KYIV — Russia resumed its offensive against Ukraine’s second-largest city on Wednesday, lighting up the horizon with fireballs over populated areas, despite both sides saying they were ready to resume talks.
The escalation of attacks on the cities follows an initial round of talks between Ukraine and Russia on Monday that only resulted in a promise to meet again. It was not clear when further negotiations could take place and where they would lead. Earlier, the Ukrainian leader said that Russia should stop shelling until the next meeting.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the Russian bombings a flagrant terrorist campaign, and US President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday that unless the Russian leader “pays the price” for the invasion, the aggression will not stop at any country.
The shelling continued on Wednesday. The Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, citing the head of the health department in the northern city of Chernihiv, reported that two cruise missiles hit the hospital there.
According to Sergei Pivovar, the main building of the hospital was damaged, and the authorities are working on counting the victims. No other information was forthcoming.
The Russian strike also hit the regional police and intelligence headquarters in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city of about 1.5 million, killing four people and injuring several others. He said residential buildings were also damaged, but did not provide details.
According to video and photographs released by the service, the explosion ripped off the roof of a five-story police building and set the top floor on fire. Pieces of the building were scattered along the neighboring streets.
The day before, a terrorist attack on the central square of Kharkiv killed at least six people, and many Ukrainians were shocked that they attacked the heart of a large city. A Russian strike was also carried out on a TV tower in Kyiv.
About 874,000 people have fled Ukraine, and the UN refugee agency has warned that the number could soon cross the one million mark. Countless others took refuge underground.
The total number of deaths from the seven-day war is unclear: neither Russia nor Ukraine disclose the number of dead soldiers. The UN Human Rights Office said it recorded 136 civilian deaths, although the actual number is certainly much higher.
Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed in the attack on the TV tower and the Holocaust memorial at Babi Yar. A spokesman for the memorial said the Jewish cemetery at the site where more than 33,000 Jews were killed in two days in 1941 by the Nazi occupiers had been damaged.
Russia had previously ordered people living near transmission facilities used by Ukrainian intelligence to leave their homes. But Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday that the airstrike on the TV tower did not hit a single residential building. He did not mention reports of the death or damage to Babi Yar.
Mr. Zelensky, who called the Kharkiv Square strike a war crime the world will never forget, expressed outrage on Wednesday at the attack on Babi Yar and his concern that other historical and religious sites, such as St. Sophia Cathedral, were not attacked. . Earlier, the city of Uman, an important place of pilgrimage for Hasidic Jews, was subjected to shelling.
“This is beyond the bounds of humanity,” Zelensky said in a Facebook speech. They have an order to erase our history, our country and all of us.”
Mr. Zelensky, who is Jewish, called on Jews around the world to protest the invasion.
Despite Russia continuing its offensive, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that a delegation would be ready to meet with Ukrainian officials later in the day.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also said his country was ready, but noted that Russia’s demands had not changed and that he would not accept any ultimatums. Neither side indicated where the talks could take place.
As the war drags on, Russia finds itself increasingly isolated, subject to sanctions that have shaken up its economy and left the country virtually friendless, with the exception of a few countries such as China, Belarus and North Korea. Russia’s main bank, Sberbank, announced on Wednesday that it was withdrawing from European markets amid tightening Western sanctions.
In Washington, Biden used his first address to the US Congress on Tuesday to highlight the resolve of a resurgent Western alliance that is working to rearm the Ukrainian military and impose these tough sanctions.
“Throughout our history, we have learned this lesson that when dictators don’t pay the price for their aggression, they cause even more chaos,” Biden said. They keep cracking up. And the costs and threats to America and the world continue to rise.”
As Mr. Biden spoke, a 65-kilometer column of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles was slowly advancing towards Kiev, the capital of nearly 3 million people, in what the West feared was an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to overthrow the government. establish a pro-Kremlin regime.
The invading forces also attacked other cities. The British Ministry of Defense said that Kharkiv and the strategic port of Mariupol were surrounded by Russian troops, and the troops were transferred to the center of a third city, Kherson. The Russian Defense Ministry said it had captured Kherson, although the city’s mayor denied that Russia had taken full control of it.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, said it had received a letter from Russia saying its military had taken control of Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant. According to the letter, plant personnel continued “work on nuclear safety and radiation control in normal operation” and “radiation levels remain normal.”
Russia has already taken control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986.
The IAEA says it has received a request from Ukraine to “provide immediate assistance in coordinating safety-related activities” at Chernobyl and other sites.
Many military experts fear that Russia is changing tactics. Moscow’s strategy in Chechnya and Syria has been to use artillery and aerial bombardment to destroy cities and crush militant resolve.
The British Ministry of Defense said that Russian air and artillery strikes on populated urban areas have increased over the past two days. New York-based human rights group Human Rights Watch said it had documented a cluster bomb explosion near 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 “bombs” over a wide area, many of which do not detonate until they are dropped. If their use is confirmed, it will mean a new level of brutality in the war.
The mayor of the southern port city of Mariupol said on Wednesday morning that the attacks were ruthless.
“Today we cannot even take the wounded out of the streets, houses and apartments, as the shelling does not stop,” said the mayor of Mariupol, Vadim Boychenko, quoted by Interfax.
Mr. Boichenko called Russia’s actions “genocide,” using the same word Mr. Putin used to justify the invasion.
On Tuesday, Moscow issued fresh escalation threats, days after raising the threat of nuclear war. A senior Kremlin official warned that the West’s “economic war” against Russia could escalate into a “real war.”
Russia has blamed the conflict on Western threats to Russia’s security, and Kremlin spokesman Peskov said Moscow is looking into counter-sanctions against “hostile countries.” He did not specify what the Russian regime might aim for.
Peskov acknowledged that global economic sanctions on Russia and Russians are now “unprecedented,” but said Moscow was ready for all kinds of sanctions and that potential damage was taken into account before the invasion began.
“We have experience in this area. We have gone through several crises,” he said.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said it had evidence that Belarus, a Russian ally, was preparing to send troops into Ukraine. A ministry statement posted on Facebook early this morning said Belarusian troops were on alert and concentrated near Ukraine’s northern border. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said that his country has no plans to engage in hostilities.