LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces intensified shelling of cities in Ukraine’s center, north and south, a Ukrainian official said, upending attempts to evacuate besieged civilians. With the Ukrainian leader urging his people to fight in the streets, Russian President Vladimir Putin shifted blame for the invasion, saying Moscow’s attacks could be halted “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities.”
The outskirts of Kyiv, Chernihiv in the north, Mykolaiv in the south, and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, faced stepped-up shelling late Sunday, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said. Local officials claim that heavy artillery was used to attack residential areas in Kharkiv, while the shelling also damaged a television tower.
“This is likely to represent an effort to break Ukrainian morale,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said of Russian tactics as the war entered its 12th day Monday. Fighting has caused 1.5 million people to flee the country, which the head of the U.N. refugee agency called “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”
The most recent attacks dashed hopes that more people could escape the fighting in Ukraine, where Russia’s plan to quickly overrun the country has been stymied by fierce resistance. Russia made important advances along the coast of Ukraine, and in south-central Ukraine, but most of Russia’s efforts are now stalled. This includes an enormous military convoy, which has been almost stationary for several days north of Kyiv.
Learn More E.U. and the U.S. Are Going After Putin’s Wealth. The First Step is to Find It
Mariupol was in dire need of food, water, and nearly all other supplies. Russian and Ukrainian forces had reached an 11-hour ceasefire, which allowed civilians and wounded to flee. Officials from Ukraine said that Russian strikes quickly shut down the humanitarian corridor.
“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom,“ Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Telegram.
On Monday, a third round of negotiations between the Ukrainian and Russian leaders will be held.
Volodymyr Zeleskyy, Ukrainian President, rallied people in areas occupied by Russians to stand firm.
“You should take to the streets! You should fight!” he said Saturday on Ukrainian television. “It is necessary to go out and drive this evil out of our cities, from our land.”
Zelenskyy asked NATO and the United States to send more warplanes into Ukraine. However, this idea has been complicated by questions regarding how aircraft can be provided to Ukrainian pilots.
He later urged the West to tighten its sanctions on Russia, saying that “the audacity of the aggressor is a clear signal” that existing sanctions are not enough.
On Sunday, a top US defense official stated that 95% of Russian troops that were deployed around Ukraine have now been spotted inside. According to the official, Russian forces are still advancing in an effort to displace Chernihiv and Kharkhiv but they are facing strong resistance from Ukraine.
Learn More Here’s What You Can Do to Help People in Ukraine Right Now
An anonymous official spoke out to provide military assessment information. He said that the convoy from Kyiv remains stalled.
As he has often done, Putin blamed Ukraine for the war, telling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that Kyiv needed to stop all hostilities and fulfill “the well-known demands of Russia.”
Putin started his invasion by making a number of false allegations against Kyiv. He also claimed that they are led and controlled by neo Nazis, who seek to undermine Russia’s nuclear weapons development.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday announced that its forces intend to strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex with what it said were precision weapons. Igor Konashenkov, a ministry spokesperson, stated in a Tass state news agency statement that Ukrainian soldiers were being made to repair military equipment that was damaged so it could be returned to action.
Zelenskyy criticized Western leaders for not responding to Russia’s latest threat.
“I didn’t hear even a single world leader react to this,” Zelenskyy said Sunday evening.
Learn More Even If Russia Wins, It Won’t Do So Easily
Without providing any evidence, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Ukrainian forces were plotting to destroy a nuclear test reactor at Kharkiv, and blamed a Russian missile attack for it.
Putin and Macron, the French President, spoke on Sunday about Ukraine’s nuclear situation. Ukraine has four nuclear power plants with 15 reactors. This was also the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.
The men agreed in principle to a “dialogue” involving Russia, Ukraine and the U.N.’s atomic watchdog, according to a French official who spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with the presidency’s practices. He said that potential talks about the topic will be held in the next few days.
Putin also blamed the fire last week at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which Ukrainian officials said was caused by Russian attackers, on a “provocation organized by Ukrainian radicals.”
Pope Francis and international leaders also appealed at Putin to engage in negotiations.
A highly unusual act, the pope stated that he had sent two cardinals from the Vatican to Ukraine to help end the conflict.
“In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing,” the pontiff said in his traditional Sunday blessing.
It is not clear how many people have died. While the U.N. has only confirmed about 100 civilian deaths, it also warns that there is still a lot to go.
According to Mayor Oleksander Markyshin (northwest outskirts Kyiv), Russian bombing killed eight civilians. A family was among the dead.
A video footage captured a shell hitting a street in the city, just a few meters from an escape route bridge. One group of fighters was seen helping the family.
Learn More Why Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Led to Sanctions on Belarus
Mariupol was devastated according to the few residents that managed to escape before the humanitarian corridor shut down.
“We saw everything: houses burning, all the people sitting in basements,” said Yelena Zamay, who fled to one of the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists. “No communication, no water, no gas, no light, no water. There was nothing.”
British military officials compared Russia’s tactics to those Moscow used in Chechnya and Syria, where surrounded cities were pulverized by airstrikes and artillery.
Zelenskyy repeated his request that foreign protectors impose a “no-fly” zone above Ukraine. NATO has so far ruled this out due to concerns about a wider conflict.
“The world is strong enough to close our skies,” Zelenskyy said Sunday in a video address.
Ukraine’s military is greatly outmatched by Russia’s, but its professional and volunteer forces have fought back with fierce tenacity. Volunteers lined up in Kyiv Saturday to sign up for the military.
Although the West supports Ukraine in large part, they offer weapons and assistance and also threaten Russia with massive sanctions. However, no NATO troops were sent to Ukraine.
Ukraine plans to establish an international force of volunteers fighters, drawn from many countries. Dmytro Kuneba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister, stated that more than 20,000 individuals have signed up to fight for Ukraine. It was unclear how many of them were actually in Ukraine.
“The whole world today is on Ukraine’s side, not only in words but in deeds,” he said on Ukrainian television Sunday night.
Russia made important advances in the south of Ukraine to prevent access to the Sea of Azov. Moscow could establish a land route to Crimea by capturing Mariupol, which Russia annexed in Ukraine in 2014. This move was considered illegal by most countries.
Russia’s isolation has grown in recent days, as it is now closed to external sources of information and its economy suffers from sanctions. Many multinational companies have stopped working in the country or reduced their involvement in it, as well as ruble value.
Learn More Why Sanctions on Russia Won’t Work
American Express said on Sunday it would cease all operations in Russia as well as the Russian-allied Belarus. Also, two of the so-called Big Four accounting firms, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, said Sunday they would end their relationships with their Russia-based member firms.
TikTok stated Sunday that Russian users will not be allowed to upload new videos, or see video shared from anywhere in the world. The company blamed Moscow’s new “fake news” law, which makes it illegal, among other things, to describe the fighting as an invasion. Netflix cut service to Russia, but did not provide any details.
Russia has already blocked Twitter and Facebook, as well as access to major media sites around the world. TikTok belongs to the Chinese tech firm ByteDance.
Nancy Pelosi (US House Speaker) stated that Congress is looking into ways to more isolate Russia from the world economy. These include banning Russia’s import of energy and oil products. Pelosi announced Sunday that the proposed legislation would also end normal trade relations to Russia and Belarus. It will then begin the process of denying Russia acces to the World Trade Organization.