on the regional administrative headquarters in the northeastern city of Kharkiv as “an outright, undisguised act of terror.”

“Russia is a terrorist state. No one will forgive. No one will forget,” said the president, who was unshaven and wore a khaki T-shirt, which has become a hallmark of his wartime leadership.

The Russian strikes on military and civilian command centers, coupled with the bombardment of residential areas in northeastern cities like Kharkiv and Okhtyrka, bode ill for the Ukrainian political leadership as it readies for a last-ditch defense of the capital.

Satellite imagery showed miles-long Russian armored columns stretching along highways to the northwest of Kyiv. These forces were joined in battle on Tuesday by Belarusian troops who crossed the border at Chernihiv to the northeast. This means that forces loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin are now advancing towards the capital on both sides of the Dnipro River.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, however, denied on Tuesday that his country’s military has joined Russia’s attack on Ukraine, contradicting local reports, which noted a Belarusian column of 33 units had entered a region north of Kyiv. The Ukrainian parliament later confirmed the reports.

Lukashenko, a steadfast Putin ally isolated internationally over his campaign to concentrate power and crush dissent, held firm: “No decisions were made by me. And without my decision, these units cannot even be withdrawn from the barracks,” he said.

Belarus hosted a first, inconclusive, round of peace talks between the two warring parties on Monday at the Ukraine-Belarus border.

Source: Politico