WASHINGTON/KYIV, March 2 – As battle continued across the country and Western nations tightened an economic noose around Russia a week after launching its invasion of Ukraine, Russia declared its soldiers captured control of the first significant city on Wednesday, taking Kherson in the south.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of his southern neighbor about a week ago, more than half a million Ukrainians have fled the violence.
Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian cities have continued, with video from the second city of Kharkiv showing seriously damaged buildings.
“While he may gain on the battlefield, he will continue to pay a hefty price in the long run,” stated US President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address. Straying from the prepared text, Biden added “He has no idea what’s coming.” He did not elaborate.
Ukrainian forces have met the invaders’ advances with ferocious opposition, and a miles-long Russian military convoy north of Kyiv has made little headway towards the capital.
Zelenskiy stated in a video message on Wednesday that approximately 6,000 Russians were murdered in the first six days of Moscow’s invasion, and that the Kremlin would not be able to capture his country with bombs and air raids.
Biden tightened the screws on Moscow even more, joining the European Union and Canada in prohibiting Russian planes from entering US airspace.
He also stated that the Justice Department would seek to confiscate wealthy Russians with ties to Putin’s boats, luxury apartments, and private jets.
As Biden delivered his message to the House of Representatives, members of Congress stood, cheered, and yelled, many waving Ukrainian flags and donning the country’s blue and yellow colours.
According to a Russian defence ministry official, Russian forces have taken control of Kherson, a city of almost a quarter million inhabitants just north of Crimea, the peninsula acquired by Russia in 2014. The provincial capital, strategically placed on the Dniepr River, was the largest city to fall to Russian forces so far.
According to Mariupol’s mayor, the city has been under heavy fire since late Tuesday and has been unable to evacuate wounded.
The invading force’s progress on Kyiv has stopped, according to a senior US defence official, due to logistical issues such as food and gasoline shortages, and some battalions look to have low morale.
‘STOP BOMBING PEOPLE,’ says a sign.
Ukraine’s president demanded on Tuesday that Russia cease bombing people and resume talks.
In a joint interview with Reuters and CNN in a tightly guarded government facility in Kyiv, Zelenskiy said, “At the the least, stop bombing people, simply stop bombing people, and then sit down at the bargaining table.”
In the last 24 hours, at least 21 people have been killed and 112 injured in shelling in Kharkiv, according to regional governor Oleg Synegubov.
Over 450,000 people have fled Ukraine to Poland, with a further 500,000 on their way.113,000 to Romania.
On Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly is expected to chastise Russia and demand that it cease fighting and evacuate its military forces.
Last Thursday, Putin launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine in an attempt to disarm the democratic country of 44 million people, catch the “neo-Nazis” he claims are in charge, and crush hopes for closer links with the West.
A Russian cruise missile killed four people, including a toddler, west of Kyiv in the city of Zhytomyr on Tuesday, according to a Ukrainian official.
Authorities in Donetsk, Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking city, reported three civilians had been killed by Ukrainian fire in area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Ukraine’s air force is still flying and its air defences are still judged operational, despite being vastly outmanned by Russia’s military in terms of sheer numbers and firepower – a reality that military analysts find perplexing.
SANCTIONS AND WEAPONS
Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, has asked the US-led military alliance to impose a no-fly zone over the country, but Washington has rejected the request, fearing a direct clash between the world’s two most powerful nuclear powers.
Instead, the US and its allies have provided arms to Kyiv.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov announced that the country would acquire Stinger and Javelin missiles from overseas, as well as a second cargo of Turkish drones.
According to a media source on Wednesday, several dozen Japanese men responded to a Ukrainian request for international volunteers to oppose Russia’s invasion. The president, vice president, and prime minister of Taiwan have all agreed to give their salaries to the relief efforts in Ukraine.
The West’s major tactic for diplomatic isolation of Russia is to cut Russia’s economy off from the global financial system, forcing multinational corporations to suspend sales, terminate links, and dump tens of billions of dollars in investments.
Exxon Mobil followed other major Western energy corporations, including BP PLC and Shell, in announcing their withdrawal from oil-rich Russia as a result of the invasion.