Russian forces target major cities, take out important infrastructure
Some of the material in this story may be disturbing to readers
- Kyiv faces stepped up Russian attacks as people in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, search through rubble after devastating missile strikes.
- 'Prove that you are with us,' Ukraine's president says to EU from Kyiv, as Russian convoy continues its advance toward capital city.
- Canada's new sanctions targeting Russia could hurt Canada's economy as well, Freeland says.
- What questions do you have about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Russian forces stepped up their attacks on populated urban areas Tuesday, bombarding the central square in Ukraine's second-largest city and Kyiv's main TV tower.
Ukraine's president accused Moscow of a blatant campaign of terror and vowed: "Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget."
Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed and five wounded in the attack on the TV tower, which is a couple of kilometres from central Kyiv and a short walk from numerous apartment buildings. Officials said a TV control room and a power substation were hit and Ukrainian TV channels stopped broadcasting.
President Volodymyr Zelensky's office also reported a powerful missile attack on the site of the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial, near the tower. A spokesperson for the memorial said a Jewish cemetery at the site, where Nazi occupiers killed more than 33,000 Jews over two days in 1941, was damaged but the extent would not be clear until daylight.
At the same time, a 64-kilometre-long convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles advanced slowly on Kyiv in what the West feared was a bid by Russian President Vladimir Putin to topple Ukraine's government and install a Kremlin-friendly regime.
Putin's forces also pressed their attack on other towns and cities across the country, including at or near the strategic ports of Odesa and Mariupol in the south. West of Kyiv, in the city of Zhytomyr, four people, including a child, were killed on Tuesday by a Russian cruise missile, a Ukrainian official said on Wednesday. Zhytomyr is the home of the elite 95th Air Assault Brigade, which may have been the intended target.
Kharkiv attack 'frank, undisguised terror': Zelensky
Day 6 of the biggest ground war in Europe since the Second World War found Russia increasingly isolated, beset by tough sanctions that have thrown its economy into disarray and left the country practically friendless, apart from a few nations, including China, Belarus and North Korea.
Military experts worry that Russia may be shifting tactics. Moscow's strategy in Chechnya and Syria was to use artillery and air bombardments to pulverize cities and crush fighters' resolve.
It is a nightmare, and it seizes you from the inside very strongly. This cannot be explained with words.- Kharkiv resident Ekaterina Babenko
The attack on the TV tower came after Russia's Defence Ministry announced it would target transmission facilities in the capital used by Ukraine's intelligence agency. It urged people living near such places to leave their homes.
Overall death tolls from the fighting remained unclear, but a senior Western intelligence official estimated Tuesday that more than 5,000 Russian soldiers had been captured or killed. Ukraine has given no overall estimate of troop losses.
Throughout the country, many Ukrainian civilians spent another night huddled in shelters, basements or corridors. More than a half-million people have fled the country, and the UN human rights office said it has recorded the deaths of 136 civilians. The real toll is believed to be far higher.
"It is a nightmare, and it seizes you from the inside very strongly. This cannot be explained with words," said Kharkiv resident Ekaterina Babenko, taking shelter in a basement with neighbours for a fifth straight day.
"We have small children, elderly people, and frankly speaking it is very frightening."
Zelensky pronounced the attack on the main square of Kharkiv "frank, undisguised terror," blaming a Russian missile and calling it a war crime. "This is state terrorism of the Russian Federation," he said.
In an emotional appeal to the European Parliament later, Zelensky said: "We are fighting also to be equal members of Europe. I believe that today we are showing everybody that is what we are."
He said 16 children had been killed across Ukraine on Monday, and he mocked Russia's claim that it is going after only military targets.
"Where are the children? What kind of military factories do they work at? What tanks are they going at?" Zelensky said.
Reports of cluster bombs
In a worrying development, Human Rights Watch said it documented a cluster bomb attack outside a hospital in Ukraine's east in recent days.
Local residents also reported the use of the weapons in Kharkiv and the village of Kiyanka, though there was no independent confirmation.
Cluster bombs shoot smaller "bomblets" over a large area, many of which fail to explode until long after they've been dropped. If their use in Ukraine is confirmed, that would represent a new level of brutality in the war and could lead to even further isolation of Russia.
The Kremlin denied on Tuesday that it has used such weapons.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine are signatories to the UN Convention on Cluster Munitions.
U.S. joins Canada in airspace ban
In his state of the union Tuesday night in Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden sharply criticized Putin and led a standing ovation for the embattled Ukrainian people in a speech that he rewrote to address Moscow's invasion.
"Let each of us if you're able to stand, stand and send an unmistakable signal to Ukraine and to the world," Biden said.
He announced the U.S. is following Canada and European countries in banning Russian airliners from its airspace.
