Ukraine war: Russia intensifies urban bombing as Zelenskyy says ‘they have orders to erase us’

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Firefighters respond to a fire in buildings housing the regional SBU security service and police, allegedly hit during recent Russian shelling, in Kharkiv, March 2, 2022.

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Several more civilian casualties have been reported on Wednesday morning in Russian bombardments of Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv.

It comes as Vladimir Putin’s forces escalate their attacks, focusing on the main cities in an attempt to break Ukrainian resistance. Moscow claims to have taken control of Kherson in the south, the first large city to be seized.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, US President Joe Biden said if Putin is not made to “pay a price” for the invasion, the aggression will not stop with one country.

Follow our live blog below for the latest updates:

06:52

A summary of key points: 

    Four people are reported dead and nine injured in new artillery shelling in Kharkiv, following an intensified assault overnight. Reports say Russian airborne troops have landed in the city.The Russian army claims it has captured Kherson, after the Russian troops took control of the railway station and the port during the night. Russian forces pressed their assault on other towns and cities across the country, including the strategic port of Mariupol in the south.Zelenskyy addressed the nation, expressing his fear for the country’s religious and cultural sites, saying that the Russian troops are there to “erase our history”.Belarusian troops were put on alert and could join the invasion shortly as the Ukrainian intelligence noticed “significant activity” of Minsk aircraft and supplies near the border. Human Rights Watch said it documented a cluster bomb attack outside a hospital in Ukraine’s east in recent days. Local residents also reported the use of the weapons in Kharkiv and the village of Kiyanka. The Kremlin denied using cluster bombs.A senior US defence official described the long Russian army convoy heading to Kyiv as “bogged down”, saying Russia appeared to be pausing and regrouping to evaluate how to retake the momentum in the fighting.Overall, the Russian military has been stalled by fierce resistance on the ground and a surprising inability to completely dominate Ukraine’s airspace. The UN says more than 660,000 refugees have fled Ukraine in six days and numbers are growing “exponentially”.

12:35

Paralympics: Russian and Belarusian athletes allowed to compete

The International Paralympic Committee says athletes from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to participate as neutrals at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.They will compete under the Paralympic flag and not be included in the medal table, the IPC said in a statement.

12:16

Russia ‘attacks hospital’ in Kharkiv, says Ukrainian army

Russian airborne troops landed in Kharkiv overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday and “attacked a local hospital”, the Ukrainian armed forces said, citing ongoing fighting in Ukraine’s second city.
At least four people were killed and nine others injured in Russian bombings that targeted the headquarters of the security services and a university in the city on Wednesday morning, Ukrainian emergency services said.
Strikes hit the regional headquarters of the security and police forces, as well as the university, according to the emergency services.
“There is no longer an area in Kharkiv where an artillery shell has not yet struck,” said Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister.
Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million inhabitants near the border with Russia, was already bombed on Tuesday, leaving several dead and injured. (AFP)12:08

Zelenskyy appeals to Jews around the world

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is appealing to Jews around the world to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in which significant Jewish sites have been hit.

Zelenskyy made the appeal on Wednesday, a day after a Russian missile strike damaged the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial on the outskirts of Kyiv, where Nazi occupiers killed more than 33,000 Jews over two days in 1941.

Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, said: “I appeal now to all the Jews of the world — don’t you see what is happening? Therefore, it is very important that millions of Jews around the world do not remain silent now.”

Earlier, shelling hit the town of Uman, a significant pilgrimage site for Hasidic Jews. (AP)

12:05

Kremlin ‘ready to resume talks’

The Kremlin says Russia is ready to resume talks with Ukrainian officials about the war.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “in the second half of the day, closer to evening, our delegation will be in place to await Ukrainian negotiators”. He said he would not say where such talks would take place.

There was no immediate word from Ukrainian authorities about their plans.

Peskov said Putin’s culture adviser Vladimir Medinsky remains the main negotiator for Russia.

The first round of talks on resolving the Russia-Ukraine war were held near the Belarus-Ukraine border last Sunday. They produced no breakthrough, though the two sides agreed to meet again.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin of trying to force him into concessions by continuing to press its invasion.

12:01

UK defence minister: Ukraine war ‘about to get worse’

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Wednesday that the “brutality” of the war in Ukraine “is about to get worse”.

Wallace said, based on evidence seen by the UK government so far, Russia would most likely start to “carpet bomb cities indiscriminately”.

“That is the brutality that I’m afraid we are witnessing and it’s going to get worse,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

Wallace also reiterated British opposition to imposing a no-fly zone, saying that it would force NATO pilots to shoot down Russian aircraft, which could spark a wider European war.

The latest UK intelligence assessment says Russia continued heavy artillery and airstrikes on the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Chernihiv in the last 24 hours.

The defence secretary also said the UK backed Canada in referring Russia to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes over its invasion of Ukraine. Wallace said the UK will collect evidence on the presence of thermobaric weapons, which he said had been deployed, though their use had not yet been verified.

On Monday, the ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced that he plans to open an investigation “as rapidly as possible” into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

11:57

Just in: Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy thanks UK

11:37

Kharkiv: ‘4 killed and 9 hurt’ in new bombardments as Russia targets city

At least four people were killed and nine others injured in Russian bombings that targeted the headquarters of the security services and a university in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Wednesday morning, Ukrainian emergency services said.
“So far ten people have been rescued from the rubble, the preliminary toll is four dead and nine injured,” the source continued in a message on social media as the country’s second-largest city came under attack from Russian armed forces.More than 20 people were killed on Tuesday in bombardments, including in the bombardment of the local government headquarters. (AFP)11:00

European natural gas price soars

The European reference price of natural gas, the Dutch FTT, soared on Wednesday to 194.715 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh) in an all-time high.The price hike was propelled by the war in Ukraine, with Russia being a major gas producer and exporter.The price of British gas for delivery next month reached 463.83 pence per thermie (one unit of heat quantity equal to 1000 kcal) — which is very close to its all-time high reached last December, at 470.83 pence.10:50

Brussels announces temporary residence permits for Ukrainian refugees in the EU

The European Union is moving toward granting temporary protection to those fleeing Russia’s invasion as it steps up aid for Ukraine.

The European Commission announced Wednesday it will give temporary residence permits to the refugees and allow them the right to education and work in the 27-nation bloc.

The move still has to be approved by the member states, but they already expressed broad support over the weekend.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “all those fleeing Putin’s bombs are welcome in Europe. We will provide protection to those seeking shelter and we will help those looking for a safe way home.”

On Tuesday, she already committed at least half a billion euros of the bloc’s budget to deal with the humanitarian consequences of the war in Ukraine.

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