Latest updates as of 2:45 a.m. EST on Wednesday:
- Ukraine’s south-eastern port of Mariupol was under constant shelling from Russia and unable to evacuate the injured while Kherson, on the Black Sea to the west, was completely surrounded by invading forces, Ukrainian authorities said on Wednesday.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday nearly 6,000 Russians had been killed in the first six days of Moscow’s invasion, and that the Kremlin would not be able to take his country with bombs and air strikes.
- At least 21 people have been killed and 112 wounded in shelling in Kharkiv in the last 24 hours, regional governor Oleg Synegubov said on Wednesday, as new missile attacks damaged several buildings including the regional police headquarters.
- U.S. President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian flights from the American airspace, joining Canada and European countries.
Several Ukrainian cities saw renewed attacks from Russian forces Wednesday, as U.S. President Joe Biden promised further measures to isolate Russia and punish some of its most powerful figures for the now week-long invasion.
Ukraine’s military said Russian paratroops had landed in the eastern city of Kharkiv, which has sustained heavy casualties from continuous missile attacks over the past few days. The military said the Russian forces had attacked a military hospital in the city, which is Ukraine’s second-largest.
At least 21 people have been killed and 112 wounded in shelling in Kharkiv in the last 24 hours, regional governor Oleg Synegubov said on Wednesday.
Video later emerged of several government buildings destroyed and burning after being hit by Russian missiles Wednesday morning. One of those buildings was the regional police headquarters, Ukrainian officials said.
Russian troops have also reportedly entered Kherson, close to the annexed territory of Crimea, and has the city completely surrounded, officials said. The city’s mayor Igor Kolykhaev had said on Tuesday that fighting there had led to severe damage.
On Wednesday, Kolykhaev said the city hall building was shot down overnight, yet confirmed no one was killed. He urged residents not to leave their homes and “provoke a shooting.”
“We are all waiting for a miracle now. This is what we need,” he wrote on social media.
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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said nearly 6,000 Russians had been killed in the first six days of Moscow’s invasion, and that the Kremlin would not be able to take his country with bombs and air strikes. Moscow has yet to confirm any casualties.
“They 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,” he said in the video address to the nation.
Amidst the continued onslaught, Biden announced at his first State of the Union address Tuesday night that the U.S. will close its airspace to Russian flights, joining Europe and Canada.
He also said the U.S. was working to seize the assets of key Russian oligarchs who have benefitted from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime, including yachts, luxury apartments and private jets.
“We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” he said, while promising Putin himself “has no idea what’s coming.”
Russia is also continuing to press toward the capital of Kyiv, though U.S. and British intelligence has suggested the advance has slowed due to logistical issues. Yet the city continued to face deadly attacks Tuesday.
Five people were killed and five more were wounded after shelling struck the Kyiv TV tower and Ukraine’s main Holocaust memorial site.
The State Service for Emergency Situations said the bombings targeted civilian sites, and social media users and politicians shared videos of the clouds of smoke engulfing the TV tower. It is located near central Kyiv and is walking distance to apartment buildings.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said an electrical substation powering the tower and a control room on the tower were damaged from the hit. Local media reported there were several explosions and that Ukrainian TV channels stopped broadcasting shortly afterward.
Elsewhere in the northwestern city of Zhytomyr, four people, including a child, were killed when residential buildings near an air base were struck by a Russian cruise missile, said Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, according to Reuters.
An overnight attack on the same city killed at least two people, officials said.
In an emergency session of the European Parliament, Zelenskyy pushed for EU membership a day after officially requesting to join the bloc.
“We are fighting to be equal members of Europe,” Zelenskyy said in Ukrainian in a speech translated into English by an interpreter who spoke through tears.
“Do prove that you are with us. 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,” he said.
“The EU will be much stronger with us.”
Kharkiv bombed as Russian forces near Kyiv
Zelenskyy’s plea comes as Russian forces bombard Ukrainian cities and inch toward the capital of Kyiv.
Tuesday marks day six of the war that saw a barrage of shelling from the Russian military continue in Kharkiv, killing 10 and injuring 35 in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said.
Zelenskyy called the attack on Kharkiv’s main city square “frank, undisguised terror.” He blamed Russian missiles for destruction and called the actions of his neighbouring country a war crime.
“Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget,” Zelenskyy said. “This is state terrorism of the Russian Federation.”
Kharkiv city’s administration headquarters came under Russian shelling, according to regional administration chief Oleh Sinehubov. The state emergencies agency said the attack wounded six people, including a child.
A 21-year-old Indian student also died in the shelling, India’s foreign ministry said.
Sinehubov said that at least 11 people were killed and that scores of others were wounded during Monday’s shelling of the city.
Nearby, more than 70 Ukrainian soldiers were killed after Russian artillery hit a military base in Okhtyrka, a city between Kharkiv and Kyiv, the head of the region wrote on Telegram.
