Ukraine’s president has condemned Russia’s escalating attacks on crowded cities as a blatant campaign of terror, while U.S. President Joe Biden has warned that if the Russian leader doesn’t “pay a price” for the invasion, the aggression won’t be limited to one country.
“No one will forgive. No one will forget,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed after Tuesday’s bloodshed in the central square of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, and the deadly bombing of a TV tower in the capital.
The president described the attack on the square as “terrorism in the open” and a war crime.
The attack on Kharkiv continued on Wednesday, as Russia said it was ready to resume talks on the war with Ukrainian officials in the evening. A Russian attack hit the headquarters of Ukrainian regional intelligence and police in the city, according to the state emergency service in Ukraine, which reported three injured.
The attack ripped off the roof and left the top floor on fire. Parts of the five-story building were scattered on nearby streets, according to videos and photos released by the emergency service.
Biden used his first State of the Union address to highlight the determination of a revitalized Western alliance that has taken steps to resupply the Ukrainian military with weapons and cripple the Russian economy through sanctions. The sanctions, he said, have left Russian President Vladimir Putin “more isolated in the world than he has ever been.”
“Throughout our history, we’ve learned this lesson: When dictators don’t pay the price for their aggression, they cause more chaos,” Biden said. “They continue to move forward and the costs and threats to the United States and the world continue to rise.”
As Biden spoke, a 64-kilometer (40-mile) convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles was slowly advancing toward Kyiv, a city of nearly three million people. The West feared the contingent was part of Putin’s attempt to overthrow the government and install a Kremlin-friendly regime.
Russian forces also redoubled their assault on other cities and towns, including the strategic ports of Odesa and Mariupol in the south.
At dawn on the seventh day of the war, Russia was increasingly isolated, hit by sanctions that have hit its economy and left the country virtually friendless, except for a few countries such as China, Belarus, and North Korea.
Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, announced on Wednesday its withdrawal from European markets over-tightening Western sanctions.
As the fighting continued, the humanitarian situation worsened. Some 660,000 people have fled Ukraine and many more have taken refuge underground.
The death toll was unclear, as neither Russia nor Ukraine gave figures for fallen troops. The United Nations human rights office said it had recorded 136 civilian deaths. The actual figure was likely to be much higher.
A senior Western intelligence official estimated that 5,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or captured in the largest land war on record in Europe since World War II.
Many military experts fear that Russia may be changing tactics. Moscow’s strategy in Chechnya and Syria was to employ artillery and aerial bombardment to pulverize cities and wipe out the resolve of rival fighters.
Britain’s Defence Ministry said it had recorded an increase in Russian air and artillery strikes on urban areas over the past two days. He also noted that Kharkiv and Mariupol were surrounded by Russian forces and that troops had reportedly reached the center of a third city, Kherson. The Russian Defense Ministry said they had taken Kherson, though it was not possible to confirm it.