The northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv has in effect been cut off by Russian forces, the regional governor said on Friday.
"The city has been conditionally, operationally surrounded by the enemy," Governor Viacheslav Chaus said on national television, adding that the city was under fire from artillery and warplanes.
The city is the administrative center of the Chernihiv Oblast and is home to roughly 285,000 people.
In a video uploaded to Facebook, the governor explained that a pedestrian bridge has been closed due to Russian artillery fire, barring it from cars and pedestrians.
"Today, no one is coming or going," he said.
The fighting continues
Fighting continued in Ukraine as the ongoing Russian invasion, now set to last over a month.
Russian forces near the capital of Kyiv have been pushed back by Ukrainian counterattacks and overextended supply lines, with Ukrainian troops now reoccupying several towns and defensive positions as far as 35 kilometers east of the city, according to a UK defense intelligence update.
The intelligence report predicts that Ukrainian troops will keep up this counterattack, trying to push the Russians back towards Hostomel Airfield.
In Lukyanivka, Ukrainian troops managed to take out a Russian stronghold home to hundreds of soldiers, tanks and equipment and reportedly killed 40 Russian soldiers, Kyiv Defense Forces head Petro Kuzyk said, according to Pravda.
"Unfortunately, only 40 occupiers were killed - this is what is confirmed - and the rest managed to escape, some hid in the woods," Kuzyk said, according to Pravda, adding that some equipment was taken as "trophies" while others were burnt.
The amount of civilians in villages near Kyiv have made it difficult for Ukrainian troops to clear Russian forces from the recaptured areas, however, sparking calls for civilians to evacuate.
About 20,000 people have answered appeals to flee the Ukrainian city of Boryspil, which is near an international airport, Boryspil Mayor Volodymyr Borysenko said on national television on Friday.
However, Ukrainian forces have still taken losses. Two Russian missiles struck a Ukrainian military unit near Dnipro, causing "serious destruction," according to the Dnipro Regional Military Administration head Valentin Reznichenko, Interfax reported.
Rescuers are currently working to look for people among the debris.
Fighting continues to rage in the South. According to UK intelligence, Russian troops are still working to circumvent the city of Mykolaiv in their bid to push westward toward the valuable Black Sea port Odesa. However, Ukrainian resistance and logistical issues have continued to stymie their progress.
The city of Mariupol remains under siege and heavy bombardment as the ongoing humanitarian crisis due to a shortage of staples like water, food and electricity has worsened.
VIDEO: Images of destruction in besieged city of Mariupol.Ukraine says nearly 100,000 people are trapped without food, water or power under fierce shelling by Russian forces. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says forces from his Russian region have taken control of the city hall pic.twitter.com/iqxfBSpgQ9— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 25, 2022
According to Ukraine, nearly 100,000 people are trapped without staples due to Russian shelling as the battle for the city continues.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has sent troops to aid in the Russian invasion, said troops from his region have managed to take control of Mariupol City Hall, according to AFP.
Russian forces have continued the bombardment of the Kharkiv Oblast over the past 24 hours, striking 55 times, including at civilian infrastructure. This included a clinic that had been acting as a center for humanitarian aid in the city of Kharkiv, killing four civilians, according to the regional police, who added that no military facilities are near clinic.
Reuters, however, has been unable to independently verify this report.
In addition, rockets were fired at the Kharkiv airport, Kharkiv Regional Military Administration head Oleh Synegubov said on Telegram, according to Pravda.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry said on Friday Russian forces had managed partially to create a land corridor to Crimea from territory in Ukraine's Donetsk region.
"The enemy was partially successful in creating a land corridor between the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and part of Donetsk region," it said in an online post.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Humanitarian refugee crisis
President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that Ukrainians "need to achieve peace" and halt Russian bombardment that has forced millions to flee to countries like Poland, where US President Joe Biden is due to witness the crisis first hand.
On the heels of leaders' summits in Brussels that aimed to show a united Western front against Russia's month-long invasion of its neighbor, Biden goes to Poland on Friday to meet experts involved in the refugee response.
Western leaders denounced Moscow's invasion as barbaric and promised new military and humanitarian aid after Thursday's talks in Brussels.
