KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces stepped up their attacks on crowded urban areas on Tuesday, shelling the central square of Ukraine’s second-largest city and Kyiv’s main TV tower in what Ukraine’s president said blatant campaign of terror.
“No one will forgive. No one will forget,” President Volodymyr Zelensky promised after the bloodshed in Kharkiv Square.
Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed in the attack on the television tower, located a few kilometers from the center of Kiev and within walking distance of many apartment buildings. Officials said a television control room and an electrical substation were hit and at least some Ukrainian channels briefly ceased broadcasting.
Zelenskyy’s office also reported a powerful missile attack at the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site near the tower.
At the same time, a 40-mile (64 kilometer) convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles was slowly advancing on Kiev in what the West feared was an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to overthrow the Ukrainian government. and install a pro-Kremlin government. diet.
Many military experts fear the Kharkiv attacks mean Russia could change tactics. Moscow’s strategy in Chechnya and Syria was to use artillery and aerial bombardment to pulverize cities and crush the resolve of fighters.
Russian forces also continued their attack on other cities in the country, including the strategic ports of Odessa and Mariupol in the south.
Day 6 of Europe’s biggest ground war since World War II has found Russia increasingly isolated, plagued by harsh sanctions that have thrown its economy into turmoil and left the country virtually friendless, at odds. exception of a few countries like China, Belarus and North Korea.
The attack on the TV tower came after the Russian Defense Ministry announced it would target transmission facilities in the capital used by Ukraine’s intelligence agency. He urged people living near these places to leave their homes.
The total death toll in the fighting is unclear, but a senior Western intelligence official, who had been briefed by multiple intelligence agencies, estimated on Tuesday that more than 5,000 Russian troops had been captured or killed so far. here.
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. The ministry also said three cities – Kharkiv, Kherson and Mariupol – were surrounded by Russian forces.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city with a population of around 1.5 million, at least six people were killed when the region’s Soviet-era administrative building in the Square of the Liberty was hit by what was believed to be a missile.
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 military targets, but also to destroy their morale.
The bombardment blew out the windows and walls of 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 main square “frank and undisguised terror” and a war crime. “This is state terrorism from 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 who we are.
He 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? Which tanks are they heading towards, launching cruise missiles? said Zelensky.
Human Rights Watch said it documented a cluster bomb attack outside a hospital in eastern Ukraine in recent days. Local residents also reported the use of the weapons in Kharkiv and in the village of Kiyanka, although there was no independent confirmation. The Kremlin has denied using such weapons.
If the allegations are confirmed, it would represent a new level of brutality in the war and could lead to even further isolation of Russia.
Devoid of Western condemnation, Russian officials stepped up their threats of escalation, 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 war”.
Across the country, many Ukrainian civilians spent another night huddled in shelters, basements or hallways. More than half a million people have fled the country, and the UN human rights office said it recorded the death of 136 civilians. The actual toll would be much higher.
“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.”
UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Griffiths said the shelling damaged water pipes and power lines. “Hundreds of thousands of families are without drinking water,” he said.
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.
In Kharkiv, explosions erupted one after another in a residential area in video verified by the AP. In the background, a man begged a woman to leave and a woman cried.
Determined to keep life going despite the attacks, hospital workers moved a Kharkiv maternity hospital to a bomb shelter. Amid makeshift electrical outlets and mattresses stacked against the walls, pregnant women paced the crowded space, accompanied by the cries of dozens of newborn babies.
Russia’s objectives in striking the center of Kharkiv were not immediately clear. Western officials speculated that he was trying to draw in Ukrainian forces to defend the city while a larger Russian force surrounded Kiev.
Russian troops continued their advance towards the capital, a city of nearly 3 million people. The leading edge of the convoy was 25 kilometers from the center of the city, according to satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies.
A senior US defense official described the long convoy as “bogged down”, saying Russia appeared to be halting and regrouping to reassess how to regain fighting momentum.
Overall, Russian military movements were blocked by fierce ground resistance and a surprising inability to completely dominate Ukrainian airspace.
The huge convoy, crammed 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.
The Ukrainians used everything they had at hand to try to stop the Russian advance: On a highway between Odessa and Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, residents piled up tractor tires filled with sand and topped with sandbags to block convoys.
Isachenkov and Litvinova reported from Moscow. Mstyslav Chernov in Mariupol, Ukraine; Sergei Grits in Odessa, Ukraine; Robert Burns 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.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine