KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s army said Saturday it had repelled a Russian attack on an army base on one of the capital city Kyiv’s main avenues and shot down several Russian aircraft, including a transport carrying paratroopers.
Russia “attacked one of the military units on Victory Avenue in Kyiv. The attack was repulsed,” Ukraine’s army said on its verified Facebook page, without specifying where exactly the incident took place.
Videos posted to social media showed heavy fighting in the Kyiv neighborhood of Shuliavka, near the city’s zoo.
Multiple explosions can be seen and several vehicles were on fire on the side of the road. The New York Times said it had verified some of the videos from Shuliavka.
In a separate post, the army said “heavy fighting” was underway in the town of Vasylkiv south of Kyiv, adding that Russia was “trying to land paratroopers”.
The military also said it had shot down a Russian helicopter and SU-25 aircraft at around midnight on Saturday, and reported shooting down an II-76 Russian transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Kyiv, an account confirmed by a senior American intelligence official.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) February 26, 2022
The statement did not say how many people were on board, but transport planes can carry up to 125 paratroopers.
A second Russian Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane was shot down near Bila Tserkva, 50 miles (85 kilometers) south of Kyiv, according to two American officials with direct knowledge of conditions on the ground in Ukraine.
It was not immediately clear what was on board.
The Russian military continued its advance, laying claim Friday to the southern Ukraine city of Melitopol. Still, it was unclear in the fog of war how much of Ukraine is still under Ukrainian control and how much or little Russian forces have seized.
As his country fended off explosions and gunfire, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed for a cease-fire and warned in a bleak statement that multiple cities were under attack.
“This night we have to stand firm,” he said. “The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now.”
After Ukrainian forces fought Russian troops advancing on the capital Friday, not long after midnight Zelensky warned the nation to stay on its guard. “This night will be more difficult than the day. Many cities of our state are under attack,” he said in a video address.
“Special attention on Kyiv –- we cannot lose the capital,” he added.
“I am turning to our defenders, male and female, on all fronts: this night the enemy will use all the forces it has to crush our defense in a treacherous, harsh and inhumane way,” he said.
???? Neste momento há fortes combates no bairro de Shuliavka em Kiev. pic.twitter.com/M0gZxkGJS6
— Guerras Do Mundo (@guerrasdomundo) February 26, 2022
“Tonight they will attempt a storming” of the capital, he added in an apparent reference to Kyiv.
Earlier, a large boom was heard in the evening near Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the square in central Kyiv that was the heart of protests which led to the 2014 ouster of a Kremlin-friendly president. The cause was not immediately known.
Five explosions struck near a major power plant on Kyiv’s eastern outskirts, said Mayor Vitaly Klitschko. There was no information on what caused them, and no electrical outages were immediately reported.
It was unclear how many people overall had died. Ukrainian officials reported at least 137 deaths on their side from the first full day of fighting and claimed hundreds on the Russian one. Russian authorities released no casualty figures.
UN officials reported 25 civilian deaths, mostly from shelling and airstrikes, and said that 100,000 people were believed to have left their homes. They estimate that up to 4 million could flee if the fighting escalates.
At the Pentagon, press secretary John Kirby said the US believes the offensive, including its advance on Kyiv, has gone more slowly than Moscow had planned, noting that Ukraine forces have been fighting back. But he also said the military campaign is in an early stage and circumstances can change rapidly.