siege Train station hit as first Ukrainian city falls to Putin's invading Russian forces
Meanwhile a Ukrainian delegation left for a second round of talks with Russian officials on a ceasefire
Ukraine last night surrendered its first city to Vladimir Putin after the Russian leader was accused of a new tactic of deliberately trapping civilians under relentless artillery fire.
The mayor of the strategically important southern city of Kherson confirmed it had fallen into enemy hands, and that Russia planned to set up a “military administration” there.
It means that Putin has now established a bridgehead from which his forces can cross the River Dnieper – which cuts Ukraine in two – and head westwards and northwards to attack Kyiv from a second direction.
Despite a pledge from Putin last week that he would not target cities or civilians, the southern port city of Mariupol is being “flattened”, with its water and electricity cut off and rail links shut down.
A Ukrainian delegation had left for a second round of talks with Russian officials on a ceasefire, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters.
Russian forces have yet to overthrow the government in Kyiv but thousands are reported to have died or been injured and more than a million people have fled Ukraine amid the biggest attack on a European state since 1945.
Intelligence chiefs suggested Putin had adopted “classic siege” tactics. “Their mission is to destroy us,” said the city’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko. “We cannot even take the wounded from the streets, from houses and apartments today, since the shelling does not stop.”
Meanwhile, An Irish man who is a Ukrainian resident has spoken about the long and frightening journey his family endured in recent days to reach safety.
Tom O’Callaghan, who is a native of Co Kerry, has been living in Kyiv with his wife Anna and two children for the last five years.
He left Kyiv with his family and Anna’s aunt last Thursday as the Russian invasion began.
Mr O’Callaghan said they played to move to the west of Ukraine for a short period, but as the shelling began at 5am on Thursday morning their only option was to flee for the border.
“You could hear thuds in the distance, and we had jets flying low overhead as we were leaving. It was essentially, it was a parking lot leaving Kyiv. The first couple of kilometres took us a couple of hours,” he said.
Last night, a powerful explosion was reported near the central railway station in Kyiv, through which thousands of women and children are being evacuated, as a senior US official said that Russia was becoming more aggressive in targeting infrastructure in the capital.
Ukraine also warned that Putin is planning to use his Black Sea fleet to launch a seaborne invasion in the south-west of the country.
Igor Kolykhayev, the mayor of Kherson, said in a Facebook post that “armed visitors” had taken part in a city executive meeting and that he had agreed to certain conditions, including a curfew and that pedestrians would walk only in groups of one or two, in order to keep the city running.
Without mentioning the Russian army, he said: “I didn’t make any promises to them. I just have nothing to promise. I just asked not to shoot people.
We do not have Ukrainian armed forces in the city, only civilians and people who want to LIVE here! Let it be for now. The flag above us is Ukrainian. And in order for it to remain the same, these requirements will have to be met. I can’t offer anything else.”
Heavy shelling also caused widespread casualties in Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, as President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than 2,000 civilians had been killed since the invasion began. He also said 5,840 Russian military personnel had been killed, while Russia said the number was less than 500.
But it was Mariupol, which stands in the way of Putin controlling the coast from Crimea to the Donbas, that suffered the worst horrors yesterday.
Having captured Kherson, Putin needs to control Mariupol in order to link the city of Odessa with the occupied territory of the Crimean peninsula and cut off Ukraine from the sea.
Mariupol, an industrial port on the Sea of Azov, was pounded by relentless and indiscriminate rocket artillery fire that authorities said seemed to be targeting civilian infrastructure and homes in order to make the city unliveable.
Officials said it amounted to “real genocide”.
The city’s deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov said: “The Russian army is working through all their weapons here – artillery, multiple rocket launch systems, planes, tactical rockets. They are trying to destroy the city.”
Mr Boichenko said there had been “colossal destruction”.
“Our railway link has been cut – they even went to the railway station and fired on our diesel locomotives so that people can’t be evacuated. So their mission is to destroy us. They have no intention of helping civilians.
“They have been flattening us non-stop for 12 hours now. We cannot even take the wounded from the streets, from houses and apartments today, since the shelling does not stop.”
Russian spearheads pushing out of Crimea and Russian-occupied parts of Donetsk region linked up and cut the last road out of Mariupol on Tuesday.
Mariupol is strategically vital, sitting astride the highway Russia will need to control if it is to open a land route from the Donbas to Crimea. Ukrainian forces have been readying for a possible Russian attempt to open that land route for eight years, and the city is heavily defended.
An emergency session of the United Nations voted for a resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine and calling for Russia to withdraw. Five nations voted against the resolution: Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Syria and Russia.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said that the next few days will get “harder and harder” for Ukraine.
The United Nations General Assembly yesterday overwhelmingly voted to reprimand Russia for invading Ukraine, and demanded Moscow stop fighting and withdraw its military forces – an action that aims to diplomatically isolate Russia at the world body.
The resolution, supported by 141 of the assembly’s 193 members, passed in a rare emergency session called by the UN Security Council.
The text of the resolution deplores Russia’s “aggression against Ukraine”.
The last time the Security Council convened an emergency session of the General Assembly was in 1982, according to the UN website.
Russia was joined by Belarus (which has served as a launch pad for Russian invasion forces), Eritrea, North Korea and Syria in voting against the resolution. Thirty-five other nations, including China, abstained.
While General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they carry political weight, with yesterday’s vote representing a symbolic victory for Ukraine and increasing Moscow’s international isolation. Even Russia’s traditional ally Serbia voted against it.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the assembly that Russia was poised to intensify the brutality of its offensive and urged members to hold Moscow accountable for its violations of international law.
She cited videos of Russian troops moving heavy weapons into Ukraine, including cluster munitions and vacuum bombs, banned under international law.
Russia’s UN envoy, Vassily Nebenzia, denied Moscow was targeting civilians and accused western governments of pressuring assembly members to pass the resolution, whose adoption he said could fuel further violence.
Moscow’s ground offensive in the north and east of the country remained stalled in the face of what analysts and Ukrainian government officials say are resupply challenges and unexpectedly stiff resistance.
Ukrainian and US officials continue to describe Russian forces as being bogged down throughout the country.
A Russian convoy northwest of Kyiv that stretches for dozens of miles has struggled for days to advance toward the capital, a senior US defence official said.
The convoy, which appears to be a mix of supply vehicles and combat power, would be instrumental in any Russian strategy to take over Kyiv. Officials say occasional attacks by the Ukrainian military, low morale among Russian troops and botched planning have slowed it down.
Meanwhile, Apple, Exxon, Boeing and other firms joined an exodus of international companies from Russian markets that has left Moscow financially and diplomatically isolated.
Both the European Union and the United States also imposed new sanctions on Belarus for its supporting role in the invasion.
Amid calls for him to face sanctions, Russian businessman Roman Abramovich said he would sell Chelsea FC and donate money from the sale to help victims of the war.
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