From The Associated Press
Russia’s war against Ukraine is now entering its sixth day, with a kilometer-long convoy of Russian tanks and armored vehicles approaching the Ukrainian capital and ground fighting intensifying.
Russia stepped up shelling on Tuesday in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, shelling civilian targets there. The death toll rose and reports surfaced that more than 70 Ukrainian soldiers were killed after Russian artillery recently hit a military base in Okhtyrka, a town between Kharkiv and the capital Kyiv.
But Ukrainian fighters are putting up fierce resistance and, surprisingly, Russia has failed to dominate the skies. There are mounting fears that as Russia becomes more isolated under an avalanche of Western sanctions, Vladimir Putin could become even more ruthless and unleash a world-changing war.
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Across Ukraine, civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict, with families and children crammed into underground subway stations, basements and other shelters.
The Red Cross on Tuesday asked for 250 million Swiss francs ($272 million) to help people affected by the war in Ukraine. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Federation of Red Cross said they fear “millions of people face extreme hardship and suffering without improved access and a rapid increase in humanitarian assistance”.
On Monday, a Ukrainian delegation held talks with Russian officials on the border with Belarus, but ended with no agreement other than to keep talking.
Meanwhile, Western sanctions triggered by the invasion dropped the Russian ruble, causing ordinary Russians to queue in front of banks and ATMs. And Russian teams have been banned from all international football matches, including qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, pushing the country into sports pariah status.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE FRONT?
According to Ukrainian authorities, the center of Kharkiv was hit again by Russian shelling on Tuesday, hitting the administration building and residential buildings. There was not a word about casualties. Earlier on Monday, officials in Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million, said at least 11 people were killed and dozens injured.
The Russian military convoy threatening Kyiv – a city of nearly 3 million people – is much larger than initially thought. Satellite images show it occupies much of a 40-mile stretch of road north of the Ukrainian capital. According to satellite images from Maxar, the convoy was no more than 25 kilometers from the city center on Monday.
Kiev’s armed but determined troops have slowed Russia’s advance and pinned down Kyiv and other key cities — at least for now. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – who previously severed diplomatic ties with Moscow and imposed martial law and whose defiance has drawn much admiration in the West – called on NATO to impose a full no-fly zone on Russian planes, helicopters and missiles over Ukraine.
British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab dismissed the call on Tuesday, saying he would risk escalating the war by bringing the alliance into direct conflict with Russian forces.
Over the weekend, Russian artillery hit a military base in Okhtyrka, a town between Kharkiv and Kyiv, killing more than 70 Ukrainian soldiers, the region’s head wrote on Telegram, posting photos of the charred shell of a four-story building and rescuers searching the rubble.
Russian forces have blocked Kherson, a key Black Sea port, according to Ukrainian authorities. Russian troops have made significant gains along the Ukrainian coast in an apparent attempt to cut them off from both the Black and Azov Seas.
WHAT DO ORDINARY UKRAINIANS AND CIVILIANS DO?
For many, this has meant sheltering in basements and subway stations while Russian troops raid cities and street fights rage. Others tried to flee, leaving homes and husbands, fathers and sons to fight, taking trains and buses, or walking miles to a safer country.
Across Ukraine and in refugee shelters across borders, parents are struggling to comfort their children. Moms cradled them on subway platforms or carried them miles in the cold. At a border station in Poland, refugees were greeted with boxes containing donated clothing and toys.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have taken shelter overnight in Kiev’s subway system and other makeshift shelters across the country, where parents try to calm their children’s fears.
On Monday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said her office had confirmed that 102 civilians, including seven children, had been killed and 304 others injured in the Russian invasion since Thursday, although she warned the number was likely too low.
WAR SANCTIONS AND REMEDIES
Western officials believe Putin wants to overthrow Ukraine’s government and replace it with a docile regime, thereby reviving Moscow’s Cold War-era influence. His comments have raised fears that the invasion of Ukraine could lead to a nuclear war, be it intentional or accidental.
The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia’s largest banks and their elite, frozen the country’s central bank’s offshore assets and banned its financial institutions from the SWIFT banking messaging system — but their oil is largely permitted and natural gas remains unhindered in the US rest of the world can flow.
Sanctions experts expect that Russia will try to soften the impact of the fines by relying on energy sales and drawing on the country’s reserves of gold and Chinese currency. Putin is also expected to move funds through smaller banks and accounts of elite families not covered by the sanctions, trading cryptocurrency and relying on Russia’s ties with China.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE UNITED NATIONS?
The UN’s two main bodies — the 193-nation General Assembly and the more powerful 15-member Security Council — held separate meetings on Monday to discuss Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The council session began with the news that the United States was expelling 12 Russian UN diplomats whom Washington accused of espionage.
The gathering will give all UN members the opportunity to speak about the war and more than 110 have registered to do so. The speeches will continue on Tuesday. The non-veto assembly is expected to vote on a resolution later in the week, coordinated by European Union envoys working with Ukraine.
The draft resolution, seen by The Associated Press, demands that Russia immediately cease using force against Ukraine and withdraw all troops.
Meanwhile, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court said he plans to launch an investigation “as soon as possible” into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine – both alleged crimes committed before the Russian invasion but also any new crimes committed either side could have committed since the invasion began.
How many people have fled Ukraine?
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, told the UN Security Council via video on Monday that more than 520,000 refugees had fled Ukraine and that the number was “increasing exponentially hour by hour”.
The UN expects the total to reach 4 million in the coming weeks, he said.
Earlier, when the total was around half a million, UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said the number included 281,000 in Poland, more than 84,500 in Hungary, about 36,400 in Moldova, over 32,500 in Romania and about 30,000 in Slovakia. The rest are scattered in other countries, she said.
Follow AP’s coverage of Russia-Ukraine tensions at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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