'The shelling does not stop,' says mayor of Mariupol, strategic port city in the south
Russia renewed its assault Wednesday on Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, in a pounding that lit up the skyline with balls of fire over populated areas, even as both sides said they were ready to resume talks aimed at stopping the new devastating war in Europe.
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Most of the world lined up against Moscow in the United Nations on Wednesday to demand it withdraw from Ukraine, as Russian forces renewed their bombardment of Kharkiv, the country's second-biggest city, and besieged its strategic ports.
Russia continued to escalate its attacks on crowded cities, even as both sides were set to resume talks on Thursday aimed at stopping the new devastating war in Europe.
Envoys from Ukraine and Russia are expected to meet in Belarus, but there appeared to be little common ground between the two sides.
In a move that aimed to politically isolate Russia, the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday voted to demand that Russia stop its offensive and immediately withdraw all troops. The vote was 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions. It came after the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997.
Countries that spoke up for Russia included Belarus, Cuba, North Korea and Syria. Assembly resolutions aren't legally binding, but they do have clout in reflecting international opinion.
Ramped-up rhetoric of nuclear war
Still, Russia ramped up its rhetoric, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reminding the world about the country's vast nuclear arsenal. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, he said:
A third world war will be nuclear, and devastating, according to Russian news sites.
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency warned that the fighting poses a danger to Ukraine's 15 nuclear reactors.
Rafael Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency noted that the war is
the first time a military conflict is happening amid the facilities of a large, established nuclear power program, and he said he is
When there is a conflict ongoing, there is of course a risk of attack or the possibility of an accidental hit, he said. Russia already has seized control of the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant, the scene in 1986 of the world's worst nuclear disaster.
On Wednesday, a Russian strike hit the regional police and intelligence headquarters in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city of about 1.5 million people. At least 21 people were killed and 112 injured over the past day, said Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration.
A blast blew the roof off the five-storey police building and set the top floor alight, according to videos and photos released by the service. Pieces of the building were strewn across adjacent streets.
Several Russian planes were also shot down over Kharkiv, according to Oleksiy Arestovich, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Kharkiv today is the Stalingrad of the 21st century, Arestovich said, invoking what is considered one of the most heroic moments in Russian history, the five-month defence of the city from the Nazis during the Second World War.
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From his basement bunker, Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov told the BBC:
The city is united and we shall stand fast.
The attack came a day after one in Kharkiv's central square that killed at least six people and shocked many Ukrainians for hitting at the centre of life in a major city.
In the south, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that city officials,
cannot even take the wounded from the streets, from houses and apartments today, since the shelling does not stop.
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The overall death toll from the seven-day-old war is not clear.
On Wednesday, Russia put a figure on its casualties for the first time since the invasion began last week.
Russia's Defence Ministry said on Wednesday that 498 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine and another 1,597 had been wounded since the beginning of Moscow's military operation there,
The ministry also said that more than 2,870 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and about 3,700 wounded, according to Interfax. The numbers could not be independently verified. Ukraine insisted Russia's losses were far higher but did not immediately disclose its own casualties.
Earlier Wednesday, Ukraine's emergency service issued a statement saying the Russian invasion has killed more than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians and destroyed hundreds of structures including transport facilities, hospitals, kindergartens and homes.
Children, women and defence forces
are losing their lives every hour, said the statement, which could not be independently verified.
What's happening on the ground
- In the south: The invading forces also pressed their assault on other towns and cities, including the strategic ports of Odesa and Mariupol in the south. Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that city officials, "cannot even take the wounded from the streets, from houses and apartments today, since the shelling does not stop."
- Russia said its forces took control of the first sizeable city on Wednesday, seizing Kherson, in the south. However, media reports said Ukrainian officials were disputing that claim, saying the battle for the port city continued.
- In the capital region: A sprawling convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles advanced slowly on Kyiv, a city of nearly three million people. However, a senior U.S. defence official said Russia's military progress has slowed, plagued by logistical and supply problems.
- Another Russian airstrike hit a residential area in the city of Zhytomyr. Ukraine's emergency services said Tuesday's strike killed at least two people, burned three homes and broke the windows in a nearby hospital. About 140 kilometres west of Kyiv, Zhytomyr is the home of the elite 95th Air Assault Brigade, which may have been the intended target.
- In the north: Ukrainian UNIAN news agency quoted the health administration chief of the northern city of Chernihiv as saying two cruise missiles hit a hospital there. The hospital's main building suffered damage, Serhiy Pivovar said, and authorities were working to determine the casualty toll. No other information was immediately available.
Meanwhile, the U.S. president used his first State of the Union address to highlight the resolve of a reinvigorated Western alliance that has worked to rearm the Ukrainian military and adopt tough sanctions, which he said have left Russian President Vladimir Putin
isolated in the world more than he has ever been.
Throughout our history we've learned this lesson — when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos, Biden said.
They keep moving. And the costs and threats to America and the world keep rising.
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukraine's president have agreed on a call that sanctions need to go further to exert maximum pressure on Putin in coming days, a Downing Street spokesperson said on Wednesday.
China won't join the United States and European governments in imposing financial sanctions on Russia, the country's bank regulator said Wednesday. China is a major buyer of Russian oil and gas and the only major government that has refrained from criticizing Moscow's attack on Ukraine.
Beijing opposes the sanctions, said Guo Shuqing, the chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission.
The updates on sanctions came a day after Ukrainian authorities said that five people were killed in an attack on a TV tower near central Kyiv. (new window) A TV control room and power substation were hit, and at least some Ukrainian channels briefly stopped broadcasting, officials said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky's office reported that the site of a Holocaust memorial, which is adjacent to the TV tower, was also hit. 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.
Russia previously told people living near transmission facilities used by Ukraine's intelligence agency to leave their homes. But Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov claimed Wednesday that the airstrike on the TV tower did not hit any residential buildings. He did not address the reported deaths or the damage to the Holocaust memorial.
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Moscow, meanwhile, made new threats of escalation Tuesday, days after raising the spectre of nuclear war. A top Kremlin official warned that the West's
economic war against Russia could turn into a
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
Ukraine's Defence Ministry, meanwhile, said it had evidence that Belarus, a Russian ally, is preparing to send troops into Ukraine.
A ministry statement posted early Wednesday on Facebook said the Belarusian troops have been brought into combat readiness and are concentrated close to Ukraine's northern border. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his country has no plans to join the fight.
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The Associated Press with files from Reuters