JURAS KARMANOV, JIM HEINZ, VLADIMIR ISACHANKOV and DASHA LITVINOVA
KIU, Ukraine (AP) – Russian forces intensified their attacks on crowded urban areas on Tuesday, bombing the central square of Ukraine’s second largest city and Kyiv’s main TV tower as part of what the country’s president called a blatant campaign of terror.
“No one forgives. Nobody will forget, ”President Uladzimir Zielenski promised after the bloodshed on the square in Kharkiv.
Ukrainian authorities have said five people were killed in an attack on a TV tower a few miles from the center of Kiev and within walking distance of many apartment buildings. The television and power control stations were affected, and at least some Ukrainian channels stopped broadcasting for a short time, officials said.
Zelensky’s office also reported a powerful rocket attack at the site of the Holocaust memorial in Babi Yar, near the tower. A spokesman for the memorial said the Jewish cemetery at the site where the Nazi occupiers killed more than 33,000 Jews in two days in 1941 had been damaged, but the extent would not be determined.
At the same time, a 40-kilometer (64-kilometer) convoy with hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles was slowly advancing to Kyiv, the capital with a population of nearly 3 million, which the West feared was at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin. overthrow the government and establish a Kremlin-friendly regime.
Invading forces also stormed other cities, including the strategic ports of Odessa and Mariupol in the south.
On day 6 of Europe’s biggest land war since World War II, Russia became increasingly isolated, gripped by harsh sanctions that wreaked havoc on its economy and left the country virtually without friends, except for a few countries such as China, Belarus and North Korea.
The total death toll from the fighting remained unclear, but a senior Western intelligence official estimated that more than 5,000 Russian soldiers had been captured or killed. Ukraine did not give an overall assessment of the loss of troops.
The Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom said that over the past two days there has been an increase in Russian air and artillery strikes on settlements. It also says that three cities – Kharkiv, Kherson and Mariupol – were surrounded by Russian troops.
Many military experts are concerned that Russia may change tactics. Moscow’s strategy in Chechnya and Syria was to use artillery and aerial bombardment to disperse cities and destroy the determination of the fighters.
The bombing of the TV tower came after Russia announced it would target targets in the capital used by Ukrainian intelligence. He urged people living near such places to leave their homes.
In Kharkov, with a population of about 1.5 million, at least six people were killed when a Soviet-era administrative building in Freedom Square was hit by a rocket.
The attack on Freedom Square – Ukraine’s largest square and the center of public life in the city – was seen by many Ukrainians as brazen evidence that the Russian invasion was not only aimed at defeating military targets but also breaking their spirit.
As a result of the bombing, the windows and walls of the buildings surrounding the massive area covered with debris and dust were smashed. Pieces of plaster were scattered inside one building, and doors torn from the hinges lay in the corridors.
“People under the ruins. We pulled out the bodies, ”Yauhen Vasilenka, an employee of the Ministry of Emergencies, said.
Zelensky declared the attack on the square “open, undisguised terror” and a war crime. “This is state terrorism of the Russian Federation,” he said.
Zelensky later said in an emotional address to the European Parliament: “We are also fighting to be equal members of Europe. I believe that today we show everyone what we are. “
He said 16 children had been killed around Ukraine on Monday, and he scoffed at Russia’s claim that it was pursuing only military objectives.
“Where are the children? What military plants do they work at? What tanks are they going to? ” said Zelensky.
Human Rights Watch said it had documented a cluster bomb attack near a hospital in eastern Ukraine in recent days. Locals have also reported the use of such weapons in Kharkiv and the village of Kiyanka, while the Kremlin denies the use of cluster bombs.
If the allegations are confirmed, it will represent a new level of brutality in the war and could lead to even further isolation of Russia.
The first talks between Russia and Ukraine after the invasion took place on Monday, but ended only with an agreement to re-negotiate. However, Zelensky said on Tuesday that Russia must first stop the bombing.
“As for the dialogue, I think so, but first stop bombing people and then start negotiations,” he told CNN.
Moscow made new threats of escalation a few 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.”
Inside Russia, a major radio station criticizing the Kremlin was taken off the air after authorities threatened to shut it down for covering the invasion. Among other things, the Kremlin does not allow to call hostilities “invasion” or “war”.
About 660,000 people fled Ukraine, and countless others hid underground. The blasts have left hundreds of thousands of families without drinking water, said UN Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Griffiths.
“It’s a nightmare and it covers you very strongly from within. This cannot be explained in words, ”Katsyaryna Babenka, a resident of Kharkiv, said, hiding in the basement of her neighbors for the fifth day in a row. “We have young children, older people, and frankly, it’s very scary.”
The UN Human Rights Office said it had recorded 136 deaths among civilians. It is assumed that the real casualties are much greater.
A Ukrainian military official said Belarusian troops went to war on Tuesday in the Chernihiv region in the north, without giving details. But before that, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko stated that his country does not plan to join the struggle.
In Kharkiv, one after another explosions erupted in a residential area on a video checked by the Associated Press. Hospital workers moved the maternity hospital to a bomb shelter. Among the mattresses piled against the walls, pregnant women walked through the crowded space, and dozens of newborns cried.
As for the advance of the Russians to the capital, the front edge of the convoy was 17 miles (25 kilometers) from the city center, according to satellite images from Maxar Technologies.
A senior U.S. defense official said Russia’s military progress – including through a massive convoy – had slowed due to logistics and supply problems. Some Russian military columns have run out of gas and food, the official said, and morale has suffered as a result.
In general, the Russian military was stopped by fierce resistance on the ground and a strange inability to completely dominate the airspace of Ukraine.
A huge convoy of vehicles packed together along narrow roads would appear to be a “big fat target” for Ukrainian forces, a senior Western intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
“But it also shows that Russians feel quite comfortable being outdoors in these concentrations because they feel they will not be exposed to air strikes, missiles or rocket attacks,” the official said.
The Ukrainians used everything they had to stop Russia’s offensive. On the highway between Odessa and Nikolaev in southern Ukraine, residents piled up tractor tires filled with sand and covered with sandbags to block the columns.
Isachenkov and Litvinov reported from Moscow. Mstislav Chernov in Mariupol, Ukraine; Sergei Grits in Odessa, Ukraine; Robert Burns and Eric Tucker in Washington; Francesca Ebel, Joseph Federman and Andrew Drake in Kiev; Lorne Cook in Brussels; and other AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the coverage of the crisis in Ukraine in the AP at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine