Zelenskyy says ‘they have orders to erase us all’ as Russia takes aim at Ukraine’s urban areas 

Zelenskyy says ‘they have orders to erase us all’ as Russia takes aim at Ukraine’s urban areas 

Ukrainians said on Wednesday they were battling on in the port of Kherson, the first sizeable city Russia claimed to have seized, as air strikes and bombardment caused devastation in cities that Moscow’s bogged down forces have failed to capture.

After nearly a week, Russia has yet to achieve its aim of overthrowing Ukraine’s government, but has, according to the Ukrainian emergency service, killed more than 2,000 civilians and destroyed hospitals, kindergartens and homes.

The invasion has sent more than 870,000 people fleeing over Ukraine’s borders and retaliatory sanctions have shaken the world economy, with surging oil prices exacerbating fears of inflation.

It comes as the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to demand that Russia immediately stops using force against Ukraine and withdraws its military from the country, with 141 nations backing the motion and only five, including alleged co-aggressor Belarus, opposing it.

Bombing of Kharkiv, an eastern city of 1.5 million people, has left its centre a wasteland of ruined buildings and debris.

“The Russian ‘liberators’ have come,” one Ukrainian volunteer lamented sarcastically, as he and three others strained to carry the dead body of a man wrapped in a bedsheet out of the ruins on a main square.

After an air strike on Wednesday morning, the roof of a police building in central Kharkiv collapsed as it was engulfed in flames. Authorities said 21 people were killed by shelling and air strikes in the city in the past 24 hours, and four more on Wednesday morning.

Moscow denies targeting civilians and says it aims to disarm Ukraine, a country of 44 million people, in a “special military operation”.

Russia said it had sent delegates for a second round of peace talks in Belarus. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia must stop bombing if it wanted to negotiate.

According to Russia’s Defence Ministry, some 498 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine, with 1,597 wounded.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Russia’s defence ministry says it has captured the southern city of Kherson, something local officials have denied. Situated on the Dniepr river, the provincial capital would be the biggest Ukrainian to be taken by city Russian forces so far.
  • Russian nuclear submarines sailed off for drills in the Barents Sea and mobile missile launchers roamed snow forests in Siberia after President Vladimir Putin over tensions with the West over the invasion of Ukraine. – READ MORE
  • A second round of negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegates is scheduled to take place today. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia must stop bombing Ukrainian cities before meaningful talks on a ceasefire can start. – READ MORE
  • Ukraine’s hospitals face an oxygen shortage with at least 2,000 patients needing it to survive, World Health Organisation (WHO) leaders have warned. READ MORE
  • Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko and his brother Wladimir – both former world heavyweight boxing champions – have appeared together calling for more support from allies to defend Ukraine against the Russian invasion. – READ MORE
  • President Zelenskyy has described a Russian military strike on the centre of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, as a war crime. – READ MORE
  • In his first State of the Union address to the US House of Representatives, President Joe Biden will vow to make Vladimir Putin “pay a price” for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – READ MORE
  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says more than 874,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last week and the figure is on track to cross the one million mark by the end of the day. – READ MORE

UN believes Russia controls area around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine

Russian armed forces are believed to have taken control of the area around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia – the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and one of the 10 largest in the world. 

According to the UN’s nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi, Russian diplomats in Vienna have informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that personnel have been allowed to continue their work.

Zaporizhzhia Power Plant in southeastern Ukraine. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The IAEA was told radiation levels “remain normal”.

Six out of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear energy reactors are located in Zaporizhzhia. 

There are reports online of Ukrainian citizens blocking roads leading to the power plant. 

One video shows Ukrainians building makeshift roadblocks near the city of Energodar, close to Zaporizhzhia.

Residents and employees of the #Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant do not let the invaders pass into the city. People of #Ukraine are defending nuclear safety of Europe even with their bare hands #StandWithUkraine #StopRussianAggression #stopputin #stoprussia pic.twitter.com/2s7mN8cJmP

— Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (@ua_parliament) March 2, 2022

Meanwhile, Russian forces escalated their attacks on crowded urban areas in what Ukraine’s leader called “a blatant campaign of terror.”

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled the fighting since Putin ordered a full-scale invasion nearly a week ago, with a 65km-long Russian military convoy north of Kyiv readying to advance on the capital.

‘Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during an address posted online. Picture: Facebook

Mr Zelenskyy said Russia’s attack on Babyn Yar – the site of a second world war massacre of Jews by German occupation troops and Ukrainian auxiliaries – proved that Russia does not “know a think about our history.”

“This strike proves that for many people in Russia our Kyiv is absolutely foreign.

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.

“Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget,” Mr Zelenskyy vowed after the bloodshed on the central square in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, and the deadly bombing of a TV tower in the capital.

