Russia’s war against Ukraine is now in its sixth day, with a mile-long convoy of Russian tanks and armored vehicles closing in on the Ukrainian capital and fighting on the ground intensifying.
Russia stepped up its bombardment of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Tuesday, pounding civilian targets there.
Casualties have mounted and reports have emerged 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 put up fierce resistance and Russia was unable to dominate the skies.
There are growing fears that as Russia isolates itself under an avalanche of Western sanctions, Vladimir Putin could become even more reckless and start a world war.
Across Ukraine, civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict, with families and children crowded into underground metro stations, basements and other shelters.
On Monday, a Ukrainian delegation held talks with Russian officials on the border with Belarus, although they reached no agreement except to keep talking.
Meanwhile, Western sanctions triggered by the invasion sent the Russian ruble plummeting, leading ordinary Russians to line up at banks and ATMs.
And Russian teams have been suspended from all international football matches, including the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, pushing the country towards sporting pariah status.
– What happens on the front line?
Ukrainian authorities said central Kharkiv was hit by renewed Russian shelling on Tuesday, which hit the administrative building as well as the city’s residential headquarters.
There was no word on the casualties.
Earlier, authorities in Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people, said at least 11 people were killed and dozens injured in shelling on Monday.
The Russian military convoy threatening Kiev, a city of nearly three million people, is far larger than initially thought, with satellite images showing it taking up much of a 40-mile stretch of road to the north of the Ukrainian capital.
The convoy was no more than 27 km from the city center on Monday, according to satellite images from Maxar.
Kiev’s troops, overwhelmed but determined, slowed the Russian advance and clung to Kiev and other key cities, at least for now.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who had earlier severed diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law and whose defiance drew much admiration from the West, called on NATO to impose a no-fly zone complete over Ukraine for Russian planes, helicopters and missiles.
British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab rejected the appeal on Tuesday, saying it would risk widening 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 Kiev, where more than 70 Ukrainian soldiers were killed, the region’s chief wrote on Telegram, posting photographs of the charred shell of a four-story building. and rescuers digging through the rubble.
Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces have blocked Kherson, a major port on the Black Sea.
Russian troops have made significant gains along the Ukrainian coast in an apparent effort to cut it off from both the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
– What are ordinary Ukrainians and civilians doing?
For many, that has meant sheltering in basements and subway stations as Russian forces attack cities and street fighting rages on.
Others rushed to escape, 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.
Mothers cradle them on underground platforms or carry them for miles in the cold.
At a border crossing in Poland, refugees were greeted with boxes of donated clothes and toys.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have sought shelter at night in Kiev’s underground network and other makeshift shelters across the country, where parents try to quell 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 in the Russian invasion and 304 others injured since Thursday, even though she warned the tally was likely a vast undercount.
– War sanctions and workarounds
Western officials believe Mr Putin wants to overthrow the Ukrainian government and replace it with a docile regime, reviving Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.
His comments raised fears that invading Ukraine could lead to nuclear war, either by design or by mistake.
The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia’s biggest banks and its elite, froze the country’s Central Bank assets outside the country and banned its financial institutions from the Swift banking messaging system. , but have largely allowed its oil and gas natural resources to continue to flow freely to the rest of the world.
Sanctions experts expect Russia to try to soften the impact of financial sanctions by relying on energy sales and relying on the country’s reserves of gold and Chinese currency.
Mr Putin is also expected to transfer funds through smaller banks and elite family accounts not covered by sanctions, trade in cryptocurrencies and build on Russia’s relationship with China.
– What happened at the United Nations?
The two main bodies of the UN, 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 meeting opened with news that the United States was expelling 12 Russian diplomats from the UN whom Washington accuses of spying.
The assembly will give all UN members the opportunity to speak about the war and more than 110 have registered to do so, with speeches due to continue on Tuesday.
The assembly, which does not allow any veto power, is expected to vote later in the week on a resolution coordinated by European Union envoys working with Ukraine.
The draft resolution demands that Russia immediately cease using force against Ukraine and withdraw all its troops.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said he planned to open an investigation ‘as soon as possible’ into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, two crimes allegedly committed before the Russian invasion, but also on any new crimes that either side may have committed since the start of the invasion.
– How many people have fled Ukraine?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, speaking via video to the UN Security Council on Monday, said more than 520,000 refugees had fled Ukraine and their numbers “increased exponentially, hour after hour”.
The UN expects the total to reach four million in the coming weeks, he said.
Earlier, when the overall tally still stood at around half a million, UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said the tally included 281,000 in Poland, more than 84,500 in Hungary, around 36,400 in Moldova , more than 32,500 in Romania and around 30,000 in Slovakia.
The rest were dispersed to other countries, she said.