Ukraine accused Russia on Tuesday of carrying out a "barbaric" rocket attack on a Kyiv TV tower that killed five civilians near Babyn Yar, a memorial site to one of the biggest single massacres of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.
Two rockets struck the tower, killing five people who were walking nearby, said Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko, urging residents to stay off the streets due to the threat of attack.
A Russian armoured column an estimated 64km-long is about 17 miles from Kyiv, satellite pictures show, but US officials say it appears to have stalled due to fierce resistance and logistical problems.
Missile strikes on Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv, killed at least 18 civilians and wounded dozens more when they struck the regional government headquarters and a residential bloc, prompting the country's president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to accuse Moscow of an unforgiveable "war crime".
“What is the point of saying ‘never again’ for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating?” Mr Zelenskiy tweeted on the Kyiv rocket attack.
“This is terror against the city. There was no military target on the square . . . No one will forgive, no one will forget,” he also said on the attack, while also condemning a rocket attack on Monday that killed at least nine civilians in a residential area of Kharkiv, which is just 35km from the Russian border.
“This attack on Kharkiv is a war crime. This is state terrorism of the Russian Federation. After that, Russia is a terrorist state . . . We demand full responsibility for terrorists in international courts,” he added.
In a separate interview with CNN and Reuters, Mr Zelenskiy set out the conditions for peace talks with Russia, insisting that Russian forces must “stop bombing people” before talks on a ceasefire can start.
“It’s necessary to at least stop bombing people, just stop the bombing and then sit down at the negotiating table,” he said.
Mr Zelenskiy urged Nato members to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine to stop the Russian air force.
More than 70 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed after Russian artillery hit a military base in Okhtyrka, a city between Kharkiv and Kyiv, the head of the region wrote on Telegram.
The southern Ukraine city of Kherson is “surrounded” by Russian soldiers, according to the city’s mayor.
Russia’s defence ministry has urged Kyiv’s inhabitants to leave, saying it planned to strike communications and intelligence sites in the capital.
Many Ukrainians are spending long stretches of their days and entire nights in metro stations, basements and bomb shelters to stay safe from Russian bombing, but officials have also urged them not to succumb to Russian attempts to sow panic in the country; the UN estimates that more than 660,000 Ukrainians have already fled to European Union states.
Ukraine’s general staff claimed Russian losses since the attack included 5,710 personnel, 29 destroyed and damaged aircraft and 198 tanks.
As sanctions imposed by western nations and their allies around the world plunge Russia into deep economic isolation, it has banned its media from using the words “war” and “invasion” in relation to the attack on Ukraine and is threatening anyone found guilty of helping Ukraine with a jail term of up to 20 years.
Mr Putin has put Russia’s nuclear forces on higher alert and Dmitry Medvedev – a former president and prime minister once regarded as one of his country’s leading liberals – took umbrage on Tuesday with French finance minister Bruno Le Maire for saying Paris was waging “all-out economic and financial war on Russia”.
“Watch your tongue, gentlemen!” tweeted Mr Medvedev, who was accused of massive corruption in an extensive report by now jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
“And don’t forget that in human history, economic wars quite often turned into real ones.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Zelenskiy urged the European Union to prove that it sided with Ukraine in the conflict with Russia, one day after signing an official request to join the bloc.
“We are fighting to be equal members of Europe,” Mr Zelenskiy told an emergency session of the European Parliament via video-link.
“Do prove that you are with us. Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness,” he said in Ukrainian in a speech translated to English by an interpreter talking through tears, as emotion gripped the parliament.
EU politicians, many wearing #standwithUkraine T-shirts bearing the Ukrainian flag, others with blue-and-yellow scarves or ribbons, gave Mr Zelenskiy a standing ovation.
“The EU will be much stronger with us. Without you, Ukraine will be lonesome,” Mr Zelenskiy said, with Kyiv likely well aware that Ukraine’s membership bid will be long and difficult.
The European Union has taken unprecedented steps, including financing weapons deliveries to Ukraine, after Russian president Vladimir Putin launched war on its neighbour last week in what some western officials believe is an attempt to re-establish Moscow's cold war-era influence.
According to the draft resolution and amendments backed by the assembly’s main parties, lawmakers will call for tougher sanctions “aimed at strategically weakening the Russian economy and industrial base, in particular the military-industrial complex”.
Also on Tuesday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said up to 20,000 refugees fleeing the crisis in Ukraine could be accommodated in Ireland and Irish families may be asked to open their homes. It is understood Cabinet was briefed that the initial figure could be 6,000.
The Kremlin has denied that the Russian military has used cluster munitions in Ukraine and insisted that the Russian forces only have struck military targets.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that “the Russian troops don’t conduct any strikes against civilian infrastructure and residential areas”.
Mr Peskov’s claim contradicts abundant evidence documented of indiscriminate shelling of homes, schools, and hospitals across Ukraine.
Speaking in a conference call with reporters, he would not respond to questions about whether the Kremlin was happy with the pace of the offensive and would not comment on Russian military casualties.
The Russian defence ministry said for the first time on Monday that it had suffered losses but did not name any numbers.
Ukrainian and Russian negotiators held talks on Monday near the Belarus border, but they failed to yield a breakthrough.
Shell became the latest western firm to announce it was pulling out of Russia, with multiple major banks, airlines, car-makers and shipping companies suspending business with the country.
On Tuesday, Apple said it had stopped sales of iPhones and other products in Russia. - Additional reporting from Reuters