EU leaders to visit Ukraine amid kyiv bombings

Russian forces continued their assault on Ukraine’s capital on Tuesday as leaders from three European nations – all NATO members – traveled to the war-torn country in a unified show of support.

In Washington, the White House announced President Biden would attend an emergency NATO session next week in Brussels as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pushed his call for urgent military aid in a speech to Canadian parliament , a message he is likely to repeat to the US Congress on Wednesday.

In kyiv, overnight explosions hit a high-rise building in the Sviatoshynskyi district, west of the capital, killing four and injuring 35. Shockwaves from the shelling damaged a metro station just five kilometers from Zelensky’s office, bringing the destruction of the war closer to the city center.

In total, Zelensky said the attacks hit four multi-storey buildings in Kyiv and killed dozens, although the number could not be independently verified. In the east, officials said there were more than 60 overnight strikes on Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, which hit the historic center.

The attacks took place as the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia – members of the European Union as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – were traveling to kyiv by train for the first high-level visit by officials of either alliance from Russia. invaded on 24 February.

“The purpose of the visit is to express the European Union’s unequivocal support for Ukraine, its freedom and independence,” said a tweet from Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala. EU officials said the group of 27 countries were “informed” of the visit but that it was not under the bloc’s official auspices.

In a later tweet, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the group had arrived in Kyiv, a development confirmed by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. The photographs Morawiecki posted on Twitter did not show Zelensky.

“It is here, in war-torn Kyiv, that history is made, he said. “It is here that freedom fights against the world of tyranny. This is where the future of all of us hangs in the balance.”

Ukrainian representatives also entered a second day of talks with Russia after cutting talks a day earlier for a “technical break”. The previous three rounds of talks produced little progress, although Zelensky called Monday’s session “pretty good”.

On Tuesday afternoon, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that the talks were “ongoing” and that Ukraine wanted to address “general regulatory issues, ceasefire, withdrawal of troops from the territory of the country” .

Despite negotiations, Ukrainian leaders continued to seek help from Western nations to halt Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion as the death toll rose amid Europe’s largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. According to the United Nations, at least 636 people have died in Ukraine – many more are likely – and at least 3 million refugees have fled the country, including around 73,000 children a day, on average. Half of the refugees went west to Poland.

Here in kyiv, residents were awakened around 5 a.m. Tuesday by a series of explosions that rocked buildings in the city center. Ukrainian authorities said they were Russian artillery strikes, a sign that the long-awaited assault on kyiv was closing in on the center of the capital.

Smoke billows from a building hit by Russian shells on Tuesday in Kyiv, Ukraine.

(Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press)

The bombardment killed at least four people in the apartment tower and sparked a fire which smoldered for hours after firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a 35-hour curfew from Tuesday evening to Thursday morning, saying on messaging app Telegram that the city had reached “a difficult and dangerous moment”.

An artillery strike also hit the yard in front of a residential building in Vynogradir district, spraying shrapnel into a number of apartments but causing no casualties. Dizzy-looking residents tiptoed through a carpet of glass and debris and threw bent window frames, damaged appliances and furniture for hours after the attack.

“We weren’t hit. We are staying in a house outside Kyiv, but neighbors told us that our apartment had been hit,” said Dasha, a resident who gave her first name for privacy reasons.

She rummaged through her living room, removing photographs from a blown frame and putting them in a bag. She approached a shelf full of toiletries, reached out to sweep them into the bag, then stopped as tears washed over her.

Near the damaged Lukyanivska metro station, a powerful barrage reportedly targeted the offices of Artem, a Ukrainian missile manufacturer. But the explosion did not spare the neighboring buildings: a row of shops, including bakeries, a mobile phone store and a Roshen chocolatier. The force of the explosion blew into a nearby McDonald’s, setting off a blaring horn in a shopping mall.

Volunteers clear debris from damaged stores.

Volunteers help clear debris from shops damaged Tuesday in the Russian bombardment of Kyiv, Ukraine.

(Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

Maxim, the owner of three bakeries along the Strip, loaded his espresso machine, coffee grinder and whatever else he could salvage onto a truck. Igor Yuchov cleaned up broken glass outside his cell phone shop.

“It’s our job to clean this up and fix it, even now,” he said.

In a video recorded in front of the damaged building, Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko shouted a desperate plea for Western countries to establish a no-fly zone.

“Another attack in kyiv. … Just close the Ukrainian sky. Do it immediately,” Goncharenko said. “Give us planes, air defense. We will do everything ourselves, but please help us.

At NATO headquarters in Brussels, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday convened an emergency summit for March 24 for the organization’s 30 leaders to discuss ways to strengthen NATO’s presence, in particular in Eastern Europe. The alliance will deal with “further strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defense in response to a new reality for our security,” Stoltenberg said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would be there to reassure the region of the US commitment. This comes after recent high profile trips by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.

Zelensky and Shmyhal, the prime minister, were due to meet with Fiala, the Czech prime minister, on Tuesday; Janez Jansa, Prime Minister of Slovenia; and Poles Morawiecki and Jaroslav Kaczynski, the country’s de facto leader.

The meeting, amid a war where Russia advanced but failed to take the capital, would mark an impressive tribute to Zelensky, who turned down offers to evacuate and became a social media star for his provocative videos of the streets of kyiv. . While Russian forces have slowly closed in on the city and caused significant damage on its outskirts, such as to the northwest in Irpin, the main roads to Kyiv are still open and functioning.

Although their nations are members of NATO, the alliance insists its forces cannot risk establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, engage directly with warplanes. Russian wars and plunge the world into a much larger conflict.

“Right now, speaking of our values, there is no country in our entire continent that is more European than Ukraine,” Jansa tweeted. “Thank you not only for defending your homeland and Europe as a territory, but also for defending the very heart of European values ​​and our way of life. Your fight is our fight and together we will win.

Ukraine is not an EU member, but Zelensky has requested fast-track membership of the bloc for his beleaguered nation, which is unlikely to be granted.

As he has done many times over the past 20 days of war, Zelensky made a direct appeal to the Russian people in a video uploaded to Telegram on Monday evening.

“Until your country has completely closed itself off from the whole world, turning into a very big North Korea, you have to fight,” Zelensky said, telling Russians to stand up against the Kremlin war. “You must not lose your chance.”

Zelensky is set to address U.S. lawmakers Wednesday morning in a video address to Congress, which recently approved $13.6 billion for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. On Tuesday, he addressed the Canadian parliament via video, saying 97 children had been killed in the war so far.

“I don’t wish this on anyone, but it’s our reality,” he said, adding that with the constant shelling, “every night is a terrible night.”

In his speech to Congress, Zelensky is expected to make another plea for a no-fly zone, more sanctions against Russia, and more military assistance — like fighter jets — to Ukraine. The United States on Tuesday announced new sanctions against several Russians and against Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, who allowed his country to be a launching pad for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine from the north. . Also on Tuesday, Britain imposed sanctions on 370 people described as oligarchs or “political allies and propagandists of Putin”.

For its part, Russia announced that it had imposed sanctions on 13 Americans, including Biden, Blinken and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Psaki replied: What “I would say it will come as no surprise to any of you is that none of us are planning tourist trips to Russia and none of us have bank accounts to which we won’t be able to access, so we’ll just move on.”

The United States continued to push back further Ukrainian demands, and Psaki again ruled out any military deployment by the United States.

“Starting World War III is certainly not in our national security interest. Putting American troops on the ground in Ukraine to fight a war with Russia is not in our national security interest,” he said. Psaki.

Bulos reported from kyiv and Kaleem from London. Times writer Tracy Wilkinson in Washington contributed to this report.

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