KYIV (REUTERS) - Kyiv mayor and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko said on Friday (March 11) that he believed there were nearly two million people still left in the city, which is being squeezed by advancing Russian forces on several fronts.
He said the Ukrainian capital, normally with a population of 3.5 million, had enough vital provisions to last a couple of weeks, and that supply lines in and out remained open for now.
His brother Wladimir, also a heavyweight boxing star, added in a joint interview that some men and women who had accompanied their families to the relative safety of the west of the country were returning to take part in the city's defence.
"We guess close to two million people are still in Kyiv and it's very important to give services to people," Vitali told Reuters at a logistics centre in Kyiv where he and aides were coordinating food and medicine supplies to stores and people stranded at home.
"We have right now electricity, heating, gas, we have water," he added, speaking in English.
He thanked countries for sending supplies to Ukraine, and estimated that Kyiv had enough vital goods to last another two weeks.
Russia's military is already close to Kyiv to the west and north-west, where there has been heavy fighting, and has tried to move closer to the east and northeast.
Ukrainian officials say that its ultimate aim is to surround the city with a view to seizing it.
On Friday, Russian forces were regrouping in the northwest, satellite pictures showed, in what Britain said could be preparation for an assault on the city within days.
"The target (of the Russian invasion) is the capital of Ukraine, the target is Kyiv," Vitali said. "We are ready to defend our city."
Some residents return
Hundreds of thousands of Kyiv residents have fled westwards as the fighting neared the city's outskirts, joining millions of others forced to leave homes behind by sometimes fierce bombardment.
Wladimir Klitschko, who has enlisted in Ukraine's reserve army, said some of the men and women who had got their families to safety were now returning to the capital.
"Yes there are a lot of refugees who left west, but a lot are coming back. A lot of men and women... coming back to defend the country. This is our home. We are staying here. We are not leaving anywhere," he said.
Across Ukraine, thousands of civilians have joined local defence units to support regular troops.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation" to disarm and "de-Nazify" the country. It denies targeting civilians.
Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an invasion that has caused a humanitarian catastrophe in which hundreds of civilians have been killed and millions more displaced.
In Brovary, just to the east of Kyiv, residents out shopping for food remained defiant.
Dramatic footage released on Thursday showed a column of Russian tanks outside the town coming under artillery fire which appeared to strike some of the vehicles and forced others to retreat.
"There is no panic," said Brovary resident Larisa Ugviy after packing her shopping into a car with her husband.
"We try to calm down - cook something, do the cleaning, take care of the pets, walk them. So everything is alright. Life goes on, nobody panics, nobody. Trust me."