Three U.S. officials who spoke with Newsweek say they expect Ukraine's capital to fall to Russian forces in three days, with the country's leaders following suit less than a week later.
Russia's assault began hours before dawn Thursday with a series of military attacks against locations near Kyiv. At least 137 Ukrainian soldiers and up to 10 civilians have been killed so far, and 316 soldiers injured, according to Ukraine.
Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zeleneskyy in a televised address said Russia has attacked his country in a "cunning way," much the same as Hitler did in the Second World War.
Russia is on a "path of evil," he said.
Zelenskyy added that the Ukrainian military are engaged in "heavy fighting fending off attacks in Donbas in the east in the north and in the south."
"The enemy has sustained heavy casualties and they will be even heavier ... they came to our land," he warned.
He also said other states were "afraid" to support Ukraine's accession to NATO.
"Who is ready to guarantee Ukraine's accession to NATO? Honestly, everyone is afraid," he said in a televised address.
"I asked all the partners of the state if they are with us. They are with us, but they are not ready to take us into an alliance with them."
"No matter how many conversations I had with foreign leaders, I heard a few things. The first is that we are supported. I am grateful to each state that helps us concretely, not just in words. But there is a second — we are left alone to defend our state. Who is ready to fight with us? Honestly — I do not see," Zelenskyy said.
"Today I asked the 27 leaders of Europe whether Ukraine will be in NATO, I asked directly. Everyone is afraid, does not answer. And we are not afraid, we are not afraid of anything," he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's aim is to surround Ukrainian forces and force them to surrender or be destroyed, according to the U.S. officials.
"After the air and artillery end and the ground war really starts, I think Kyiv falls in just a few days," a former senior U.S. intelligence officer told Newsweek on the condition of anonymity.
"The military may last slightly longer," the former intelligence official added, "but this isn't going to last long."
A source close to Zelenskyy told Newsweek that they did not believe his government would collapse.
"I think it's too early to say... They say Ukraine is holding better than they expected," the person said.
The Russian president in a TV broadcast that aired early Thursday described the "special military operation" in limited terms, to protect people living in Donbas who, he claimed, had been subjected to "genocide."
Addressing Ukraine's military members as "dear comrades," Putin told them they had taken an "oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people, and not to the anti-people junta that is robbing Ukraine and abuses those same people."
"Don't follow its criminal orders!" he demanded. "I urge you to lay down your weapons and go home."
He also warned those who try to interfere with Russia, "and even more so, to create threats for our country, for our people, should know that Russia's response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never experienced in your history."
"We are ready for any development of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made."
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