Russia takes aim at urban areas; Biden vows Putin will ‘pay’
Kyiv, Marrch 2 (AP/PTI): Ukraine’s leader decried Russia’s escalation of attacks on crowded cities as a blatant terror campaign, while U.S. President Joe Biden warned that if the Russian leader didn’t pay a price for the invasion, the aggression wouldn’t stop with one country.
Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed after Tuesday’s bloodshed on the central square in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, and the deadly bombing of a TV tower in the capital. He called the attack on the square frank, undisguised terror and a war crime.
The assault on Kharkiv continued Wednesday, even as Russia said it would be ready to resume talks with the Ukrainian side in the evening. A Russian strike on the regional police and intelligence headquarters, according to the Ukrainian state emergency service. It said three people were wounded.
The strike blew off the roof of the police building and set the top floor on fire, and pieces of the five-story building were strewn across adjacent streets, according to videos and photos released by the emergency service.
In Wednesday’s strikes, four people died, nine were wounded and rescuers pulled 10 people out of the rubble, according to the service.
Biden used his first State of the Union address to highlight the resolve of a reinvigorated Western alliance that has worked to rearm the Ukrainian military and adopt tough sanctions, which he said have left Russian President Vladimir Putin isolated in the world more than he has ever been.
Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos, Biden said. They keep moving. And the costs and threats to America and the world keep rising.
As Biden spoke, a 40-mile (64-kilometer) convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles advanced slowly on Kyiv, the capital city of nearly 3 million people, in what the West feared was a bid by Putin to topple the government and install a Kremlin-friendly regime.
The invading forces also pressed their assault on other towns and cities, including the strategic ports of Odesa and Mariupol in the south.
As the seventh day of the war dawned Wednesday, Russia found itself increasingly isolated, beset by the sanctions that have thrown its economy into turmoil and left the country practically friendless, apart from a few nations like China, Belarus and North Korea. Leading Russian bank Sberbank announced Wednesday that it is pulling out of European markets amid the tightening Western sanctions.
As fighting raged, the humanitarian situation worsened. Roughly 660,000 people have fled Ukraine, and countless others have taken shelter underground.
The death toll was less clear, with neither Russia nor Ukraine releasing the number of troops lost. The U.N. human rights office said it has recorded 136 civilian deaths, though the actual toll is surely far higher.
One 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.
Many military experts worry that Russia may be shifting tactics. Moscow’s strategy in Chechnya and Syria was to use artillery and air bombardments to pulverize cities and crush fighters’ resolve.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said it had seen an increase in Russian air and artillery strikes on populated urban areas over the past two days. It also said Kharkiv and Mariupol were encircled by Russian forces and that troops had reportedly moved into the center of a third city, Kherson. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had seized Kherson, though the claim could not be confirmed.
Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed in the attack on the TV tower near central Kyiv. A TV control room and power substation were hit, and at least some Ukrainian channels briefly stopped broadcasting, officials said.
Zelenskyy’s office reported that the site of the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial, which is adjacent to the TV tower, was also hit. A spokesman for the memorial said a Jewish cemetery at the site, where Nazi occupiers killed more than 33,000 Jews over two days in 1941, was damaged, but the extent would not be clear until daylight.
Zelenskyy expressed outrage Wednesday at the attack on Babi Yar and concern that other historically significant and religious sites, such as St. Sophia’s Cathedral, could be targeted.
This is beyond humanity. Such missile strike means that for many Russians our Kyiv is absolutely foreign,” Zelenskyy said in a speech posted on Facebook. They have orders to erase our history, our country and all of us.
Russia previously told people living near transmission facilities used by Ukraine’s intelligence agency to leave their homes. But Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed Wednesday that the airstrike on the TV tower did not hit any residential buildings. He did not address the reported deaths or the damage to Babi Yar.