President Joe Biden’s administration offered to help evacuate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy early Saturday from Kyiv after the capital city came under intense attacks from Russian forces. However, Zelenskyy declined, saying, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” according to Ukraine’s Embassy to the UK.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a press conference on Thursday that Zelenskyy remains a “prime target for Russian aggression.”
A senior U.S. intelligence official also told Associated Press that the Biden administration had urged Zelenskyy to evacuate Kyiv, though Zelenskyy refused. He later released a video in which he said he would remain and Kyiv and not surrender, additionally rejecting rumors that he’d called for Ukrainians to surrender.
“We aren’t going to lay down weapons. We will protect the country,” he said, according to Associated Press. “Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that it’s our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of that.”
“Glory to Ukraine,” he said at the end of the video.
Zelenskyy said a day earlier that Russia had marked him as their top target. He also said that Russia’s plan was to take over Kyiv, though Ukrainians successfully pushed back the attack.
Russian missiles struck numerous targets in Kyiv, including apartment buildings. Ukraine claimed to have shot down a Russian missile that was headed for the dam of a water reservoir supplying Kyiv residents.
Though much of Russia’s forces were still 19 miles from the city by Saturday afternoon, smaller units were reported in and around Kyiv in what may be actions taken to pave way for the larger units.
A senior U.S. defense official said that by Saturday, more than half of Russia’s forces previously amassed outside Ukraine’s borders a week ago had now entered Ukraine.
Russia has launched devastating attacks on numerous cities in Ukraine, though Ukraine has pushed back with a defiant resistance.
On Saturday, Ukraine claimed that in the first 55 hours of battle, it killed 3,000 Russian forces and imprisoned 200, saying the Russian troops didn’t expect Ukraine to put up a fight, so they surrendered. They additionally claimed to have destroyed more than 100 Russian tanks, shot down seven helicopters, and destroyed hundreds of armored vehicles.
As of Saturday, Ukraine’s health minister also claimed that 198 Ukrainians were killed, including three children, by invading Russian forces, and another 1,000 people were wounded.
U.N. officials said that more than 150,000 Ukrainians had fled Ukraine, and an estimated 4 million could evacuate if the fighting continues.