Russian rockets hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city
- Kiev under threat from a Russian column
- Rockets rain down on the second city
- Russia says it will continue until goals are achieved
- Refugees crowd border crossings
KYIV, March 1 (Reuters) – A Russian armored column slammed into Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Tuesday and invading forces fired barrages of rockets at the center of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, on the sixth day of Russia’s assault on its western neighbour.
Rocket fire into Kharkiv killed at least 10 people and injured 35, said Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko. Similar strikes killed and injured dozens of people in the city the day before.
“The rubble is being cleared away and there will be even more casualties and injuries,” he said.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has declared the artillery barrages on Kharkiv to be state terrorism.
Nearly a week after Russian troops crossed the border, they failed to capture a single major Ukrainian city after encountering fierce resistance. The civilian deaths of the past 48 hours were an ominous sign that frustrated Russian commanders might resort to more devastating tactics.
Russia still has more forces to throw in the fight, even as President Vladimir Putin faces global condemnation and international sanctions for his actions.
Oil company Shell has become the latest Western company to announce its withdrawal from Russia. Sanctions and global financial isolation have already had a devastating impact on the Russian economy, with the ruble plummeting and queues outside banks as Russians rush to save their savings.
The Russian news agency TASS announced that new peace talks would take place on Wednesday. Talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials held on the Belarusian border on Monday were unsuccessful. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kiev was ready to talk to Moscow but would not just follow Russian ultimatums.
Zelenskiy’s government remains in control of Kiev with soldiers and civilians ready to fight the invaders street by street.
Images released by US satellite company Maxar showed Russian tanks, artillery and tankers stretching 60 km along a highway to the north.
“For the enemy, Kiev is the key target,” Zelenskiy, who remained in the capital to rally the Ukrainians, said in an overnight message. “We will neutralize them all.”
Some residents of the capital of 3 million took refuge in underground metro stations at night. There are long queues for fuel and some goods are running out in stores, but by day the city still holds up, with a semblance of ordinary life on the streets.
Russian troops fired artillery at Kiev, Kharkiv and the southern port city of Mariupol overnight while the Ukrainian side shot down Russian military jets around the capital, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said during a briefing. briefing.
Ukrainian authorities also reported 70 soldiers killed in a rocket attack in a town between Kiev and Kharkiv.
Zelenskiy, addressing the European Parliament via video link a day after signing a formal application to join the European Union, urged the bloc to prove it sided with Ukraine.
“Prove that you won’t let us go. Prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will prevail over death and light will overcome darkness. Glory to Ukraine,” he said. in a moving speech.
RISK FOR CIVILIANS
In Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Kremlin will continue its military operation in Ukraine until it achieves its goals. It aimed to protect itself from threats created by the West and did not occupy Ukrainian territory.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a disarmament meeting in Geneva via video link on Tuesday that Ukraine was seeking nuclear weapons. Dozens of diplomats walked out as he began his speech.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update that the Russian advance on Kiev had made little progress in the past 24 hours, likely due to logistical problems. But he also warned of a change in Russian tactics that could worsen the plight of civilians.
“The use of heavy artillery in densely populated urban areas greatly increases the risk of civilian casualties,” he said.
Nick Reynolds, a ground warfare analyst at RUSI in London, said that after failing to quickly overthrow the government in Kiev, Russia was falling back on tactics that would involve a much more intense bombardment of Ukrainian cities.
“The Russian army is primarily an artillery army, and it seems to be going into combat mode,” he said. “The Russians’ failure to achieve their objectives quickly has galvanized Ukraine’s resistance against them. In reality, what we are seeing now is the Russian military shifting gears.”
Kharkiv, a predominantly Russian-speaking city of 1.5 million people near the Russian border, has suffered the brunt of the attacks since Monday. Read more
Human rights groups and Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States have accused Russia of using cluster bombs and vacuum bombs, weapons condemned by many organizations.
The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian losses included 5,710 men, 29 destroyed and damaged aircraft and 198 tanks, all figures which could not be verified.
Russia did not give a full account of its battlefield losses, but footage from Ukraine showed burnt Russian tanks and bodies on the road where they were attacked by Ukrainian defenders.
“I SAW THE WAR”
More than 660,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries such as Poland and Romania, the UN refugee agency said.
At the Hungarian border post of Tiszabecs, a mother cradled a baby in her arms after a four-day drive from Kiev.
“I saw war, I saw rockets,” said her eldest son Ivan, 15, who looked exhausted and pale after the trip. His father had stayed to fight.
At the United Nations, the General Assembly convened ahead of a vote to isolate Russia, deploring Moscow’s “aggression against Ukraine” and demanding that its troops stop fighting and withdraw.
Putin’s Russia faces near-total international isolation, with the notable exception of China, following his decision to launch what he called a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and capture “neo-Nazis and drug addicts” who run it.
Most effective so far have been sanctions against Russia’s central bank that prevent it from using its war chest of $630 billion in foreign exchange reserves to prop up the rouble. The currency clawed back some losses on Tuesday after hitting a record low on Monday.
Oil companies Shell (SHEL.L), BP and Norwegian company Equinor (EQNR.OL) have announced that they will abandon their positions in Russia. Read more
Russia on Tuesday announced a ban on foreign companies selling assets, in an attempt to stem the leak.
Banks, airlines and automakers have ended their partnerships and halted shipments. Mastercard and Visa block Russian banks from using their payment systems, and even Hollywood studios have pulled film releases in Russia. Read more
FIFA and the International Olympic Committee have decided to ban Russian teams and athletes from competing. Read more
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Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Kyiv; Natalia Zinets, Matthias Williams and Pavel Polityuk in Lviv; Kevin Liffey and Mark Trevelyan in London; and other Reuters offices, including Moscow; Written by Peter Graff and Angus MacSwan; Editing by Nick Macfie and Peter Graff
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