Russia Shells Ukraine’s Second-Largest City as 40-Mile Tank Convoy Closes In on Kyiv
(KYIV, Ukraine) — Russian forces shelled Ukraine’s second-largest city on Monday, rocking a residential neighborhood, and closed in on the capital, Kyiv, in a 40-mile convoy of hundreds of tanks and other vehicles, as talks aimed at stopping the fighting yielded only an agreement to keep talking.
The country’s embattled president said the stepped-up shelling was aimed at forcing him into concessions.
“I believe Russia is trying to put pressure (on Ukraine) with this simple method,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday in a video address. He did not offer details of the hourslong talks that took place earlier, but said that Kyiv was not prepared to make concessions “when one side is hitting each other with rocket artillery.”
Russia, despite growing international condemnation was isolated just five days into the invasion. Meanwhile, Ukraine faced unexpectedly stiff resistance and home economic woes.
For the second day in a row, the Kremlin raised the specter of nuclear war, announcing that its nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and long-range bombers had all been put on high alert, following President Vladimir Putin’s orders over the weekend.
Stepping up his rhetoric, Putin denounced the U.S. and its allies as an “empire of lies.”
Meanwhile, an embattled Ukraine moved to solidify its ties to the West by applying to join the European Union — a largely symbolic move for now, but one that is unlikely to sit well with Putin, who has long accused the U.S. of trying to pull Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit.
A top Putin aide and head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said that the first talks held between the two sides since the invasion lasted nearly five hours and that the envoys “found certain points on which common positions could be foreseen.” He said they agreed to continue the discussions in the coming days.
As negotiations along the Belarusian border were over, there were several explosions heard in Kyiv. Russian troops began to advance on the town of almost 3 million. According to Maxar Technologies’ satellite imagery, this convoy consisted of tanks, armored cars, artillery, support vehicles and spanned for approximately 40 miles. It was located 17 miles (25 km) away from the centre of Kyiv.
Maxar photographs also featured ground force and ground attack helicopter deployments in south Belarus.
After the weekend curfew ended, people in Kyiv gathered to buy groceries. They stood under a structure with an open hole in one side. Kyiv remained “a key goal” for the Russians, Zelenskyy said, noting that it was hit by three missile strikes on Monday and that hundreds of saboteurs were roaming the city.
“They want to break our nationhood, that’s why the capital is constantly under threat,” Zelenskyy said.
Billboards, buses stops, and electronic traffic signs all over the capital featured messages directed at Russian soldiers in advance. To encourage Russians not to return, some used profanity. Other appealed for their humanity.
“Russian soldier — Stop! Keep your loved ones in mind. Go home with a clean conscience,” one read.
Video from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-biggest city, with a population of about 1.5 million, showed residential areas being shelled, with apartment buildings shaken by repeated, powerful blasts. You could see flashes of flame and plumes of gray smoke.
Kharkiv government footage showed water pouring from a ceiling. It appeared that a projectile had not been detonated was found on the floor.
Kharkiv authorities said that at most seven were dead and several others had been injured. However, they warned that the number of casualties could rise.
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“They wanted to have a blitzkrieg, but it failed, so they act this way,” said 83-year-old Valentin Petrovich, who watched the shelling from his downtown apartment and gave just his first name and his patronymic, a middle name derived from his father’s name, out of fear for his safety.
Despite abundant evidence of the shelling of schools and homes by Russian forces, the Russian military denies targeting residential areas.
In other cities, fighting raged. The strategic port city of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, is “hanging on,” said Zelenskyy adviser Oleksiy Arestovich. Sumy, an eastern city, was bombed with oil.
Russia, despite having a huge military power, still had no control over Ukraine’s airspace. That may be why Ukraine has prevented any rout.
Berdyansk is a resort city on the coast. Hundreds of protesters shouted angrily against Russian occupation. The soldiers were described as young, exhausted conscripts.
“Frightened kids, frightened looks. They want to eat,” Konstantin Maloletka, who runs a small shop, said by telephone. The soldier said that the soldiers went to a grocery store and bought canned meat, vodka, cigarettes and other items.
“They ate right in the store,” he said. “It looked like they haven’t been fed in recent days.”
In Ukraine, families fleeing terror gathered in underground shelters, basements and corridors to sleep over night.
“I sit and pray for these negotiations to end successfully, so that they reach an agreement to end the slaughter,” said Alexandra Mikhailova, weeping as she clutched her cat in a shelter in Mariupol. Her parents attempted to comfort her and keep her warm.
For many, Russia’s announcement of a nuclear high alert stirred fears that the West could be drawn into direct conflict with Russia. But a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had yet to see any appreciable change in Russia’s nuclear posture.
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.
Russian fear was not eased by this. Moscow was filled with people waiting to cash out their money as sanctions were threatening to increase prices and lower the living standards of millions of Russians.
In yet another blow to Russia’s economy, oil giant Shell said it is pulling out of the country because of the invasion. Shell announced that it would withdraw its participation in joint ventures between Gazprom, a state-owned oil company, and other entities. It also said that they will end their involvement with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline connecting Russia and Europe.
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 aircraft are now banned from European airspace. Russian media has been restricted in certain countries and high-tech goods cannot be exported into Russia. Russian soccer clubs were expelled from any international competitions on Monday.
— The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said he will open an investigation soon into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
— Cyberattacks hit Ukrainian embassies around the world, and Russian media outlets.
— The United States announced it is expelling 12 members of Russia’s U.N. mission, accusing them of spying.
— The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly opened its first emergency session in decades, with Assembly President Abdulla Shahid calling for an immediate cease-fire and “a full return to diplomacy and dialogue.”
The U.N. human rights chief said at least 102 civilians have been killed and hundreds wounded — warning that figure is probably a vast undercount — and Ukraine’s president said at least 16 children were among the dead.
According to another U.N. official, more than half-million refugees fled the country following the invasion. Most of them went on to Poland and Romania.
Maria Pavlushko (24) from Kyiv was an information technology manager. Her father, she said, remained behind to fight against the Russians.
“I am proud about him,” she said, adding that many of her friends were planning to fight too.
The negotiators at Monday’s talks met at a long table with the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag on one side and the Russian tricolor on the other.
But while Ukraine sent its defense minister and other top officials, the Russian delegation was led by Putin’s adviser on culture — an unlikely envoy for ending a war and perhaps a sign of how seriously Moscow took the talks.
Isachenkov, Litvinova and Litvinova were reporting from Moscow. Robert Burns in Washington and Eric Tucker in Washington; Francesca Ebel and Josef Federman in Kyiv, Andrew Drake in Kyiv; Lorne Cooper in Brussels; other AP journalists worldwide contributed to this article.