Russians besiege Ukrainian ports as armored columns come to a standstill

Russia reported its military casualties for the first time since the invasion began last week, saying nearly 500 of its soldiers were killed and nearly 1,600 injured. Ukraine did not disclose its own military losses, but said more than 2,000 civilians had died, a claim that could not be independently verified.

As fighting unfolds on multiple fronts across the country, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Mariupol, a major city on the Sea of ​​Azov, was surrounded by Russian forces, while the status of another Vital port Kherson, a Black Sea shipbuilding city of 280,000, remained unclear.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces claimed to have taken full control of Kherson, making it the largest city ever to fall in the invasion. But a senior US defense official disputed that.

“Our view is that Kherson is a very contested city,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office told The Associated Press it could not comment on the situation in Kherson while fighting continued.

But Kherson Mayor Igor Kolykhaev said Russian soldiers were in the city and went to the city’s administrative building. He said he had asked them not to fire on civilians and to allow teams to pick up bodies from the streets.

“I just asked them not to shoot people,” he said in a statement. “We have no Ukrainian forces in the city, only civilians and people here who want to LIVE.”

Kherson, a city of 300,000, is strategically located on the banks of the Dnieper near where it empties into the Black Sea.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said the attacks there had been relentless.

“We can’t even get the wounded out of the streets, houses and apartments today, since the shelling doesn’t stop,” he said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

Meanwhile, the top US defense official said the huge column of hundreds of tanks and other vehicles appeared to be stuck about 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Kiev and had made no real progress in the past few months. last two days.

The convoy, which earlier in the week looked set to launch an assault on the capital, was plagued by fuel and food shortages and faced fierce Ukrainian resistance, the official said.

On the outskirts of Kiev, volunteer fighters well into their 60s manned a checkpoint in an attempt to block the Russian advance.

“In my old age, I had to take up arms,” ​​said 68-year-old Andrey Goncharuk. He said the fighters needed more weapons, but “we will kill the enemy and take their weapons.”

Russian warplanes bombarded the village of Gorenka, a half-hour drive from the Ukrainian capital, on Wednesday, leaving the bodies of villagers strewn among ruined houses, residents said.

In the aftermath, Larissa Lipatova huddled under blankets with seven other villages in a cold, damp concrete cellar amid jars of pickled vegetables. A candle stuck in a pickle jar, wedged in front of a religious icon, provided their only light.

Lipatova wept, covering her face with one hand, as she spoke in the dark with a message for the invaders from Ukraine. “We don’t need to be released. Leave us alone!”

Russia also pounded Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city with around 1.5 million people, in another round of airstrikes that destroyed buildings and lit up the skyline with flames. At least 21 people were killed and 112 injured over the past day, said Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration.

Several Russian planes were shot down over Kharkiv, according to Oleksiy Arestovich, a senior adviser to Zelenskyy.

“Kharkiv today is the Stalingrad of the 21st century,” Arestovich said, referring to what is considered one of the most heroic episodes in Russian history, the city’s five-month defense against the Nazis during the Second World War.

From his basement bunker, Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov told the BBC: “The city is united and we will stand firm.”

Russian attacks, many with missiles, blew off the roof of the five-story building of the Kharkiv regional police and burned down the top floor, and also hit the intelligence headquarters and a university building, according to officials and sources. videos and photos released by the Ukrainian State Emergency Service. . Officials said residential buildings were also hit, but gave no details.

Seven days after the start of the Russian invasion, the United Nations said more than 934,000 people had fled Ukraine amid a growing refugee crisis on the European continent, while the head of the nuclear watchdog agency United Nations has warned that the fighting poses a danger to Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors.

Rafael Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency noted that the war is “the first time a military conflict has occurred at the facilities of a large, established nuclear program”, and he said to himself ” gravely concerned”.

“When there is an ongoing conflict, there is of course a risk of attack or the possibility of an accidental hit,” he said. Russia has already taken control of the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant, scene in 1986 of the worst nuclear disaster in the world.

In New York, the United Nations General Assembly voted to demand that Russia halt its offensive and immediately withdraw all its troops, with world powers and small island states condemning Moscow. The vote was 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions.

Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but can reflect and influence world opinion.

The vote came after the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997. The only countries to vote with Russia were Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea. Cuba came to Moscow’s defense but ultimately abstained.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya said Russian forces “came to Ukrainian soil, not only to kill some of us…they came to deprive Ukraine of the very right to ‘to exist”. He added: “The crimes are so barbaric that it is difficult to understand.”

A large explosion rocked central Kyiv on Wednesday night in what the president’s office said was a missile strike near the capital’s southern railway station. There was no immediate word on the dead or injured. Thousands of Ukrainians fled the city through the sprawling railway complex.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, released his side’s military casualty figures, disputing reports of much higher casualties as “disinformation”. The Ukrainian leader claimed that nearly 6,000 Russian soldiers had been killed.

Konashenkov also said more than 2,870 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and about 3,700 wounded, while more than 570 were captured.

Russia has also stepped up its rhetoric. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reminded the world of the country’s vast nuclear arsenal when he said in an interview with Al-Jazeera that “a Third World War could only be nuclear”.

In the northern city of Chernihiv, two cruise missiles hit a hospital, according to Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, which quoted the head of the health administration, Serhiy Pivovar, as saying that authorities were trying to determine the number of victims.


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