Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its seventh day Wednesday as Russian military forces escalated attacks on civilian areas of Ukraine’s largest citiesleading to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the country,
Russia claimed to have taken control of Kherson, a southern Ukraine city of almost 300,000. Kherson’s Major Igor Nikolayev, however, denied the claim.
In the besieged northeastern city of Kharkiv, Mayor Igor Terekhov says rocket strikes designed to sow panic are hammering the city. But he said Kharkiv is not surrounded and will not fall.
The UN human rights office reported 136 civilian deaths, but the true toll was likely much higher. Ukrainian emergency services, meanwhile, say more than 2,000 Ukrainians have died.
Observers say Russian troops have killed hundreds of civilians, including more than a dozen children, and shelled apartment buildings and neighborhoods in their assault on Ukraine, realities that qualify Putin as a war criminal.
The humanitarian situation is worsening in the region. A UN refugee agency said more than 847,000 people have fled Ukraine for neighboring countries since the invasion began, a number that could exceed 1 million within days.
Shabia Mantoo, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the situation “looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century.”
the vast majority of those leaving Ukraine are women and children — an order from Ukraine’s government prohibits men aged 18- to 60-years-old from leaving the country.
► President Joe Biden, in his State of the Union speech to Americans on Tuesday night, warned that if Russian leader Vladimir Putin didn’t “pay a price” for the invasion, the aggression wouldn’t stop with one country.
► The Associated Press, citing a senior Western intelligence official, estimated that 5,000 Russian soldiers had been captured or killed in the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II.
► The UN General Assembly will vote Wednesday on a resolution demanding that Russia immediately stop using force against Ukraine and withdraw its military from the country, and condemning Moscow’s decision “to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces.”
► The Moscow Stock Exchange will remain closed to trading Wednesday, the Central Bank of Russia said, as the West’s economic sanctions cratered the Russian ruble.
►Oil prices soared above $100to their highest level since 2014, and investors shifted more money out of stocks and into ultra-safe US government bonds as Russia stepped up its war on Ukraine.
Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated Wednesday that US troops will not fight Russians in Ukraine as the Kremlin continues its advance. Appearing on NBC News Wednesday morning, Harris also said it would be “irresponsible” to engage in nuclear escalation after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had put the country’s nuclear arsenal on alert.
“Our position is we are not going to contribute to an escalation in that direction and we have no intention of changing our posture,” Harris told NBC News anchor Savannah Guthrie.
Harris made the rounds Wednesday morning across several network morning shows.
“We are not going to put US, troops in Ukraine to fight Russians on the ground or in the air but we are firm in our preparedness to defend our allies,” she said, echoing President Joe Biden’s vow to defend “every inch of NATO territory.”
Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but the US has sent troops to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank.
– Rick Rouan
Russian negotiators are ready to resume talks with Ukrainian officials but cannot “predict whether Ukrainian negotiators will show up or not,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.
“Let’s hope this happens,” Peskov said. “Ours will be there and ready.”
Peskov said Putin’s culture adviser Vladimir Medinsky remains the main negotiator for Russia. Talks held Sunday near the Belarus-Ukraine border produced no breakthrough, though the two sides agreed to meet again. It was clear when talks would continue.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously accused the Kremlin of trying to force him into concessions by intensifying the invasion.
“Fair negotiations can occur when one side does not hit the other side with rocket artillery at the very moment of negotiations,” he said.
World champion biathlete Dmytro Pidruchnyi, who last month was competing at the Winter Olympics for Ukraine, has joined his nation’s military. I posted a photo on Instagram of himself in uniform, and the post drew more than 7,300 “likes” and many comments of support.
“I’m grateful to everyone who texts me and worries about my family and to those who support and help Ukraine,” Pidruchnyi wrote. “I’m currently in my hometown Ternopil serving in the National Guard of Ukraine. This photo was taken during air alarm.”
In another post, Pidruhnyi asks for donations for the Ukraine army and for moral support.
“Don’t tell me that sport is not related to politics,” he said. “IT IS RELATED!! when the soldiers and civilians of my Motherland are dying while you are reading this.”
President Joe Biden hailed the united response of the US and western allies against Russian President Vladimir Putin during his State of the Union address Tuesday night as Russia continues its war in Ukraine.
Biden called the attack “premeditated and totally unprovoked,” adding that Putin thought he could divide the world. “But Putin was wrong. We are ready. We are united,” Biden said. “Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been.”
Biden said the US and western allies are enforcing “powerful economic sanctions,” including cutting off Russia’s largest banks from international financial systems, preventing Russia’s central bank from shoring up the Russian ruble and “making Putin’s $260 billion war fund worthless.”
I have announced the US is closing off airspace to all Russian flights, joining a growing number of countries around the world that have made similar moves in recent days. Biden also said he is working with 30 countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world to ease the impact of the war in Ukraine on energy markets.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described Russian President Vladimir Putin’s overnight attack on in civilian areas of Kharkiv as a “war crime.”
Meanwhile, on Monday, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague said he plans to open an investigation “as rapidly as possible” into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
“Is Vladimir Putin committing a war crime? Yes. It’s very clear,” said David Schwendiman, a former senior Justice Department lawyer and international war crimes prosecutor.
But war crime experts say the post-World War II effort to create an international framework to thwart brutal dictators like Adolf Hitler is too toothless, caught up in power politics and focused on war crimes already committed to make a difference when it comes to Russia’s invasion , they say. Read more here.
WHAT ARE WAR CRIMES?Ukraine accuses Russia of them, but what exactly constitutes a war crime?
President Joe Biden announced State of the Union address Tuesday night that the US is closing its airspace to Russian plans in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The US joins a growing list of countries that have announced plans to close their airspace to Russian aircraft in response to the invasion. The European Union took that step Sunday after several European countries, including France, Italy and Denmark, announced the move.
Canada also joined the international move to cut off Russian aircraft.
– Michael Collins and Courtney Subramanian
The war has thrown a global spotlight on Ukraine’s two largest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv.
Kyiv’s (KEE-ev) population of 2.7 million people would make it the third largest in the US slightly ahead of Chicago. The city covers 330 square miles – bigger than Chicago or New York, about the size of San Diego.
Kyiv is in north-central Ukraine, not far from the borders with Russia and Belarus. Ukrainian and Russian are commonly spoken in the city, among the oldest in Eastern Europe.
Kharkiv (kar-KEEV), 300 miles east of Kyiv and near the Russian border, has a population of about 1.4 million spread over about 135 square miles – about the size of Philadelphia, which has a population of about 1.5 million.
The country of Ukraine has a population of about 45 million people, a few million more than California, and is about 233,000 square miles – a bit smaller than Texas.
the 40-mile Russian Army convoy approaching Kyiv has made little progress because of resistance and a lack of gas and food, according to a senior US Defense Department official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings.
The official said the Russians also are likely protecting the convoy, explaining why it does not appear to have been attacked. The airspace over Ukraine continues to be contested by Ukrainian and Russian forces, the official said.
There are also signs that there are morale problems among Russian troops, many of whom have been drafted into service, the official said, declining to say how the Pentagon has made that assessment. Many of the soldiers are young men who have not been thoroughly trained or even aware why they were sent to Ukraine.
The Russians, however, have a potent force in and around Ukraine, the official said.
The Russians have systems capable of launching thermobaric weapons in Ukraine, the official said. Those fuel-air weapons are used primarily to kill people on the ground or in bunkers.
– Tom Vanden Brook
USA TODAY FACT CHECK ROUNDUP:What’s true and what’s false about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Contributing: The Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism