Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday issued a defiant message to Russian President Vladimir Putin as his forces continue to wage war across Ukraine.
The Pentagon warned this week that Russia has started to make greater advances on Kyiv as convoys threaten the capital city from nearly every direction.
In a news address Saturday, Zelenskyy said Russia will have to “carpet-bomb” the capital and kill its residents if it wants to take the city.
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Only if Russian forces wiped out “the historic memory of the entire region, the history of Kyivan Rus, the history of Europe” would they be able to enter Kyiv, he said.
“If that is their goal, let them come,” the defiant leader told reporters at a news conference in the capital.
Zelenskyy has been applauded as a hero by world leaders for his refusal to leave Ukraine after the invasion began and boldly told the U.S., “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” when allegedly offered an escape route from Kyiv.
Defense officials have warned since the onslaught of the invasion that Russia will likely attempt to encircle Kyiv to overthrow the democratically elected government and instate a “puppet regime.”
But concerns have mounted that this possibility is becoming increasingly likely as Russian forces from the east advanced toward Kyiv Friday, while forces to the north and northwest of the city appear to remain stalled and roughly 10 miles away.
Putin has deployed roughly all the 150,000 troops he amassed on Ukraine’s border in the lead-up to the invasion and despite the loss of at least 700 Russian military vehicles Moscow has maintained about 90% of its combat force.
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Ukraine has also maintained roughly 90% of its fighting force, but cracks are starting to show as Russian forces make gains in certain regions, including the south where the mayor of Melitopol was reportedly abducted.
Ukrainian parliament member Inna Sovsun told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on Saturday morning that Mayor Ivan Fedorov was being tortured by the Russians.
“Now we have information that he is being tortured. That is another level of evil. Putin is a terrorist, this is a terrorist state we’re talking about,” she said.
“There are no boundaries to him, there are no limits to his cruelty, and he needs to be stopped.”
Zelenskyy has pleaded with Western nations to help free the mayor.
Fox News’ Kelly David Burke contributed to this report.