Ukrainian officials accused Moscow’s military of killing at least nine civilians and injuring dozens in a missile strike on the fifth day of a Russian invasion that has caused more than 500,000 people to flee to the European Union and drawn sweeping sanctions from the West.
Fierce fighting continued despite talks between delegates from Kyiv and Moscow and a call from French president Emmanuel Macron to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who met officials in the Kremlin to discuss the impact of western measures that severely weakened the rouble and threaten to plunge Russia into deep economic isolation.
“Today, 37 people were wounded, including three children. Four people came out of a bomb shelter to get water and were killed. A family, two adults and three children, were burned alive in the car,” said Ihor Terekhov, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city.
“Today’s shelling of residential areas of Kharkiv showed this is not a military operation but a war to destroy the Ukrainian people,” he added of the strike by multiple rockets on the 1.4 million-strong city just 35km from the Russian border.
Ukraine said Kharkiv remains under government control, as does every other major city across the country of 41 million despite an onslaught by tens of thousands of Russian troops, missiles, tanks, fighter jets, helicopters and warships.
United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said at least 102 civilians had been killed in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s latest invasion, but cautioned that the real figure was probably “considerably higher”, and the UN refugee agency said more than 500,000 Ukrainians had now fled to European Union states.
‘Must stop now’
UN secretary general António Guterres said the fighting “must stop now”, as the body’s general assembly met for a special session on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“It is raging across the country, from air, land and sea . . . Russian missile and air bombardments are pounding Ukrainian cities day and night. The capital, Kyiv, is encircled and under attack from all sides,” he said.
“This escalating violence – which is resulting in civilian deaths, including children – is totally unacceptable. Enough is enough. Soldiers need to move back to their barracks. Leaders need to move to peace.”
Mr Guterres said it was “chilling” that Russia’s nuclear forces had been put on higher alert by Mr Putin, who described the Sest as the “empire of lies” as he met Moscow officials to discuss how to respond to the latest round of severe sanctions against his country.
The rouble lost almost a third of its value against the US dollar before recovering somewhat, and Russia’s central bank more than doubled its key interest rate to 20 per cent and ordered a block on any attempts by foreigners to offload Russians shares.
The West has barred some Russian banks from the Swift global payment system, blocked Moscow from using its huge foreign reserves to prop up the rouble, and closed air space to Russian commercial and private planes; football’s major governing bodies Fifa and Uefa announced on Monday that all Russian clubs and the national team were now banned from international competition.
After failing in a diplomatic push to persuade Mr Putin not to invade Ukraine, Mr Macron urged him to ensure Russian forces did not hit non-combatants or their homes, other civil infrastructure, or roads by which people may flee the fighting.
“President Putin confirmed his willingness to commit on these three points,” the Élysée Palace said.
Talks between delegates from Moscow and Kyiv on the Ukraine-Belarus border brought no breakthrough , but both sides said they expected to have another meeting in the near future, possibly on the Ukraine-Poland frontier.
Amid rapidly deepening co-operation between Kyiv and the EU on many fronts, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed an official request for his country to join the bloc.
The presidents of eight EU states – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Slovenia – jointly urged Brussels to grant Ukraine candidate country status and begin membership talks.