Russia bombs Ukrainian cities as both sides plan new talks

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces pounded Ukrainian cities early Tuesday in a bombardment that deepened the humanitarian crisis as the countries kept open a close diplomatic channel with more talks scheduled.

Shortly before dawn, large explosions thundered through kyiv. A series of Russian strikes hit a residential area of ​​the capital, sparking a huge fire and a frantic rescue effort in a 15-storey building. At least one person has been killed and others remain trapped inside.

There was a rare ray of hope in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol after a convoy of 160 civilian cars set off along a designated humanitarian route, the city council reported. For the past 10 days or so, the deadly siege has pulverized homes and other buildings and left people desperate for food, water, heat and medicine.

The latest talks between Russia and Ukraine, held via video on Monday, were the fourth round involving high-level officials from both countries and the first in a week. The talks ended without a breakthrough after several hours, with an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying negotiators had taken a “technical break” and planned to meet again on Tuesday.

Both sides had expressed some optimism in recent days. Mykhailo Podolyak, Zelenskyy’s aide, tweeted that negotiators would discuss “peace, ceasefire, immediate troop withdrawal and security guarantees”.

Previous talks, held face-to-face in Belarus, did not result in any lasting humanitarian itinerary or agreement to end the fighting.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that while the Biden administration supports Ukraine’s participation in talks with Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin should show signs of de-escalation in order to act in good faith.

During a meeting in Rome with a senior Chinese diplomat, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned China against helping Russia.

Two administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said China had signaled to Moscow that it would be willing to provide both military support to Ukraine and a financial support to help stave off the effects of Western sanctions, which include a fourth round of EU sanctions announced on Monday evening.

The Kremlin has denied asking China for military equipment for use in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “Russia has its own potential to continue the operation” and that it “is going according to plan and will be completed on time and in full.”

The Ukrainian army said in a statement that the explosions in kyiv were artillery strikes. They hit the Svyatoshynskyi district in western Kyiv, adjacent to the suburb of Irpin which saw some of the worst battles of the war.

Flames erupted from the building as firefighters rescued people from the ladders. Smoke choked the air. A firefighter at the scene confirmed that one person died and several others were rescued, but others remained inside as rescuers tried to reach them.

Russian forces also stepped up their strikes overnight against the northwestern suburbs of Irpin, Hostomel and Bucha, Kyiv region chief Oleksiy Kuleba said.

“Many streets (in these areas) have been turned into a mush of steel and concrete. People have been hiding in basements for weeks and are afraid to come out even for evacuations, Kuleba told Ukrainian television on Tuesday.

Russian forces also renewed their efforts to capture Mariupol in the south and launched new artillery strikes on downtown Kharkiv in the east, the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said in a statement on Facebook. He claimed that Ukrainian forces killed 150 Russian soldiers and destroyed two Russian tanks in the Battle of Mariupol.

But overall, almost all Russian military offensives have stalled after making little progress over the weekend, according to a senior US defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss of the Pentagon’s assessment. Russian troops were still about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from central kyiv, the official said.

The official said Russian forces had launched more than 900 missiles but Ukraine’s airspace was still contested with Russia failing to achieve full air superiority.

Ukrainian authorities said two people were killed when the Russians struck an aircraft factory in kyiv, starting a large fire. The Antonov plant is the largest aircraft factory in Ukraine and produces many of the largest cargo planes in the world.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office on Tuesday released details of two deadly Russian attacks the day before: a shooting that hit a bus evacuating civilians from the kyiv suburb of Hostomel, killing a 65-year-old woman and injuring the driver; and an artillery strike that hit a university and an open-air market, killing 10 people.

Russian artillery fire also hit a nine-story building in the city’s northern Obolonskyi district, killing two other people, authorities said.

And a Russian airstrike near a Ukrainian checkpoint caused extensive damage to a district in downtown kyiv, killing one person, Ukraine’s emergency agency said.

Kateryna Lot said she was in her flat as her child did homework when they heard a loud explosion and ran for cover.

“The child became hysterical. Our windows and the balcony were smashed. Part of the floor collapsed,” she said. “It was very, very scary.”

In an area outside kyiv, Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall was injured while reporting and was hospitalized, the channel said.

In Russia, the main live evening news program on state television was briefly interrupted by a woman who entered the studio holding a poster against the war. The OVD-Info website which monitors political arrests said it was a Channel 1 employee who was taken into custody.

A city councilor from Brovary, east of Kyiv, was killed in fighting there, officials said.

Airstrikes were reported across the country, including in the southern city of Mykolaiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, where heat knocked out most of the city. Explosions also rippled overnight around the Russian-occupied port of Kherson on the Black Sea.

Nine people were killed in a rocket attack on a TV tower in the western village of Antopol, according to the region’s governor.

In Mariupol, where the war has caused some of the greatest suffering, the city council did not specify the number of people in the convoy of cars heading west towards the town of Zaporizhzhia. But he said a ceasefire along the route appeared to be holding.

Previous attempts to evacuate civilians and deliver humanitarian aid to the southern city of 430,000 have been thwarted by fighting.

Ukraine’s military said on Monday it repelled an attempt to take control of Mariupol by Russian forces, which were forced to retreat. Satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed fires across the city, with many high-rise buildings heavily damaged or destroyed.

The head of Russia’s Kremlin-backed Chechnya region said on a messaging app that Chechen fighters were leading the offensive on Mariupol.

Robert Mardini, director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the war had become “nothing short of a nightmare” for those living in besieged cities, and he pleaded for safe corridors for civilians can leave and that humanitarian aid can be delivered. in.

“The situation cannot, cannot go on like this,” he said. “History looks at what is happening in Mariupol and other cities.”

The Russian military said 20 civilians in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine were killed by a ballistic missile launched by Ukrainian forces. The claim could not be independently verified.

The UN has recorded at least 596 civilian deaths since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, although it estimates the true toll to be much higher. Millions more have fled their homes, and more than 2.8 million have crossed into Poland and other neighboring countries in what the UN has called Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

Russia’s military is larger and better equipped than Ukraine’s, but its troops have faced stronger resistance than expected, bolstered by weapons supplied by the West.


Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and AP reporters around the world contributed to this report.


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