Casualties are climbing in Ukraine as Russia continues its military invasion of its neighbor. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reports that nearly 150 soldiers and civilians were killed on the first day of fighting and more than 300 wounded.
Despite fierce resistance from Ukrainians, Russian forces have remained on course, now encircling the capital of Kyiv.
With Kyiv surrounded, Zelensky says he believes Russia wants to decapitate his pro-western government, making him their number one target. He reportedly told EU leaders in a conference call that this may be the last time anyone sees him alive.
BREAKING: In a video conference call last night Ukraine President Zelensky told EU leaders: "This might be the last time you see me alive", two sources briefed on the call told me
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) February 25, 2022
And The Daily Mail reports Putin is unleashing his elite "Chechen special forces 'hunters'...in Ukraine to detain or kill Kyiv officials."
The threat against Zelensky is very real and the threat against his family is very real since Russia's ultimate goal is to replace Zelensky with their man, their government in Kyiv, according to CBN News Senior International Correspondent George Thomas who is on the ground in Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he too believes Putin is looking to overthrow the Ukrainian government, and he told ABC News there's a possibility Moscow will then set its sights on other countries.
Blinken said, "When it comes to threatening NATO countries, we have something very powerful called Article 5 – an attack on one is an attack on all. Russia knows that, and that's exactly why, among other things, one of our responses has been to shore up NATO's defenses – to put more forces, to put more equipment on its eastern flank, the countries closest to Russia – to deter any aggression that Russia might be contemplating against NATO countries."
The head of NATO announced on Friday, "We have deployed defensive land and air forces in the eastern part of the Alliance, and maritime assets across the NATO area. We have activated NATO's defense plans to prepare ourselves to respond to a range of contingencies and secure Alliance territory, including by drawing on our response forces. We are now making significant additional defensive deployments of forces to the eastern part of the Alliance."
He reportedly is promising military aid to Ukraine as well, including weapons and air defenses.
NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg said the alliance was deploying parts of its combat-ready response force and would continue to send weapons to Ukraine, including air defences "We are now deploying the NATO response force for the first time in the context of collective defence"
— Phil Stewart (@phildstewart) February 25, 2022
But while NATO allies have the support of the U.S., the smaller Baltic countries still fear they'll be next. Latvia, Slovenia, and Lithuania all have big concerns - in fact they've declared states of emergency.
With Moscow's target currently on Kyiv, civilians are taking up arms, and preparing to defend their democracy. "That is the power of freedom. And when it gets snatched from you, you feel it," George Thomas reports from Lviv.
The West has made it clear it will not be providing boots on the ground in Ukraine, instead promising Russia will pay financially for its aggression.
Still, there's concern that the so-called "unprecedented" economic measures being taken will do nothing to deter Putin from his aggressive expansionist goals.