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'Heavy fighting' in key city of Kharkiv after gas pipeline hit by Russian forces

Ukrainians in the country’s second biggest city Kharkiv have endured “heavy fighting” with Russian forces overnight after troops entered and blew up a gas pipeline there.

Civilians are being told not to leave their homes while Ukrainian soldiers fight Russian forces in the streets.

Russian missiles reportedly hit the pipeline in the early hours of Sunday, with the Ukrainian government warning the explosion could cause an “environmental catastrophe” and telling people to cover their windows with damp cloths.

Russian advance ‘slows’ due to ‘strong resistance’ – live updates

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An intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defence described “intensive exchange of rocket artillery overnight”.

British officials also said that although fighting was of a “lower intensity” in Kyiv on Saturday, Russian troops are “bypassing” the northeastern city of Chernihiv to “prioritise the encirclement and isolation” of the capital.

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Russians ‘blow up’ gas pipeline in Kharkiv

Key developments:

More on Russia

• Gas pipeline hit in Kharkiv as Russian troops enter Ukraine’s second city overnight
• Oil terminal set alight in Vasylkiv, near Kyiv
• Russian banks removed from SWIFT after EU states agree to proposal
• Germany agrees to send lethal weapons to Ukraine in major U-turn
• Zelenskyy says Saturday night was ‘brutal’ with Russian forces ‘attacking civilian areas’
• Russian delegation arrives in Belarus for talks but Ukrainian officials refuse
• Seven-year-old girl reported among dead in shelling in Sumy, northeastern Ukraine

Elsewhere, an oil terminal was set alight in Vasylkiv, southwest of Kyiv, according to the town’s mayor Natalia Balasinovich.

In a video posted online, she said: “The enemy wants to destroy everything around.”

Photos and video on social media showed large flames in the night sky and residents were told to be alert for toxic fumes.

Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Luhansk province said an oil terminal was also blown up by a Ukrainian missile in the town of Rovenky.

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Ukrainian troops seen in firefight with Russians

According to Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry a Russian missile was shot down early on Saturday before it could reach the dam of a reservoir that serves Kyiv.

Many thousands of Ukrainians spent another night inside and underground on Saturday, seeking safety from the Russian troops, as they drew closer to the capital.

It is unclear how much territory Russian forces have seized but the UK’s Ministry of Defence said their speed “has temporarily slowed, likely as a result of acute logistical difficulties and strong Ukrainian resistance”.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared in a video filmed outside his office in Kyiv on Saturday

Russia to be removed from SWIFT

The Ukrainian resistance – against a much larger foe – has been supported by cash and weapons from allies such as the UK and US.

On Saturday evening, Western allies also agreed to remove selected Russian banks from the SWIFT global financial messaging system.

In a joint statement, leaders of Europe, UK, US, and Canada, said the move was one of five measures to be implemented in the coming days.

It will stop Russian banks from conducting most of their financial transactions worldwide and effectively block Russian exports and imports, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News the UK and its allies have hit Russia with “severe economic sanctions” and defensive weapons, but warned the conflict could go on for a number of years.

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Volunteers queue to join Ukraine army

“This is not going to be over quickly, we need to be prepared, I fear, for a very long haul,” she told Trevor Philips on Sunday.

Former Commander of the UK’s Joint Forces Command Chris Deverell added that Kyiv could fall to Russian control “soon” and fighting will continue to be “very bloody”.

Ukraine’s health minister said on Saturday that 198 people, including three children, had been killed and more than 1,000 others were wounded since the invasion. It was unclear whether those figures included both military and civilian casualties.

Russia has claimed it is aiming only at military targets but bridges, schools, and residential areas have been hit.

More than 200,000 Ukrainians have fled for Poland and other neighbouring countries, with the United Nations warning that the number of refugees could reach four million.

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Sky News explains who is who in the Russia-Ukraine war

‘The fight is here’

But Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has insisted he is staying in the country, despite reports that the Russian president plans to get rid of him in favour of a more compliant leader.

It was reported on Saturday the US had offered the 44-year-old as a way out of the country, but he had replied: “The fight is here – I need ammunition, not a ride.”

Read more: Day three of Russian invasion mapped

On Sunday he released a fresh video statement, accusing Russia of “deliberately choosing tactics to hurt people” and attacking civilian areas where there is no military infrastructure.

He described Saturday night as “brutal”, with occupying forces “attacking everything includes ambulances” and are planning to hit Ukrainian cities “even more”.

Mr Zelenskyy has said he is open to talking with Mr Putin, adding that he welcomed an offer from Turkey and Azerbaijan to organise this.

The Kremlin confirmed a phone call between Mr Putin and Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev had taken place, but there was no indication that talks between Mr Putin and the Ukrainian president would result.

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