By The Associated Press
Russia and Ukraine said on Wednesday they were ready to hold talks for the second time since Russia’s invasion of a neighbor began last week.
Negotiations are expected to take place in Belarus on Thursday, but there is no agreement between the two sides. They were announced on the same day as the UN General Assembly condemned the invasion and called on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia’s onslaught on Ukrainian cities continued, including a strike on the country’s second-largest Kharkiv. As a result of the shelling, one official called Kharkiv “Stalingrad of the 21st century.”
The number of people in the war is also growing, and the number of Ukrainians fleeing their homeland is expected to reach 1 million soon.
Here are the key things you need to know about conflict:
The office of the President of Ukraine on Wednesday night said that the country’s delegation is heading for the second round of talks with Russia since the beginning of the invasion, but did not say when expected arrival.
As Putin’s aide, head of the Russian delegation Vladimir Medinsky, told reporters, the Ukrainians are expected to arrive in the Brest region of Belarus, which borders Poland, for talks on Thursday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said his country was ready to resume talks, but noted that Russia’s demands had not changed and that he would not accept any ultimatums.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN KHARKOV?
Russia’s attack on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, continued with a strike on the regional police and intelligence headquarters, as well as on the university building across the street, according to the Ukrainian Emergency Situations Service and government officials. The blasts also took place in the central square near other government buildings, including the city council.
Adviser to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky Alexei Orastovich said that the Russian offensive on Kharkiv was stopped, so Russia responded by firing rockets and air strikes at the northeastern city.
“Kharkiv today is the Stalingrad of the 21st century,” Orastovich said, adding that several Russian planes had been shot down over the city.
The head of the Kharkiv regional administration Oleg Sinegubov said that 21 people had died and at least 112 had been injured in the previous day.
AND WHAT ABOUT GALTELNA WHERE?
Russia reported its military losses for the first time since the invasion began last week, saying nearly 500 of its troops had been killed and nearly 1,600 wounded. Ukraine insisted that Russia’s losses were much greater, but did not immediately disclose its own.
A Russian convoy of tanks and other vehicles 40 miles (64 kilometers) long remained outside the capital, Kyiv, which continues to come under fire.
A powerful explosion between the South Station and the Kiev Ibis Hotel took place in Zelensky’s office on Wednesday night. Near this area is the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. The president’s office told the Associated Press that it was a missile strike and that it was not immediately clear what had been hit, how much damage had been done and whether anyone had been killed or injured.
Meanwhile, two cruise missiles hit a hospital in the city of Chernihiv in the north, the Ukrainian agency UNIAN reports the words of the chief medical officer of medicine Sergei Pivovar. He said the main building of the hospital was affected and authorities are working to determine the number of victims.
The Chernihiv Oblast State Administration said dozens of nearby homes and police stations were damaged as a result of the strike.
Concerns about Ukraine’s four nuclear power plants are growing.
Arastovich said on Wednesday that Russian troops had been stopped at the entrance to Energodar, where the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant is located, and that local authorities were negotiating the safety of the station.
The UK Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that Russian troops had surrounded Kharkiv and the southern coastal cities of Kherson and Mariupol.
WHAT DID BIDEN SAY?
Biden used his first address on the state of the Union to underscore the determination of the Western Alliance, which has been working to rearm the Ukrainian military and impose tough sanctions, including closing U.S. airspace to all Russian flights.
Biden devoted the first 12 minutes of his address to Ukraine, and lawmakers on both sides repeatedly rose to their feet and applauded as he praised the courage of the Ukrainian people and condemned Putin’s attack.
WHAT IS THE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION?
Deteriorating. About 874,000 people have fled Ukraine, and the UN refugee agency has warned that the figure could soon exceed 1 million. Countless others hid underground.
The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said that more than 2,000 civilians were killed, but it was impossible to verify. The UN Human Rights Office said it had recorded the deaths of 136 civilians, including 13 children, in Ukraine since the February 24 invasion.
The EU commission said on Wednesday it would give temporary residence permits to refugees fleeing violence and allow them to study and work in a bloc of 27 countries. This step will require the approval of member states, but they have already expressed broad support for the idea.
The UN General Assembly voted on Wednesday to demand that Russia stop its offensive against Ukraine and withdraw all troops, while countries from world powers to small island nations condemn Moscow. Voted 141 against 5 with 35 abstentions. This came after the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997.
Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they are important in reflecting international opinion. The resolution deplores Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine “in the strongest terms” and calls for an immediate cessation of Moscow’s use of force and the immediate and complete withdrawal of all Russian forces.
HOW IS THE RUSSIAN ECONOMY GOING?
Russia has become increasingly isolated, affected by sanctions that have wreaked havoc on its economy and left the country virtually without friends except China, Belarus and a number of other countries.
Russia’s leading bank, Sberbank, said on Wednesday that it was withdrawing from European markets amid tightening Western sanctions. The bank said its subsidiaries in Europe were facing an “abnormal outflow of funds and a threat to the safety of employees and branches,” according to Russian news agencies. Details of the threats they did not report.
The U.S. and the EU have imposed sanctions on Russia’s largest banks and its elite, frozen the country’s central bank assets located outside the country, and excluded its financial institutions from the SWIFT messaging system.
On Wednesday, the White House announced additional sanctions against Russia and Belarus, including expanding export controls aimed at Russian oil refining and organizations that support both countries’ military.
Western sanctions and the collapse of the ruble have forced the Kremlin to fight to preserve the country’s economy. For Putin, this means finding workarounds for the Western economic blockade.
The head of China’s banking regulator said on Wednesday that China would not impose financial sanctions on Russia. China is a major buyer of Russian oil and gas and the only major government to refrain from criticizing the invasion of Ukraine.
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