"Putin's war was premeditated and totally unprovoked. He rejected repeated, repeated efforts at diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO wouldn't respond. He thought he could divide us at home," Biden said.
"Putin was wrong. We were ready. We are united."
The first talks Monday between an outgunned Ukraine and nuclear-armed Russia yielded no stop in the fighting, though the two sides agreed to another meeting in the coming days. On Tuesday, though, Zelensky said Russia should stop bombing first.
"As for dialogue, I think yes, but stop bombarding people first and start negotiating afterwards," he told CNN.
Inside Russia, a top radio station critical of the Kremlin was taken off the air after authorities threatened to shut it down over its coverage of the invasion.
Among other things, the Kremlin is not allowing the fighting to be referred to as an "invasion" or "war."
What's happening on the ground
Some residents in the capital of three million people have been sheltering in underground metro stations at night. There are long lines for fuel and some products are running out in shops, but by day Kyiv is still holding out, with a semblance of ordinary life on the streets
Messages aimed at the advancing Russian soldiers popped up on billboards, bus stops and electronic traffic signs across the capital. Some used profanity to encourage Russians to leave. Others appealed to their humanity.
"Russian soldier — Stop! Remember your family. Go home with a clean conscience," one read.
A senior U.S. defence official described the long convoy outside Kyiv as "bogged down," saying Russia appeared to be pausing and regrouping to re-evaluate how to retake the momentum in the fighting.
The immense convoy, packed together along narrow roads, would seemingly be "a big, fat target" for Ukrainian forces, the senior Western intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
"But it also shows you that the Russians feel pretty comfortable being out in the open in these concentrations because they feel that they're not going to come under air attack or rocket or missile attack," the official said.
Shelling hits residential areas in Kharkiv
In Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-biggest city, Freedom Square — Ukraine's largest plaza, and the nucleus of public life for the city — was struck with what was believed to be a missile. The attack was seen by many Ukrainians as brazen evidence that the Russian invasion wasn't just about hitting military targets but also about breaking their spirits.
The strike blew out windows and walls of buildings that ring the massive central square, which was piled high with debris and dust. Inside one building, chunks of plaster were scattered, and doors, ripped from their hinges, lay across hallways.
UN humanitarian co-ordinator Martin Griffiths said the bombings had damaged water pipes and electrical lines. "Hundreds of thousands of families are without drinking water," he said.
Hospital workers moved a Kharkiv maternity ward to a bomb shelter. Amid mattresses piled up against the walls, pregnant women paced the crowded space, accompanied by the cries of dozens of newborns.
Rocket strikes on Kharkiv killed at least 10 people and wounded 35, Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said in a report from Reuters. Similar strikes killed and wounded dozens in the city the previous day.
"The rubble is being cleared and there will be even more victims and wounded," he said.
Russian strikes on Mariupol seriously wounded several people Tuesday, and at a checkpoint outside the Black Sea city of Odesa, the body of a man lay sprawled on a highway next to a car that had a back seat covered in blood.
What's happening on the borders?
New arrivals continued to pour across central European border crossings, with news of fierce fighting, civilian deaths and the massive Russian convoy stoking worries of those fleeing the war.
Across central Europe, authorities set up makeshift reception centres in tents where people could get medical aid and process asylum papers, while thousands of volunteers have driven to the borders with donations of food, blankets and clothes.
The UN refugee agency says that about 660,000 people have fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries since the Russian invasion began. The number, given on Tuesday, was up from a count of more than 500,000 a day earlier.
UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said in Geneva that "at this rate, the situation looks set to become Europe's largest refugee crisis this century."
Ukrainians try to slow Russia's advance
The Russian military's movements have been stalled by fierce resistance on the ground and a surprising inability to dominate Ukraine's airspace.
Ukrainians used whatever they had on hand to try to stop the Russian advance: On a highway between Odesa and Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, residents piled tractor tires filled with sand and topped with sandbags to block Russian military convoys.
Russia's goals in hitting central Kharkiv were not immediately clear. Western officials speculated that it is trying to pull in Ukrainian forces to defend the city while a larger Russian force encircles Kyiv.
As far-reaching Western sanctions on Russian banks and other institutions took hold, the ruble plummeted, and Russia's Central Bank scrambled to shore it up, as did Putin, signing a decree restricting foreign currency.
But that did little to calm Russian fears. In Moscow, people lined up to withdraw cash as the sanctions threatened to drive up prices and reduce the standard of living for millions of ordinary Russians.
The economic sanctions, ordered by the U.S. and other allies, were just one contributor to Russia's growing status as a pariah country.
Russian media is restricted in some countries, and some high-tech products can no longer be exported to the country. On Monday, in a major blow to a soccer-mad nation, Russian teams were suspended from all international soccer.
With files from Reuters