The Russian invasion, which Putin calls a "special operation," has killed thousands of people, sent 3.6 million abroad and driven more than half of Ukraine's children from their homes, according to the United Nations.
Russian forces reportedly kidnapped Dmytro Afanasyev, a member of a district council in Kherson, Ukrinform reported Friday.
The announcement was made on Facebook by Serhiy Khlan, a member of the Kherson Regional Council.
Afanasyev is a member of the Korabelny District Council and was the head of the European Solidarity Party. He was also a renowned athlete and was the coach of Ukraine's Taekwando team.
According to Khlan, he was severely beaten on March 22 by Russian troops during a pro-Ukraine rally in Kherson, the first major city to have fallen to Russian forces in the invasion, after they tried to detain his wife.
This comes after numerous other municipal politicians in Ukraine have been reportedly kidnapped by Russian soldiers, including Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast. He was reportedly sent to the Luhansk People's Republic, the pro-Russian separatist-controlled breakaway in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where he faced charges of terrorism. However, Fedorov was later freed.
Fedorov on Friday announced that 350 people from Melitopol would be able to evacuate the city to Zaporizhzhia, Ukrinform reported.
Speaking in a video on Facebook, the mayor explained that this evacuation will begin in the morning when buses that delivered humanitarian aids will be able to leave with around 350 people in tow - a number chosen for traffic safety considerations.
Also Friday, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced that a humanitarian evacuation corridor will be opened from the besieged city of Mariupol for those who can travel by private cars.
Repeated attempts to arrange safe passage out of the southern port city, which is surrounded by Russian forces, have failed.
Those who manage to leave Mariupol will find buses awaiting in the nearby city of Berdiansk which will take them to the city of Zaporizhzhia, Vereshchuk said.
"We will do everything in our power so that buses filled with Mariupol residents reach Zaporizhzhia today," she said.
It is "foolish" to believe that Western sanctions against Russian businesses could have any effect on the Moscow government, Russian ex-president and deputy head of security council Dmitry Medvedev was quoted as saying on Friday.
The sanctions will only consolidate the Russian society and not cause popular discontent with the authorities, Medvedev told Russia's RIA news agency in an interview.
The West has imposed an array of sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, but one month into the war, the Kremlin says it will continue the assault until it accomplishes its goals of Ukraine's "demilitarization and denazification."
Some of the sanctions have specifically targeted billionaire businessmen believed to be close to President Vladimir Putin.
"Let us ask ourselves: can any of these major businessmen have even the tiniest quantum of influence of the position of the country's leadership?" Medvedev said.
"I openly tell you: no, no way."
The United States and Britain on Thursday expanded sanctions to new targets and Japan followed suit on Friday, saying it would ratchet up its sanctions and strip Russia of most favored nation trade status.
Australia sanctioned Russian ally Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and members of his family, and 22 Russian individuals.
G20 expulsion 'nothing terrible'
The Kremlin said on Friday that nothing terrible will happen if the United States and its allies succeed in expelling Russia from the Group of Twenty (G20) major economies because many of the G20's members are at economic war with Moscow anyway.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was commenting on remarks by Biden who said he favored Russia being pushed out of the G20 after it sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.
"The G20 format is important, but in the current circumstances, when most of the participants are in a state of economic war with us, nothing terrible will happen," Peskov told reporters, when responding to a question about Russia's possible expulsion.
Peskov said the world was much more diverse than the United States and Europe and predicted that US efforts to isolate Moscow, which he said had so far only been partially effective, would fail.
He said some countries were taking a more sober approach towards Russia and not burning bridges with it and that Moscow would build new policy directions in all areas.
Medvedev said opinion polls showed that three-fourths of Russians supported the Kremlin's decision to carry out a military operation in Ukraine and even more supported Putin.
He lashed out at those Russians who spoke against the invasion while staying outside Russia:
"You can be dissatisfied with some of the authorities' decisions, criticize the authorities - this is normal," he said.
"But you cannot take a stand against the state in such a difficult situation, because this is treason."
Thousands of people were earlier this month detained at Russia-wide protests against Putin's invasion of Ukraine, according to an independent protest monitoring group.