An explosion rocked a Kyiv railway station late on Wednesday where thousands of women and children were being evacuated, Ukraine’s state-run railway company said.
A Ukrainian interior ministry adviser said the blast was caused by wreckage from a downed Russian cruise missile, not a direct rocket strike. There was no immediate word on casualties and the station building suffered minor damage. Trains continued to run.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has now killed more than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians and destroyed hundreds of structures including transport facilities, hospitals, kindergartens and homes, Ukraine’s emergency service said on Wednesday.
“Children, women and defence forces are losing their lives every hour,” it said in a statement.
The UN human rights office said on Wednesday that it had confirmed 227 civilians had been killed and 525 injured in Ukraine through midnight on March 1st .
It said in a statement that most of the casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, “including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and air strikes”. It said it believed the true toll in the week-long conflict is “considerably higher”, especially in government-controlled territory, due to reporting delays in some areas where fighting has been most intense.
Ukrainians said on Wednesday they were fighting on in the first sizeable city Russia claimed to have seized, Kherson, while Moscow stepped up its lethal bombardment of major population centres that its invasion force has so far failed to tame.
With Moscow having failed in its aim of swiftly overthrowing Ukraine’s government, western countries are worried that it is switching to new, far more violent tactics to blast its way into cities it had expected to take easily.
The most intensive bombardment has struck Kharkiv, a city of 1.5 million people in the east, whose centre has been turned into a bombed-out wasteland of ruined buildings and debris.
“The Russian ‘liberators’ have come,” one Ukrainian volunteer lamented sarcastically, as he and three others strained to carry the dead body of a man wrapped in a bedsheet out of ruins on a main square.
The roof of a police building in the centre of the city collapsed as it was engulfed in flames. Authorities said four more people were killed by shelling and air strikes there on Wednesday morning. Russian paratroopers landed in Kharkiv at 3am, security chiefs said, with officials saying the paratroopers were engaged in heavy fighting.
Kharkiv’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, said: “We never expected this could happen: total destruction, annihilation, genocide against the Ukrainian people – this is unforgivable.”
Pavel Dorogoy (36), a photographer who lives near the city centre, said Russian forces had targeted the city council building, which was empty at the time, a telephone exchange and a television tower on the edge of Kharkiv. “Most people hid in the basements for most of the day today and last night . . . The Russians cannot enter the town so they’re just attacking us from afar, they just want to destroy what they can,” he said.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that 498 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine and another 1,597 had been wounded since the start of the invasion. It was the first time Moscow put a figure on its casualties.
Ukraine said more than 7,000 Russian soldiers had been killed so far and hundreds taken prisoner, including senior officers. The numbers given by Moscow and Kyiv could not be independently verified.
Mr Putin ordered the “special military operation” into Ukraine last Thursday in a bid to disarm Ukraine and capture “neo-Nazis” he falsely says are running the country of 44 million people. Ukraine seeks closer ties with the West, which Russia calls a threat.
Russia was reprimanded on Wednesday by the UN General Assembly, where a motion demanding Moscow immediately stops the invasion of Ukraine was overwhelmingly backed. Meeting in New York, 141 nations voted in favour of the motion calling for the withdrawal of all occupying forces, while five were against and 35 countries abstained. Resolutions of the General Assembly are not legally binding but do show the strength of international feeling on the issue.
Thirty-eight countries including the Republic on Wednesday referred the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The move, which is the largest referral of its kind, allows the ICC’s prosecutor to proceed straight to an investigation without the need for judicial approval,
Apple, Exxon, Boeing and other firms joined an exodus of companies around the world from the Russian market, which has left Moscow financially and diplomatically isolated since Mr Putin ordered the invasion.
“He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead, he met a wall of strength he could never [have] anticipated or imagined: he met Ukrainian people,” US president Joe Biden said in his annual state of the union address to Congress, referring to Mr Putin.
Russia said it would hold a second round of peace talks with Ukraine on Thursday on the border with Belarus, Russian news agencies reported, after a first round made scant progress on Monday. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters that a Ukrainian delegation had left for a second round of talks with Russian officials on a ceasefire.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, had said his country was ready for talks, but noted that Russia’s demands had not changed and that Ukrainians would not accept any ultimatums.
Moscow said on Wednesday it had captured Kherson, a provincial capital of about one-quarter of a million people on the southern front, but Ukraine disputed the claim.
The regional governor had said overnight that the city was surrounded, under fire, and Russian troops were looting shops and pharmacies. On Wednesday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said street fighting was going on in the port, which sits at the Dnieper river’s exit into the Black Sea.
“The city has not fallen, our side continues to defend,” said the adviser.
Also in the south, Russia is putting intense pressure on the port of Mariupol, which it says it has surrounded in a ring around the entire coast of the Sea of Azov. The besieged city’s mayor said Mariupol had suffered mass casualties after a night of intense strikes. He gave no full casualty figure, but said it was impossible to evacuate the wounded.
But on the other two main fronts in the east and north, Russia so far has little to show for its advance, with Ukraine’s two biggest cities Kyiv and Kharkiv holding out in the face of increasingly intense bombardment.
In Washington’s latest assessment, a US official said there had been no significant change on the ground in Ukraine since Tuesday despite the launch of more than 450 Russian missiles against Ukrainian targets.
In Kyiv, the capital of 3 million people where residents have been sheltering at night in the underground metro, Russia blasted the main television tower near a Holocaust memorial on Tuesday, killing bystanders.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his latest update to his nation, said that attack proved that the Russians "don't know a thing about Kyiv, about our history. But they all have orders to erase our history, erase our country, erase us all."
Earlier, a tired and unshaven Mr Zelenskiy, wearing green battle fatigues in a heavily guarded government compound, told Reuters and CNN in an interview that the bombing must stop for talks to end the war.
“It’s necessary to at least stop bombing people, just stop the bombing and then sit down at the negotiating table.”
Russia’s main advance on the capital – a huge armoured column stretched for miles along the road to Kyiv – has been largely frozen in place for days, western governments say.
An update from the British ministry of defence on Wednesday morning said Russia was carrying out intensive air and artillery strikes, especially on Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol and the eastern city of Chernihiv.
The UN said 836,000 people had now fled the conflict in Ukraine. At least 450,000 have crossed the border from Ukraine into Poland, the government in Warsaw said, with 113,000 arriving in Romania.
The leading Russian opposition figure, Alexey Navalny, said from jail that Russians should protest daily against the war, according to a tweet from a spokesperson.
Vastly outmatched by Russia’s military, Ukraine’s air force is still flying and its air defences are still deemed to be viable.
Washington and its Nato allies have rejected Ukraine’s request to impose a no-fly zone over the country, arguing this would lead to direct confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia. But they have been funnelling in weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, to help Ukrainians fight.
Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said the country was set to receive Stinger and Javelin missiles from abroad, as well as another shipment of Turkish drones.
Ukraine announced on Wednesday that it would free any Russian prisoners whose mothers come to collect them. Pictures online have shown burnt-out columns of Russian tanks surrounded by corpses.
The European Commission on Wednesday proposed granting temporary protection to refugees from the Ukraine conflict, including a residence permit and access to employment and social welfare in all member states. The proposal will be discussed by EU interior ministers on Thursday.
Georgia plans on Thursday to submit an application to join the EU, Russia’s TASS news agency quoted the former Soviet republic’s ruling party as saying on Wednesday, as the conflict continued. – Reuters/Guardian