Russia targets urban areas; Biden promises Putin will ‘pay’

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces stepped up their attacks on crowded urban areas on Tuesday in what Ukraine’s leader called a campaign of blatant terror, while U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to make his Russian counterpart pay for the invasion.

“No one will forgive. No one will forget,” promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after the bloodshed in the central square of Kharkiv, the country’s second city, and the deadly attack on a television tower in the capital.

Biden used his first State of the Union address to underscore the resolve of a reinvigorated Western alliance that worked to rearm Ukraine’s military and enact tough sanctions, which he said left Russian President Vladimir Putin “isolated in the world more than he ever was”. summer.”

“Throughout our history, we’ve learned this lesson – when dictators don’t pay the price for their aggression, they cause more chaos,” Biden said. “They keep moving. And the costs and threats to America and the world continue to mount.

Biden devoted the first 12 minutes of his Tuesday night speech to Ukraine, with lawmakers from both parties repeatedly standing and clapping as he praised the bravery of the Ukrainian people and condemned Putin’s assault.

As Biden spoke, a 40-mile (64 kilometer) convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles slowly advanced on Kiev, the capital of nearly 3 million people, in what the West feared would be an offer from Putin overthrow the government and install a pro-Kremlin regime.

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

The sixth day of Europe’s biggest ground war since World War II has found Russia increasingly isolatedplagued by sanctions that have thrown its economy into turmoil and left the country virtually friendless except for a few nations like China, Belarus and North Korea.

As fighting in Ukraine raged, the death toll remained uncertain. A senior Western intelligence official estimated that more than 5,000 Russian soldiers had been captured or killed. Ukraine gave no overall estimate of troop losses.

The UN human rights office said it recorded 136 civilian deaths. The actual toll would be much higher.

The UK Ministry of Defense said it had seen an increase in Russian air and artillery strikes on populated urban areas over the past two days. He also said three cities – Kharkiv, Kherson and Mariupol – were surrounded by Russian forces.

Many military experts fear that Russia is changing tactics. Moscow’s strategy in Chechnya and Syria was to use artillery and aerial bombardment to pulverize cities and crush the resolve of fighters.

Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed in the attack on the television tower, located near the center of Kiev and within walking distance of many apartment buildings. A television control room and an electrical substation were hit, and at least some Ukrainian channels briefly stopped broadcasting, officials said.

The attack took place after Russia announced it would target transmission facilities used by Ukraine’s intelligence agency. He urged people living near these places to leave their homes.

Zelenskyy’s office also reported a missile attack at the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial site near the tower. A memorial spokesman said a Jewish cemetery at the site, where Nazi occupiers killed more than 33,000 Jews in two days in 1941, was damaged, but the extent would not be clear until daylight.

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

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry said its consulate in Kharkiv, located in another large building in the square, was destroyed in the attack.

The attack on Freedom Square – Ukraine’s largest square and the hub of the city’s public life – was seen by many Ukrainians as shameless proof that the Russian invasion was not just aimed at hitting military targets, but also to break their spirit.

The bombardment blew out the windows and walls of the buildings surrounding the massive plaza, which was piled high with debris and dust. Inside one building, pieces of plaster were strewn about and doors, ripped off their hinges, stood in the hallways.

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

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

Later, in an emotional appeal to the European Parliament, Zelenskyy said: “We are also fighting to be equal members of Europe. I believe that today we are showing everyone that we are what we are.

Another Russian airstrike hit a residential area in the city of Zhytomyr, the city’s mayor said. Ukraine’s emergency services said Tuesday’s strike killed at least two people, burned down three houses and shattered the windows of a nearby hospital. About 85 miles (140 kilometers) west of Kiev, Zhytomyr is the headquarters of the elite 95th Air Assault Brigade, which may have been the intended target.

Zelenskyy said 16 children were killed around Ukraine on Monday, and he scoffed at Russia’s claim that it only goes after military targets.

“Where are the children? What kind of military factories do they work in? What tanks do they go to?” Zelensky said.

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

Cluster bombs fire smaller “bomblets” over a wide area, many of which do not explode until long after being dropped. If their use is confirmed, it would represent a new level of brutality in the war and could lead to further Russian isolation.

The first talks between Russia and Ukraine since the invasion took place on Monday, but only resulted in an agreement to talk again. On Tuesday, Zelenskyy said Russia should stop the bombings first.

“As far as dialogue goes, I think so, but stop bombing people first and start negotiating then,” he told CNN.

In his speech, Biden announced that the United States was joining several other countries in closing their airspace to Russian planes. He also warned the country’s oligarchs that the Justice Department was assembling a task force to investigate any crimes they allegedly committed.

“We join our European allies in finding and seizing your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets,” he said. “We come for your ill-begotten gains.”

Biden trumpeted that global measures have already weighed on the Russian economy, including a stock market crash and currency devaluation.

Moscow has issued new escalation threats, days after raising the specter of nuclear war. A senior Kremlin official has warned that the West’s “economic war” against Russia could turn into a “real one”.

In Russia, a radio station critical of the Kremlin was taken off the air after authorities threatened to shut it down for its coverage of the invasion. Among other things, the Kremlin does not allow the fighting to be called an “invasion” or a “war.”

Around 660,000 people have fled Ukraine, and countless others have taken refuge underground. Bomb damage has left hundreds of thousands of families without clean water, said UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Griffiths.

“It’s a nightmare, and it grips you very strongly inside. It cannot be explained in words,” said Ekaterina Babenko, a resident of Kharkiv, who took refuge in a basement with neighbors for a fifth consecutive day. “We have young children, old people, and frankly, it’s very scary.”

A Ukrainian military official said Belarusian troops joined the war in the northern Chernihiv region on Tuesday, without providing details. But just before that, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said his country had no intention of joining the fight.

A senior US defense official said Russia’s military progress – including through the massive convoy – has slowed, plagued by logistics and supply problems. Some Russian military columns are running out of fuel and food, the official said, and morale has suffered.

Overall, the Russian military was held back by fierce ground resistance and a surprising inability to completely dominate Ukrainian airspace.

The huge convoy, with vehicles piled up along narrow roads, would apparently be “a big target” for Ukrainian forces, the senior Western intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

“But it also shows you that the Russians feel quite comfortable being in the open in these concentrations because they feel they are not going to come under air attack or rocket or missile attack. “, said the official.

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Isachenkov and Litvinova reported from Moscow. Mstyslav Chernov in Mariupol, Ukraine; Sergei Grits in Odessa, Ukraine; Robert Burns, Zeke Miller and Eric Tucker in Washington; Francesca Ebel, Josef Federman and Andrew Drake in Kyiv; Lorne Cook in Brussels; and other AP reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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