Russia captures biggest Ukraine city yet

Reuters March 02,2022 - 08:40 PM

A civilian trains to throw Molotov cocktails to defend the city, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

WASHINGTON/KYIV — Russia said it had seized its biggest city yet in Ukraine on Wednesday while stepping up its lethal bombardment of the main cities that its invasion force has so far failed to tame in the face of strong Ukrainian resistance.

With Moscow having failed in its aim to swiftly overthrow Ukraine’s government after nearly a week, Western countries are worried that it is switching to new, far more violent tactics to blast its way into cities it had expected to easily take.

Russia said it had sent delegates for a second round of peace talks in Belarus near the border, but Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia needed to stop bombing Ukrainian cities if it wanted to negotiate peace.

Moscow said on Wednesday it had captured Kherson, a provincial capital of around a quarter of a million people on the southern front. There was no immediate word from Ukraine but the regional governor had said overnight that it was surrounded, under fire, and Russian troops were looting shops and pharmacies.

It would be the biggest city to fall so far, with a strategic position astride the Dnieper River that divides Ukraine down the middle.

Also in the south, Russia is putting intense pressure on the port of Mariupol, which it says it has surrounded in a ring around the entire coast of the Sea of Azov. The city’s mayor said Mariupol had been under intense shelling since late Tuesday and was unable to evacuate its wounded.

But on the other two main fronts in the east and north, Russia so far has little to show for its advance, with Ukraine’s two biggest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv, holding out in the face of increasingly intense bombardment.

“We are going to see… his brutality increase,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said of Putin in a radio interview. “He doesn’t get his way, he surrounds cities, he ruthlessly bombards them at night … and he will then eventually try and break them and move into the cities.”

Service members of pro-Russian troops in uniforms without insignia are seen atop of a tank with the letter “Z” painted on its sides in the separatist-controlled settlement of Buhas (Bugas), as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Kharkiv in particular has come under intense shelling over the past two days, with more pictures overnight showing the devastation in the city center.

The roof of a police building in the center of Kharkiv could be seen collapsing as it was engulfed in flames, in footage verified by Reuters. Firefighters fought the blaze on streets strewn with debris. Windows had been blasted out of the nearby buildings.

The regional governor said at least 21 people had been killed by shelling in the past 24 hours. Emergency services said four more people were killed on Wednesday morning.

In Kyiv, the capital of 3 million people where residents have been sheltering at night in the underground metro, Russia blasted the main television tower near a Holocaust memorial on Tuesday, killing bystanders.

Zelenskiy, in his latest update to his nation, said that attack proved that the Russians “don’t know a thing about Kyiv, about our history. But they all have orders to erase our history, erase our country, erase us all.”

READ: Russia aims to erase us, Ukraine’s Zelenskiy says on day 7 of war

Earlier, a tired and unshaven Zelenskiy, wearing green battle fatigues in a heavily guarded government compound, told Reuters and CNN in an interview that the bombing must stop for talks to end the war.

“It’s necessary to at least stop bombing people, just stop the bombing and then sit down at the negotiating table.”

Smoke rises from a building after a blast, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Russia’s main advance on the capital – a huge armored column stretched for miles along the road to Kyiv – has been largely frozen in place for days. A senior U.S. defense official on Tuesday cited logistics problems, including shortages of food and fuel, and signs of flagging morale among Russia’s troops.

“While Russian forces have reportedly moved into the center of Kherson in the south, overall gains across axes have been limited in the past 24 hours,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update on Wednesday morning.

“This is probably due to a combination of ongoing logistical difficulties and strong Ukrainian resistance,” it added. Meanwhile, it said, Russia was carrying out intensive air and artillery strikes, especially on Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol, and the eastern city of Chernihiv.

Close to 700,000 Ukrainians have fled the country in less than a week, the fastest displacement of people in Europe for decades.


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TAGS: conflict, Invasion, Russia, Ukraine, war

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