Ukrainian city of Melitopol not in Russian hands, British minister says

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Trucks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces transport armoured vehicles in the Kyiv region, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo

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LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Russian forces have not captured the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol and armoured columns advancing on the capital Kyiv have been held up by Ukrainian resistance, British armed forces minister James Heappey said on Saturday.

Heappey said it was the British assessment that Russia had so far failed to capture any of its day one targets for its invasion of Ukraine, which began on Thursday.

"Even Melitopol, which the Russians are claiming to have taken but we can't see anything to substantiate that, are all still in Ukrainian hands," Heappey told BBC radio.

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"The fighting ... reported on the outskirts of Kyiv overnight, we understand to just be Russian special forces and pockets of paratroopers," he said.

"The reality is that the armoured columns that were coming down from Belarus and the north that were going to encircle Kyiv are still some way north because they've been held up by this incredible Ukrainian resistance," the minister said.

Heappey said British defence minister Ben Wallace had chaired a meeting with 25 other countries on Friday which all agreed to provide further military or humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

He said those nations would work together to see how that could be delivered, but he was confident that they could get more weapons and medical supplies to Ukrainian forces.

"We're doing our best to get it to them," he told Sky News.

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Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by David Clarke and Catherine Evans

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