Dmytro Zhyvytskyy posted photographs of the charred shell of a four-storey building and rescuers searching rubble. In a later Facebook post, he said many Russian soldiers and some local residents also were killed during the fighting on Sunday. The report could not immediately be confirmed.
Nearly a week since Russian troops poured over the border, they have failed to capture a single major Ukrainian city after running into far fiercer resistance than they expected. Moscow still has more forces to deploy even though President Vladimir Putin faces worldwide condemnation and international sanctions.
With an armored convoy many kilometres long closing in on Kyiv, Russia’s defence ministry said it was planning to strike targets in the capital integral to Ukraine’s security service. Nearby residents were advised to evacuate their homes, it warned. No information was provided about where in the city of three million people those targets were located.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said it has evidence that Belarus, a Russian ally, is preparing to send troops into the country.
A ministry statement on Facebook said the Belarussian troops have been brought into combat readiness and are concentrated close to Ukraine’s northern border.
The latest attacks follow ceasefire talks on Monday between the two nations in Belarus. No breakthroughs were reported, but Russian state media agency TASS reported a second round of talks will happen Wednesday. No Ukrainian officials have confirmed the talks will take place on March 2.
Zelenskyy called on Russia to immediately stop bombing Ukrainian cities if ceasefire talks were to move ahead in a meaningful way.
In a joint interview with Reuters and CNN, Zelenskyy said Ukraine would demand legally binding security guarantees if NATO shut the door on Ukraine’s membership prospects. He urged NATO member countries to impose a no fly zone to stop Russian aerial attacks, insisting that it was a preventative measure.
As a result of the conflict, Canada will petition the International Criminal Court on Tuesday to probe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by Russian forces in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said.
Refugee crisis unfolds
The United Nations has launched an emergency appeal to the tune of $1.7 billion in humanitarian aid for people attempting to flee Ukraine and resettle.
“The crisis has turned very ugly, very fast,” said Martin Griffiths, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.
In the last 24 hours, another 150,000 fled Ukraine amid the escalating violence, bringing the total number of refugees to around 677,000, according to Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Griffiths said shelling and bombing have already damaged water pipes, electricity lines and basic services.
“Hundreds of thousands of families are without drinking water,” he 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, Reuters reported. His father had stayed behind to fight.
In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government will relax visa rules to allow refugees to stay for a year.
“We will make it easier for Ukrainians already living in the U.K. to bring their relatives to our country. Though the numbers are hard to calculate, there could be more than 200,000,” Johnson said during a visit to Warsaw.
In Canada, the government is working swiftly to welcome Ukrainians fleeing their country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Trudeau said Canada’s ministry of immigration has seen an increase in the number of processed applications from Ukraine over the past few weeks as tensions boiled the Russian border.
“We’re also looking at the visas of the people who are here and the applications of people fleeing from Ukraine to let them come more quickly to Canada and even stay here after the end of this unfair war,” Trudeau said in French during a take-note debate on the conflict.
Canada also announced on Tuesday it would be giving $100 million for humanitarian assistance in Ukraine.
Sanctions continue to be imposed on Russia
Moscow continues to be punished for waging war in Ukraine, and not only by western nations imposing sanctions. Private industries and sports leagues are introducing penalties as well.
As sanctions begin to isolate Russia, it will seemingly have fewer ways to move its products to countries still supporting it as the world’s biggest shipping lines, MSC and Maersk, are cutting ties. The two companies announced they will suspend container shipping to and from Russia.
Oil companies Shell and Norway’s Equinor have said they would exit Russia, which relies on oil and gas for export earnings.
Canada said it would ban imports of Russian crude oil, and U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham urged the Biden administration to target the Russian energy sector with sanctions.
Canada also announced it would be blocking Russian-owned or registered ships and fishing vessels from entering Canadian ports and internal waters.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada will impose additional economic measures on Russia in the coming days.
Leading banks, airlines and automakers ended partnerships, halted shipments and called Russia’s actions unacceptable.
U.S. airplane manufacturer Boeing suspended major operations in Moscow and temporarily closed its office in Kyiv.
The company said in a statement it is also suspending parts, maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines.
Mastercard has blocked multiple financial institutions from its payment network as a result of sanctions on Russia, and Visa said it would take action too.
American big brands including Apple, Google, Ford and Harley-Davidson on Tuesday stopped sales and distanced themselves from Russia.
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 competitions.
More sanctions on the sporting end continued to roll-in against Russian athletes as the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the International Skating Union (ISU) joined the growing list of organizations to bar Russians.
The governing bodies for tennis (ATP and WTA) said that players from Russia and Belarus can still participate, but can’t compete under their nation’s flags.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” that it says is not designed to occupy territory, but to destroy its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.
In the weeks leading up to the war, Moscow had built up roughly 150,000 troops near the border, and continuously denied Western accusations it was planning an invasion of Ukraine.
— with files from Reuters and The Associated Press.