Seven Ukrainians, including children, killed by Russian airstrike over Kyiv

Lukashenko: No Belarus soldiers entering Ukraine • Mariupol 'destroyed' by Russian attacks - mayor

A view shows thermal power plant destroyed by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in the town of Okhtyrka in the Sumy region, Ukraine (photo credit: VIA REUTERS)
A view shows thermal power plant destroyed by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in the town of Okhtyrka in the Sumy region, Ukraine
(photo credit: VIA REUTERS)

A Russian airstrike on a rural residential area in Kyiv region killed at least seven people on Friday, including two children, Ukraine state police said in a statement.

Police said the strike hit the village of Markhalivka, around 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the southwestern outskirts of the capital.

Fighting and intelligence

Heavy fighting to the north-west of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv has continued Friday, that has highly likely included renewed fighting around Hostomel Airfield, Britain said in an intelligence update on Friday.

"This is near the front end of the Russian column on the outskirts of the city. The column has made little discernible progress in over four days," it said.

As fighting continues in the south, Russian forces were reportedly driven out of the Ukrainian city of Mykolayiv after attacking it on Friday, although fighting continued around the city outskirts, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said.

Russia's invasion into Ukraine has reportedly stalled while trying to seize the capital city of Kyiv, though fighting in the South has seen more progress as battles rage in the second-largest city of Kharkiv, the Pentagon reported.

 The Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/AL DRAGO/FILE PHOTO) The Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/AL DRAGO/FILE PHOTO)

Russian troops have entered the Ukrainian Black Sea port city of Mykolayiv for the first time, regional authorities said on Friday.

In a video statement shared online, Governor Vitaliy Kim said fighting was underway in parts of the city.

"Let's not get nervous," he said.

Later, Ukraine's presidential adviser said the Russian advance on Mykolayiv had been repulsed.

"We can feel cautious optimism about the future prospects of the enemy offensive - I think that it will be stopped in other areas also," military adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a televised briefing.

Artillery shelling has continued in Kyiv and Kharkiv, including striking civilian targets like the TV tower near the Babyn Yar memorial in Kyiv. This, a US defense official claimed, is indicative of the Russians' "willingness to hit civilian infrastructure on purpose."

"Obviously, [the Russians] are hitting residential areas. There's no doubt about that," the official said, according to the Pentagon. "The degree to which that is intentional — and intentionally precise, in that regard — is difficult for us to assess. But clearly, it's happening."  

The shelling of residential areas such as in Kharkiv has already been condemned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who called it a war crime earlier in the week.

Allegations have also been made that Russian troops have utilized illegal weapons such as cluster munitions and vacuum bombs.

In the South, while fighting rages in Kharkiv, Russian forces have also reportedly managed to take the city of Kherson, as well as the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

Russian forces occupying the Kherson region in southern Ukraine allegedly blocked off cellphone communication and mobile networks in the area, the Kherson Regional State Administration revealed Friday.

The Russian forces allegedly shut off connections with the Kyivstar and Vodafone mobile networks for the whole region, with only WiFi currently operational.

One individual told the Ukrainian news site Pravada that mobile access was still possible at around 12:30 p.m. local time.

According to British intelligence, Russian forces have not managed to capture Mariupol, a major Ukrainian port city on the Sea of Azov, but have likely encircled it and have launched intense strikes against civilian infrastructure.

Mariupol has no water, heat or electricity and is running out of food after coming under attack by Russian forces for the past five days, its mayor said on Friday.

Mayor Vadym Boychenko made a televised appeal for military help and said a humanitarian corridor should be created to evacuate civilians from the southeastern port city. "We are simply being destroyed," he said.

Troop mobilizations

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that the Belarusian armed forces were not taking part and would not take part in Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

A close Russian ally, Lukashenko said he spoke to President Vladimir Putin at length by telephone on Friday. Russia has used Belarusian territory to carry out a multi-pronged invasion of Ukraine.

This comes after Belarus strengthened its air defenses along the perimeter of its border in line with an order from  Lukashenko, a senior military official said.

Ukraine is particularly worried that Russia will attempt to involve Belarusian troops in the conflict.

According to US defense intelligence, of the 150,000 Russian troops mobilized by Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, which had been amassed along the border throughout the preceding months, around 90% of them have already made their way into the country.

However, there is still considerable manpower and combat capabilities available to Russia, and the reserve forces have not yet been drawn upon.

Despite this, Russian forces have been suffering severe logistical issues and fuel shortages, which many say have hampered their invasion.

According to the Ukrainian military, Russia has mobilized the pro-Russia militia forces in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two separatist-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine that Putin recognized as independent nations.

Some of these were reportedly mobilized to storm parts of Ukrainian territory or to launch a naval offensive against the major city of Odessa. Others, however, were sent to storm Kyiv as "cannon fodder," something the Ukrainian military alleges to be a war crime.

According to Ukraine, the main push of Russia's army has been to encircle Kyiv, which has seen them readying to transfer manpower and resources from the South and East.

Notably, Russian forces have reportedly withdrawn from Bucha and the Hostomel airport near Kyiv. Other offensive operations are still being carried out throughout the country.

But despite the seemingly slow progress made by Russian forces in the face of unexpectedly fierce resistance from Ukraine and severe logistical issues, Putin claims that this isn't actually the case. According to the Russian president, the invasion, which he refers to as a "special military operation," isn't just doing well, it's going exactly according to his plan from the start.

"The special military operation is proceeding in strict accordance with the schedule, according to the plan. All the assigned tasks are being successfully solved," Putin said Thursday at a meeting with the Russian Security Council, according to the RIA news agency.

Regardless, the Ukrainian military has expressed confidence in their resistance to the Russian forces.

"The enemy is suffering losses in every direction. Demotivated occupiers are surrendering and throwing away their equipment," the General Staff of the Armed Forces said.

"The struggle continues! Victory will be ours! Glory to Ukraine!"

Casualties

According to the Ukrainian military, Russia has so far suffered around 9,166 casualties in the invasion of Ukraine. Losses also include 251 tanks, 105 artillery systems, 33 aircraft, 37 helicopters, 939 armored combat vehicles, two speedboats and three drones.

Russia has put Ukraine's casualties as of Wednesday at over 2,870 deaths and around 3,700 wounded, while their own casualties were just 498 killed and 1.597 wounded, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday, according to TASS.

The Ukrainian military said they had scuttled their navy's flagship, which was under repair, to ensure it wouldn't fall into the hands of Russian forces. However, the navy has vowed to build a new, modern fleet.

According to the United Nations, at least 227 civilians have died in the fighting, though the real number is likely much higher.