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March 1, 2022 9:20 am
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Russian Column Bears Down on Kyiv, More Rockets Hit Center of Kharkiv

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

An ambulance is seen through the damaged window of a vehicle hit by bullets, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 28, 2022. Jedrzej Nowicki/Agencja Wyborcza.pl via REUTERS

A Russian armored column bore down on Ukraine‘s capital Kyiv on Tuesday and invasion forces fired rocket barrages into the centre of the country’s second largest city, on the sixth day of Russia’s assault on its western neighbor.

Rocket strikes on the centre of Kharkiv killed at least 10 people and wounded 35, Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said. 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.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the artillery barrages on Kharkiv amounted to state terrorism.

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Nearly a week since Russian troops poured over the border, they have failed to capture a single major Ukrainian city after running into fierce resistance. The civilian deaths of the last 48 hours were an ominous sign that frustrated Russian commanders could be resorting to more devastating tactics.

Russia still has more forces to throw into the fight even though President Vladimir Putin faces worldwide condemnation and international sanctions for his actions, which have shattered the post-Cold War peace in Europe.

Oil company Shell became the latest Western firm to announce it was pulling out of Russia. The sanctions and global financial isolation have already had a devastating impact on Russia’s economy, with the rouble in freefall and queues outside banks as Russians rush to salvage their savings.

Zelensky’s government remained in control of Kyiv on Tuesday, with soldiers and civilians ready to fight the invaders street by street.

But pictures released by US satellite company Maxar showed Russian tanks, artillery and fuel trucks stretching for 40 miles along a highway to the north.

“For the enemy, Kyiv is the key target,” Zelensky, who has remained in the capital rallying Ukrainians, said in a message overnight. “We will neutralize them all.”

Russian troops fired artillery at Kyiv, Kharkiv and the southern port city of Mariupol overnight while the Ukrainian side shot down Russian military planes around the capital, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a briefing.

Ukrainian authorities also reported 70 soldiers killed in a rocket attack in a town between Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Zelensky, addressing the European Parliament by video link a day after he signed an official request to join the European Union, urged the bloc to prove that it sided with Ukraine.

“Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness. Glory be to Ukraine,” he said in an emotional speech.

RISK TO CIVILIANS

In Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Kremlin would press its military operation in Ukraine until it achieves its goals. It aimed to protect itself from threats created by the West, and Russia was not occupying Ukraine‘s territory, the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

Britain’s defense ministry said in an intelligence update that the Russian advance on Kyiv had made little progress in the past 24 hours, probably due to logistical problems. But it also warned of a shift 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,” it said.

Kharkiv, a mainly Russian-speaking city of 1.5 million people near the Russian border, has borne the brunt of attacks since Monday.

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.

Ukraine‘s general staff said Russian losses included 5,710 personnel, 29 destroyed and damaged aircraft and 198 tanks, all figures that could not be verified.

Russia has not given a full account of its battlefield losses, but pictures from Ukraine have shown burnt-out Russian tanks and bodies on the road where they have been attacked by Ukrainian defenders.

Talks held on Monday at the Belarus border failed to reach a breakthrough. Negotiators have not said when a new round will take place.

‘I SAW 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 crossing Tiszabecs, a mother cradled a baby in her arms after a four-day drive from Kyiv.

“I saw war, I saw rockets,” said her older son Ivan, 15, who looked exhausted and pale after the journey. His father had stayed behind to fight.

At the United Nations, the General Assembly met ahead of a vote to isolate Russia, deploring Moscow’s “aggression against Ukraine” and demanding its troops stop fighting and withdraw.

Putin’s Russia faces near total international isolation, with the notable exception of China, over his decision to launch what he called a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and capture “neo-Nazis and drug addicts” that lead it.

Most devastating for Russia have been sanctions on its central bank that prevent it from using its $630 billion foreign reserve war chest to prop up the rouble. The currency recouped some losses on Tuesday after hitting a record low on Monday.

Oil companies Shell, BP and Norway’s Equinor have said they would exit positions in Russia, which relies on oil and gas for export earnings.

Canada said it would ban imports of Russian crude oil, and US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham urged the Biden administration to target the Russian energy sector with sanctions.

Leading banks, airlines and automakers ended partnerships, halted shipments and called Russia’s actions unacceptable.

Mastercard said it had blocked multiple financial institutions from its payment network as a result of sanctions on Russia and Visa said it would take action too.

Three major studios, Sony, Disney and Warner Bros., said they would pause theatrical releases of upcoming films in Russia while FIFA and the International Olympic Committee moved to bar Russian teams and athletes from competing.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told a Geneva disarmament meeting via video link on Tuesday that Ukraine has been seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, a “real danger” that needed a Russian response. Dozens of diplomats from the European Union, United States and Britain walked out of his speech.

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