“No one will forgive. No one will forget,” promised President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In Kyiv, the TV tower in the capital was hit, according to the Ukrainian parliament, which posted a photo with clouds of smoke around it. Local media reported that there were many explosions and that Ukrainian TV channels stopped broadcasting a little later.
At the same time, an escort of hundreds of Russian tanks and other 40-mile (64-kilometer) vehicles headed for Kyiv in what the West feared was an attempt to overthrow the Ukrainian government and establish a Kremlin-friendly regime.
And Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have stepped up their attacks in other cities across the country, including or near the strategic ports of Odessa and Mariupol in the south.
MAP: How Ukrainian soldiers are defending their country
The sixth day of Europe’s largest land war since World War II has found Russia increasingly isolated, framed by harsh sanctions that have plunged its economy into turmoil and left the country almost unprotected, with the exception of a few countries such as China. Belarus and North Korea.
The total death toll from the fighting remained unclear, but a senior Western intelligence official, who had been briefed by several intelligence services, estimated on Tuesday that more than 5,000 Russian soldiers had been captured or killed so far.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, with a population of about 1.5 million, at least six people were killed when the administration building of the Soviet-era region was hit. The blasts shattered residential areas and a maternity ward was moved to an underground shelter.
Kharkiv’s Freedom Square – Ukraine’s largest square and the nucleus of public life in the city – was hit by what is believed to be a rocket, in an attack seen by many Ukrainians as a brazen proof that the Russian invasion was not just about hitting military goals but also for breaking their souls.
The bomber struck shortly after noon in front of a crowded square and building walls surrounding the huge central square, which was littered with debris and dust. Inside a building, pieces of plaster were scattered and the doors, uprooted by their hinges, were in the hallways.
“People are under the rubble. We have exhumed the bodies,” said Yevhen Vasylenko, a spokesman for the Ministry of Emergency Situations in the Kharkiv region. In addition to the six killed, 20 were injured in the attack, he said.
Zelensky described the attack in the central square as “sincere, overt terror”, blamed a Russian missile and described the attack as a war crime. “This is state terrorism of the Russian Federation,” he said.
In an emotional appeal to the European Parliament later, Zelensky said: “We are also fighting to be equal members of Europe. I believe that today we are showing everyone that we are who we are.”
He said 16 children had been killed around Ukraine on Monday and mocked Russia’s claim that it was pursuing only military objectives.
“Where are the children, what kind of military factories do they work in? What tanks do they go to and launch cruise missiles?” said Zelensky.
The Human Rights Watch said it had recorded a cluster bomb attack outside a hospital in eastern Ukraine in recent days. Residents of the area also reported the use of weapons in Kharkov and the village of Kiyanka, although there was no independent confirmation.
If the allegations are confirmed, it would represent a new level of barbarism in the war and could lead to even further isolation of Russia.
The Kremlin has denied the use of such weapons.
Many military experts worry that the attacks in Kharkov mean that Russia could change its tactics in Ukraine. Moscow’s strategy in Chechnya and Syria was to use massive artillery and air bombardment to pulverize cities and undermine the fighters’ resolve.
The attorney general of the International Criminal Court has said he plans to launch an investigation into possible war crimes in the invasion.
Without bowing to Western condemnation, Russian officials stepped up their escalation threats just days after escalating the nuclear war. A senior Kremlin official has warned that the West’s “economic war” against Russia could be “real”.
The first talks on Monday between the two sides did not stop the fight, although they agreed on a new meeting in the following days.
Across the country, many Ukrainians spent another night crammed into shelters, basements or corridors. More than half a million people have fled the country, and the UN human rights office says it has recorded the deaths of 136 civilians. The actual account is believed to be much larger.
“It’s a nightmare and you get very caught up in it. That can not be explained in words,” said Kharkiv resident Ekaterina Babenko, who lives in a basement with neighbors for a fifth day in a row. “We have small children, the elderly and honestly it is very scary.”
SEE: Stories of Ukrainians fleeing
UN humanitarian co-ordinator Martin Griffiths said the bombing had damaged water pipes and power lines. “Hundreds of thousands of families are without drinking water,” he said.
The Russian attacks in Mariupol seriously injured several people on Tuesday and at a checkpoint outside the Black Sea city of Odessa, the body of a man was lying on a highway next to a car whose back seat was covered in blood.
A Ukrainian military official said Belarussian troops had been involved in the fighting in the northern Chernihiv region on Tuesday, without elaborating. But shortly before that, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said his country had no plans to take part in the struggle.
In Kharkov, explosions erupted one after another in a residential area in an AP-verified video. In the background, a man begged a woman to leave and a woman cried.
Determined to continue living despite the attacks, hospital staff transported a Kharkiv maternity hospital to a bomb shelter. Between improvised electrical outlets and mattresses stacked on the walls, pregnant women were walking in the crowded space, accompanied by the screams of dozens of newborns.
SEE: What you need to know about Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia’s intentions to strike in central Kharkov were not immediately clear. Western officials have speculated that he is trying to pull Ukrainian forces out to defend the city while a larger Russian force encircles Kyiv.
Russian troops continued to advance on the capital, a city of nearly 3 million people. The escort was 17 miles (25 kilometers) from the city center, according to satellite images from Maxar Technologies.
The huge convoy, packed together along narrow streets, would appear to be “a big target” for Ukrainian forces, a senior Western intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
“But it also shows you that the Russians feel very comfortable when they are outdoors in these gatherings because they feel they are not going to be attacked by air or rockets or missiles,” he said.
Increasing tensions in Kyiv, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it would target transmission facilities in the capital used by the Ukrainian intelligence service with indefinite strikes and urged people living near such locations to leave their homes.
Flames erupted from a military base northeast of Kiev, in the suburb of Brovary, in shots fired from a passing car. In another video verified by the AP, a passenger begged the driver, “Misa, we have to drive fast as they hit again.”
The movements of the Russian army have stopped due to the fierce resistance on the ground and the astonishing inability to fully dominate the airspace of Ukraine.
The Ukrainians used what they had at their disposal to try to stop the Russian advance: On a highway between Odessa and Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, residents stacked tractor tires full of sand and filled them with sandbags to block them.
Isachenkov and Litvinova reported from Moscow. Mstyslav Chernov in Mariupol, Ukraine. Sergei Grits in Odessa, Ukraine. Robert Burns and Eric Tucker in Washington. Francesca Ebel, Josef Federman and Andrew Drake in Kyiv. Lorne Cook in Brussels. and other AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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