Fighting rages in Ukraine as Russian troops take the city

Kyiv (AFP) – Russian forces said they captured a Ukrainian port on Wednesday as Russian and Ukrainian troops battled for another urban center and President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow wanted to “wipe out” his country.

As the conflict escalated further on the seventh day of the invasion, the Russian military said it had taken control of the Black Sea port of Kherson in southern Ukraine.

Russian paratroopers also landed in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, sparking street clashes, Ukrainian forces said.

After Washington called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “dictator”, the Ukrainian leader said a Tuesday strike at a television mast in the capital Kiev demonstrated Russia’s threat to Ukrainian identity.

Five people were killed in the attack on Babi Yar Tower, the site of a Nazi massacre in which more than 33,000 people were killed, most of them Jews.

“They don’t know anything about our capital. About our history. But they have orders to erase our history. Erase our country. Erase all of us,” Zelensky said in a video.

The 44-year-old, who is himself Jewish, urged Jews around the world to speak out.

“I speak now to all the Jews of the world. Don’t you see what is happening? That is why it is very important that millions of Jews around the world do not remain silent at this time,” he said. he declared.

“Nazism was born in silence. So shout about the murders of civilians. Shout about the murders of Ukrainians.”

Ukraine says more than 350 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed in the conflict and the International Criminal Court has opened a war crimes investigation against Russia.

In his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden warned that the sanctions campaign aimed at crippling Russia’s economy would intensify and its oligarchs were being targeted.

Biden hailed the Western alliance’s resolve and expressed solidarity with Ukraine as U.S. congressional lawmakers gave the Ukrainian people a standing ovation.

“A Russian dictator, invading a foreign country, has costs around the world,” Biden told lawmakers, promising “vigorous action to ensure that the pain of our sanctions is targeted on the Russian economy.”

Fight for Kharkiv

Russian troops arrived in Ukraine last week to carry out Putin’s mission to overthrow the pro-Western government of Zelensky, sending hundreds of thousands fleeing across Ukraine’s borders.

US Vice President Kamala Harris and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applaud President Joe Biden as he delivers his first State of the Union address SWIMMING POOL SAUL LOEB/AFP

Russian forces conducted a massive bombing campaign and surrounded urban centers, but Ukrainian troops repelled the advance towards major cities.

On Wednesday, however, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces had full control of Kherson, a city of 290,000.

Konashenkov said in televised remarks that public services and transportation were operating as usual.

“The city is not experiencing a shortage of food and essential goods,” he said.

He said talks were underway between the Russian military and local authorities on maintaining order, protecting the population and keeping public services running.

Kherson Mayor Igor Kolykhaiev said in a Facebook post: “We are still Ukraine. Always firm.”

Seemingly contradicting the Russian military’s claims, he said he had to find a way to “collect the (bodies of) the dead” and “restore electricity, gas, water and heating to where they were.” are damaged”.

The Ukrainian military said Russian paratroopers also landed in Kharkiv, a city in northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border with a population of 1.4 million.

“There is an ongoing fight between the invaders and the Ukrainians,” the military said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

AFP in Kharkiv saw rocket damage to security, police and university buildings.

Ukrainian forces said Russian strikes hit a residential building and a government building in the city on Tuesday, killing 18 people, drawing comparisons to civilian massacres in Sarajevo in the 1990s and condemning what Zelensky called ” war crime”.

“Putin was wrong”

Western countries have imposed crippling sanctions on the Russian economy and there have been international bans and boycotts against Russia in everything from finance to technology, sports to the arts.

EU and NATO members also sent arms and ammunition to Ukraine, although they made it clear they would not send troops and the EU dampened hopes of Zelensky to join the bloc.

There was new fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second city
There was new fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city Sergei BOBOK AFP

In his speech in Washington on Tuesday, Biden announced new measures against Russia and its wealthy elite with a new task force to prosecute the “crimes” of Russian oligarchs.

“And tonight, I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and further straining its economy.”

Russia's attack on Kyiv's main TV tower leaves five dead, Ukraine says
Russia’s attack on Kyiv’s main TV tower leaves five dead, Ukraine says – PRESS SERVICES OF THE UKRAINIAN MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR/AFP

The US leader said Putin’s aggression was ‘premeditated and totally unprovoked’ – but hailed the Western alliance’s resolve to respond with heavy-handed sanctions.

“Russia will be a pariah”

In response to the invasion, Western companies have also withdrawn from projects in Russia, worsening Moscow’s economic record which has seen the ruble plummet this week.

Russia invades Ukraine
Russia invades Ukraine Kenan AUGEARDAFP

Apple, ExxonMobil and Boeing on Tuesday announced in successive stages their withdrawal or freezing of business in Russia.

These decisions followed earlier announcements from Disney, Ford and Mastercard, among others.

“Going forward, Russia will be a pariah, and it’s hard to see how it can restore anything resembling normal interactions in the international system,” said Sarah Kreps, a professor at Cornell University.

Fears grow in Kyiv of a widespread assault by Russian forces
Fears grow in Kyiv of a widespread assault by Russian forces Sergei SUPINSKY AFP

The invasion sent global markets into a spiral, with crude surging above $110 a barrel on Wednesday and stocks crashing.

No leak

Initial talks between Russia and Ukraine on Monday failed to yield any breakthroughs.

Since then, Russian forces have shelled Ukraine.

Strikes were reported in Konstantinovka in eastern Ukraine, in Bordodyanka near Kiev and in Zhytomyr in central Ukraine.

In a significant strategic victory, Russian troops attacking from the Crimean peninsula said they had linked up along the Sea of ​​Azov coast with pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The separatists said the city of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov was surrounded.

Ukraine claims nearly 6,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. Moscow revealed no casualties.

As fears grew of an all-out assault on Kiev, residents spent another night crammed into makeshift bomb shelters.

“We have train tickets to western Ukraine for tomorrow,” she told AFP as the air raid sirens sounded directly overhead.

“I don’t think we’ll take the train.”

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