LVIV, Ukraine, March 2 (Reuters) – The Russian invasion of Ukraine has killed more than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians and destroyed hundreds of structures including transport facilities, hospitals, kindergartens and homes, Ukraine’s emergency service said on Wednesday.
“Children, women and defence forces are losing their lives every hour,” it said in a statement.
- An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday that Russia had not captured Kherson, a southern port city that Russia had earlier said it had seized.
Oleksiy Arestovych said fighting continued for the provincial capital of around a quarter of a million people, which sits at the Dnipro river’s exit into the Black Sea.
“The city has not fallen, our side continues to defend,” Arestovych told a live briefing broadcast on the website of the president’s office. “Fighting in the streets continues.”
“Information that Kherson has fallen and so on – that’s not true. Our military and local defenders continue resisting in the city and around it.”
- Radiation levels at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant have increased but are still low enough not to pose a hazard to the public despite the movement of Russia’s military vehicles there, the U.N. nuclear watchdog IAEA said on Wednesday.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said the safety and the security of nuclear facilities, and nuclear and other radioactive materials in Ukraine must not be endangered.
- A second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine will take place on Wednesday, Russia’s TASS news agency cited an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as saying.
Russia said it had taken Kherson, the biggest city it has yet seized in Ukraine on Wednesday, while stepping up its lethal bombardment of the main cities that its invasion force has so far failed to capture in the face of strong Ukrainian resistance
TASS said the adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, was speaking on Ukraine-24 TV.
- Russia’s central bank said on Wednesday it was temporarily suspending transfers by foreign legal entities and individuals from several countries to accounts abroad.
The bank said it was also temporarily limiting transfers to some countries at the equivalent of no more than $5,000 a month for non-residents who did not have an account.
Russian officials are ready to hold a second round of talks with Ukraine on Wednesday but it is unclear whether Ukrainian officials will turn up, the Kremlin said.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said there was contradictory information about the talks, which would follow a meeting at the Belarusian border on Monday that failed to produce a breakthrough.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday that Russia must stop bombing Ukrainian cities before more talks could take place on Russia’s invasion of his country.
“First we can try to predict whether Ukrainian negotiators will show up or not. Let’s hope this happens. Our (negotiators) will be there and ready,” Peskov told reporters.
He said Moscow needed to formulate a harsh, thought-out and clear response to measures imposed by Western countries to undermine the Russian economy.
Asked whether the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project led by Russia’s Gazprom GAZP.MM was dead, Peskov said the infrastructure was still there and common sense was for it to be launched.
Berlin has said it will halt certification of the pipeline which runs from Russia to Germany but has yet to open.
Peskov said Russia’s economy was experiencing a serious blow but that it was solid and the country had experience of getting through crises
Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday Russian armed forces have captured the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, RIA news agency reported
- At least 21 people were killed and 112 wounded in shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in the last 24 hours, regional governor Oleg Synegubov said on Wednesday.
The authorities have said Russian missile attacks hit the centre of Ukraine’s second-largest city, including residential areas and the regional administration
The United States closed its airspace to Russian planes as the Russian military attempted to encircle and subdue Ukrainian cities with intensifying bombardments on Wednesday, seven days into an invasion that has sparked massive international sanctions.
Already shunned by the West, Russia has shown no sign of stopping an assault that has included strikes on Kyiv and rocket attacks in the second city of Kharkiv. Dozens have been killed.
Russia has failed to capture a single city since its full-scale invasion began nearly a week ago, and Western analysts say Moscow has fallen back on tactics which call for devastating shelling of built-up areas before entering them.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled the fighting as a miles-long Russian military convoy north of Kyiv readies to advance on the city. West of Kyiv, in the city of Zhytomyr, four people, including a child, were killed on Tuesday by a Russian cruise missile, a Ukrainian official said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Russia to stop bombarding civilians and resume talks.
“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.
U.S. President Joe Biden vowed Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay a heavy price for his decision to invade Ukraine, a Western-leaning democratic country of 44 million people.
“He has no idea what’s coming,” he said in a State of the Union address in the chamber of the House of Representatives.
“Let each of us if you’re able to stand, stand and send an unmistakable signal to Ukraine and to the world.”
The lawmakers stood, applauded and roared, many of them waving Ukrainian flags and wearing the country’s blue and yellow colours.
Biden announced a further ratcheting up of sanctions on Moscow, joining the European Union and Canada in banning Russian planes from U.S. airspace. He also said the Justice Department would seek to seize the yachts, luxury apartments and private jets of wealthy Russians with ties to Putin.
The Russian leader ordered a “special military operation” last Thursday in a bid to disarm Ukraine, capture the “neo-Nazis” he says are running the country and crush its hopes of closer ties to the West.
‘FREEZE AND SEIZE’
Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, has called on the U.S.-led military alliance to implement a no-fly zone – a request rejected by Washington, which fears stoking a direct conflict between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.
Washington and its allies have instead sent weapons to Kyiv, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States had agreed with partners to convene a task force “to freeze and seize the assets of key Russian elites”.
The move “will inflict financial pain on the powerful individuals surrounding Putin and make clear that no one is beyond our collective reach,” Yellen said in a statement following a Tuesday call with Group of Seven officials.
The West is shutting off Russia’s economy from the global financial system, pushing international companies to halt sales, cut ties, and dump tens of billions of dollars’ worth of investments.
Exxon Mobil joined other major Western energy companies including British BP PLC BP.L and Shell RDSa.L in announcing it would quit oil-rich Russia over the invasion.
Apple Inc AAPL.O stopped sales of iPhones and other products in Russia, and was making changes to its Maps app to protect civilians in Ukraine. Alphabet Inc’s GOOGL.O Google dropped Russian state publishers from its news, and Ford Motor F.N. suspended operations in the country.
Russia on Tuesday placed temporary restrictions on foreigners seeking to exit Russia assets, meaning that billions of dollars worth of securities held by foreigners are at risk of being trapped.
Russia’s military move on Kyiv has stalled as its forces struggle with shortages of food and fuel, and some units appeared to have low morale, a senior U.S. defense official said on Tuesday.
The heaviest Russian bombardment so far appeared to be around Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, near the border with Russia. Dozens of residents including children were killed when a Russian strategic bomber fired 16 guided missiles toward a residential area on Monday, Ukraine’s defence ministry said.
In Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking city of Donetsk, in territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists, authorities said three civilians had been killed by Ukrainian shelling.
Reuters was not able to confirm any of the incidents of reports of casualties. The United Nations says at least 136 civilians have been killed in the invasion, but that the real number of people is likely much higher.
Ukraine’s air force continued to defy expectations that Russia would achieve swift dominance of the air.
“The airspace is actively contested every day,” a senior U.S. defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Kyiv, Kevin Liffey in London and other Reuters bureaux including Moscow; Writing by Stephen Coates; editing by Lincoln Feast & Simon Cameron-Moore)
Photo – People examine a damaged administrative building in the aftermath of a Russian shelling in downtown Kharkiv, Ukraine. EPA-EFE/SERGEY KOZLOV