The invading forces also pressed their assault on other towns and cities, including the strategic ports of Odesa and Mariupol in the south.

Yet, Russia has failed to capture a Ukrainian single major city and Western analysts say Moscow appears to have fallen back on tactics which call for devastating shelling of built-up areas before entering them.

Day six of the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II found Russia increasingly isolated, beset by the sanctions that have thrown its economy into turmoil and left the country practically friendless, apart from a few nations like China, Belarus and North Korea.

Death toll mounts

Ukrainian emergency service personnel carry a body of a victim following shelling that hit the City Hall building in Kharkiv. Picture: AP Photo/Pavel Dorogoy

As the fighting in Ukraine raged, the death toll remained unclear. 

One senior Western intelligence official estimated that more than 6,000 Russian soldiers had been captured or killed. Ukraine gave no overall estimate of troop losses.

The UN human rights office said it has recorded 136 civilian deaths. The real toll is believed to be far higher, with Ukraine’s emergency service claiming up to 2,000 civilians have been killed. 

The UK’s ministry of defence said it had seen an increase in Russian air and artillery strikes on populated urban areas over the past two days. It also said two cities — Kharkiv and Mariupol — were encircled by Russian forces.

Many military experts worry that Russia may be shifting tactics. Moscow’s strategy in Chechnya and Syria was to use artillery and air bombardments to pulverize cities and crush fighters’ resolve.

Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed in the attack on the TV tower, which is near central Kyiv and a short walk from numerous apartment buildings. A TV control room and power substation were hit, and at least some Ukrainian channels briefly stopped broadcasting, officials said.

The bombing came after Russia announced it would target transmission facilities used by Ukraine’s intelligence agency. It urged people living near such places to leave their homes.

Mr Zelensky’s office also reported a missile attack on the site of the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial, near the tower. A spokesman 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.

In Kharkiv, with a population of about 1.5 million, at least six people were killed when the region’s Soviet-era administrative building on Freedom Square was hit with what was believed to be a missile.

15 other people were killed during fighting elsewhere in the city.

The Slovenian foreign ministry said its consulate in Kharkiv, located in another large building on the square, was destroyed in the attack.

The attack on Freedom Square – Ukraine’s largest plaza, and the nucleus of public life in the city – was seen by many Ukrainians as brazen evidence that the Russian invasion was not just about hitting military targets but also about breaking their spirit.

The bombardment blew out windows and walls of buildings that ring the massive square, which was piled high with debris and dust. Inside one building, chunks of plaster were scattered, and doors, ripped from their hinges, lay across hallways.

“People are under the ruins. We have pulled out bodies,” said Yevhen Vasylenko, an emergency official.

Zelenskyy: ‘This is state terrorism of the Russian Federation’

People look at the gutted remains of Russian military vehicles on a road in the town of Bucha, close to the capital Kyiv, Ukraine. Picture: AP Photo/Serhii Nuzhnenko

Mr Zelenskyy pronounced the attack on the square “frank, undisguised terror” and a war crime. “This is state terrorism of the Russian Federation,” he said.

In an emotional appeal to the European Parliament later, Mr Zelenskyy said: “We are fighting also to be equal members of Europe. I believe that today we are showing everybody that is what we are.”

Another Russian airstrike hit a residential area in the city of Zhytomyr, the town’s mayor said. Ukraine’s emergency services said Tuesday’s strike killed at least two people, set three homes on fire and broke the windows in a nearby hospital. About 85 miles west of Kyiv, Zhytomyr is the home of the elite 95th Air Assault Brigade, which may have been the intended target.

Mr Zelenskyy said 16 children had been killed around Ukraine on Monday, and he mocked Russia’s claim that it is going after only military targets.

“Where are the children? What kind of military factories do they work at? What tanks are they going at?” Mr Zelenskyy said.

Human Rights Watch said it documented a cluster bomb attack outside a hospital in Ukraine’s east in recent days. Residents also reported the use of such weapons in Kharkiv and Kiyanka village. The Kremlin denied using cluster bombs.

Cluster bombs shoot smaller “bomblets” over a large area, many of which fail to explode until long after they’ve been dropped. If their use is confirmed, that would represent a new level of brutality in the war and could lead to further isolation of Russia.

Russian forces escalated their attacks on crowded urban areas in what Ukraine’s leader called a blatant campaign of terror. Picture: Pavel Dorogoy/AP

The first talks between Russia and Ukraine since the invasion were held on Monday, but ended with only an agreement to talk again. On Tuesday, Mr Zelenskyy said Russia should stop bombing first.

“It’s necessary to at least stop bombing people, just stop the bombing and then sit down at the negotiating table,” he told Reuters and CNN in a joint interview in a heavily guarded government compound in Kyiv.

Inside Russia, a top radio station critical of the K

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