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A residential building damaged by recent shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, February 27 2022. Picture: VITALIY GNIDYI/REUTERS
A residential building damaged by recent shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, February 27 2022. Picture: VITALIY GNIDYI/REUTERS

Russian artillery bombarded residential areas of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, on Monday, possibly killing dozens of people, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow’s invading forces met stiff resistance on the fifth day of the war.

The attacks took place while Russian and Ukrainian officials discussed a ceasefire in talks on the Belarusian border. The talks ended with no breakthrough.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter after attending the talks that the negotiations were difficult and the Russian side was biased. “The Russian side, unfortunately, still has a very biased view of the destructive processes it has launched,” he said. 

Russia also faced deepening isolation and economic turmoil as Western nations, united in condemnation of its invasion, hit it with an array of sanctions that created ripple effects around the world. Share prices fell globally and oil prices jumped.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin showed no sign of reconsidering the invasion he unleashed on Russia’s western neighbour last Thursday. He dismissed the West as an “empire of lies” and replied to the new sanctions with moves to shore up Russia's crumbling rouble currency.

The Russian invasion — the biggest assault on a European state since World War 2 —  failed to make the decisive early gains Putin would have hoped for.

Kharkiv in Ukraine’s northeast has become a major battleground. Regional administration chief Oleg Synegubov said Russian artillery had pounded residential districts even though no Ukrainian army positions or strategic infrastructure were there. At least 11 people were killed, he said.

“This is happening in the daytime, when people have gone out to the pharmacy, for groceries, or for drinking water. It's a crime,” he said.

Earlier, Ukrainine interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said Russian rocket strikes on Kharkiv on Monday killed dozens of people. It was not possible to independently verify the casualty figures.

Video posted by the Ukrainian military showed thick columns of smoke rising from apartment blocks and flames.

Moscow’s UN envoy, speaking in New York, said the Russian army did not pose a threat to civilians.

Fighting also occurred throughout the night around the port city of Mariupol, said the head of the Donetsk regional administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko. He did not say whether Russian forces gained or lost ground.

Russian forces seized two small cities in southeastern Ukraine and the area around a nuclear power plant, according to the Interfax news agency.

The capital Kyiv remained under Ukrainian government control, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, dressed in military gear, encouraging his people with a series of defiant messages.

Explosions were heard in the city before dawn. Ukrainians set up checkpoints and blocked streets with piles of sandbags and tyres as they waited to take on Russian soldiers.

On Kyiv’s streets, signboards normally used for traffic alerts showed the message: “Putin lost the war. The whole world is with Ukraine.”

Representatives of the two sides took place held talks on the border with strong Russian ally Belarus, a launching pad for invading Russian troops.

Ukraine had said it wanted to secure an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces. The Kremlin declined to comment on its goals.

The meeting ended with officials returning to their capitals for consultations before a second round of talks, RIA news agency quoted Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak as saying.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.

The Western-led response has been emphatic, with sanctions cutting Moscow’s major financial institutions off from Western markets. The rouble plunged 32% against the dollar on Monday before recouping about half of its losses. Countries stepped up weapons supplies to Ukraine.

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said EU sanctions would have a cost for Europe “but we have to be ready to pay the price, or we will have to pay a much higher price in the future”.

The EU will provide intelligence to Ukraine on Russian troop movements and EU countries are determined to increase their military support to Kyiv, said Borrell.

France said President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Putin on Monday and urged an immediate ceasefire and an end to attacks on civilians and infrastructure.

The office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Monday said it will seek court approval to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine. 

Battle for cities 

The Ukrainian military said Russian forces were also focusing on Chernihiv, northeast of Kyiv, and parts of the Donetsk region in the east. Separatists there raised a Russian flag on a local administration building in one shattered village on Sunday, Reuters footage showed.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said at least 102 civilians in Ukraine have been killed since Thursday but the real figure is feared to be “considerably higher”.

Ukraine’s health ministry said on Sunday that 352 civilians, including 14 children, had been killed since the invasion began.

More than half-a-million people fled to neighbouring countries, according to the UN refugee agency.

Partners in the US-led Nato defence alliance were providing Ukraine with air-defence missiles and anti-tank weapons, said Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg.

The Kremlin accused the EU of hostile behaviour, saying weapons supplies to Ukraine were destabilising and proved that Russia was right in its efforts to demilitarise its neighbour.

The Kremlin declined to say whether there was a risk of confrontation between Russia and Nato. Russia has demanded that Nato never admit Ukraine as a member.

Western nations announced sanctions at the weekend, including barring some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system.

In an emergency move, Russia’s central bank raised its key interest rate to 20% from 9.5% as the rouble dived. Authorities told export-focused companies to be ready to sell foreign currency.

The bank also ordered brokers to block attempt by foreigners to sell Russian securities.

Corporate giants took action in response to the sanctions, with British oil major BP, the biggest foreign investor in Russia, saying it would abandon its stake in state oil company Rosneft at a cost of up to $25bn.


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