Russian president Vladimir Putin has called on the Ukrainian military to seize power and said it would be "easier to reach an agreement" with them in order to end the Russian military operation launched on Thursday. "Take power into your own hands! It would seem easier to reach an agreement with you than with the gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis who have settled in Kiev and kidnapped the entire Ukrainian people," he said at a meeting of the Russian Security Council to address the military operation. The Russian president urged the Ukrainian military to "not allow neo-Nazis and supporters of Bandera (far-right Ukrainian World War Two collaborator Stepán Bandera) to use their children, wives and the elderly as human shields."
Putin's remarks came on the second day of the invasion with Russian tanks already in the streets of some districts of Kyiv, and hours before Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyi urged Putin to sit down at a negotiating table, an option the Kremlin is making conditional on Ukraine's surrender. With respect to this, the Ukrainian president has denounced that the purpose of the attack is to remove him from power. "According to our information, I am the number one target of the enemy. My family is the second. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state," he said.
Russia will negotiate with Ukraine when it surrenders
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Russia was ready to return to diplomacy if the Ukrainian army surrendered. "We are ready to negotiate," he said, in a meeting with foreign policy representatives of the two pro-Russian breakaway zones of the Donbass. However, there was a pre-condition for this. "As long as the Ukrainian military responds to our president's call, stops the resistance and lays down its arms," said the Russian foreign minister.
At the same time as Lavrov was making these statements, Russian military groups were entering the Obolón district, northwest of Kiev. The Russian army has advanced rapidly across Ukrainian territory to the capital. According to US sources, this Friday morning Russian troops were less than 30 kilometres from the centre of the Ukrainian capital, and the Ukrainian government confirmed that Russian tanks have entered some Kiev neighbourhoods.
Russia, suspended from Council of Europe
Meanwhile, pan-European human rights body the Council of Europe has decided to "temporarily suspend" any involvement of Russian diplomats and delegates in its main organs, in response to the "armed attack" on Ukraine. It was a joint proposal by Ukraine and Poland supported by 42 of the 47 member states. The decision means that Russia will not be able to participate in the body's discussions, although it will remain a member. It will not be able to attend the Council of Ministers or its Parliamentary Assembly, but will be able to continue in other bodies.