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Russia, Ukraine ready for new talks as bombardment continues

Click to play video: 'Russia-Ukraine conflict: Over 450,000 Ukrainian refugees flee to Poland as fighting continues'
Russia-Ukraine conflict: Over 450,000 Ukrainian refugees flee to Poland as fighting continues
Over 450,000 Ukrainian refugees have entered Poland so far and that number is expected to increase. As Mike Armstrong reports from the Korczowa, Poland border crossing, which is roughly 3 km from Ukraine, the volume of refugees is only becoming greater – Mar 2, 2022

Most of the world lined up against Moscow in the United Nations on Wednesday to demand it withdraw from Ukraine, as invading Russian forces renewed their bombardment of the country’s second-biggest city, menaced its capital and besieged its strategic ports.

Russia reported its military casualties for the first time since the invasion began last week, saying nearly 500 of its troops had been killed and almost 1,600 wounded. Ukraine insisted Russia’s losses were far higher but did not immediately disclose its own.

Envoys from Ukraine and Russia are expected to meet Thursday in Belarus for a second round of talks aimed at ending the fighting. But there appeared to be little common ground between the two sides.

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The U.N. General Assembly voted to demand that Russia stop its offensive and immediately withdraw all troops, with world powers and tiny island states alike condemning Moscow. The vote was 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions.

Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding but can have influence as a reflection of international opinion.

The vote 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.

Andrey Goncharuk, 68, a member of territorial defence force, wipes his face in the backyard of a house that was damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv on March 2. Vadim Ghirda/AP

Meanwhile, Russia pounded Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city with about 1.5 million people, with another round of aerial attacks that shattered buildings and lit up the skyline with balls of fire. At least 21 people were killed and 112 injured over the past day, said Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration.

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Several Russian planes were shot down over Kharkiv, according to Oleksiy Arestovich, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“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 defense of the city from the Nazis during World War II.

Click to play video: 'UN General Assembly passes vote to isolate Russia over war in Ukraine'
UN General Assembly passes vote to isolate Russia over war in Ukraine

From his basement bunker, Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov told the BBC: “The city is united and we shall stand fast.”

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Russian attacks, many with missiles, blew the roof off Kharkiv’s five-story regional police building and set the top floor on fire, and also hit the intelligence headquarters and a university building, according to officials and videos and photos released by Ukraine’s State Emergency Service. Officials said residential buildings were also hit, but gave no details.

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Ukraine found itself under threat on other fronts as well: A huge, 40-mile-long column of Russian tanks and other military vehicles stood outside Kyiv, the capital, and Russian invaders pressed their assault on the strategic port cities of Kherson and Mariupol.

A group of women and a boy walk to the train station as they try to leave Kyiv, Ukraine on March 2. Russian forces have escalated their attacks on crowded cities in what Ukraine’s leader called a blatant campaign of terror. Emilio Morenatti/AP

Seven days into Russia’s invasion, a refugee crisis unfolded on the European continent, with the U.N. saying that more than 870,000 people have fled Ukraine and that the number could soon hit 1 million.

The State Emergency Service reported that more than 2,000 civilians have been killed, but that could not be independently verified.

A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, gave his side’s military casualty figures, disputing as “disinformation” reports of much higher losses. Ukraine’s leader claimed almost 6,000 Russian soldiers have been killed.

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Konashenkov also said more than 2,870 Ukrainian troops have been killed and about 3,700 wounded, while over 570 others have been captured.

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.

In the northern city of Chernihiv, two cruise missiles hit a hospital, according to the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency, which quoted the health administration chief, Serhiy Pivovar, as saying authorities were working to determine the casualty toll.

In besieged Mariupol, at least one teenager died and two more were wounded by apparent Russian shelling. The boys’ families told The Associated Press the attack came while they were playing soccer near a school.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Kharkiv and Mariupol were encircled. Kherson was also under pressure, but there were conflicting reports as to who was in control.

Ukrainian soldiers take positions in a trench on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine on March 2. Emilio Morenatti/AP

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said the attacks there had been relentless.

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“We cannot even take the wounded from the streets, from houses and apartments today, since the shelling does not stop,” he was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

On the far edges of Kyiv, volunteer fighters well into their 60s manned a checkpoint to block the Russian advance.

“In my old age I had to take up arms,” said Andrey Goncharuk, 68. He said the fighters needed more weapons, but “we’ll kill the enemy and take their weapons.”

Click to play video: 'Situation in Ukraine could get ‘much, much worse:’ UN chief'
Situation in Ukraine could get ‘much, much worse:’ UN chief

On Tuesday, Russia, intensifying its attacks on cities, bombed Kharkiv’s central square — where at least six people were reported killed — and struck Kyiv’s main TV tower, where authorities said five died. Kyiv’s nearby Babi Yar Holocaust memorial also came under fire, but the main monument was not damaged.

The announced talks inspired hope, though it remained unclear what they could yield. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Russia’s demands have not changed and that he wouldn’t accept any ultimatums.

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Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, acknowledged the global economic punishment hitting Russia is unprecedented but said that Moscow had been prepared for all manner of sanctions and that the potential damage had been taken into account before launching the invasion.

“We have experience with this. We have been through several crises,” he said.

A Ukrainian boy holds a pillow in the shape of a heart as he stands next to a man, who didn’t disclose his nationality, with a rifle bag and looking for a train to head to Ukraine to join the fight against the Russian invasion on March 2 in Przemysl, Poland. Omar Marques/Getty Images

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, warned that the fighting poses a danger to Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors.

“When there is a conflict ongoing, there is of course a risk of attack or the possibility of an accidental hit,” Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in Vienna.

Russia already seized control of the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant, the scene in 1986 of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

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