Moscow claims control of first major Ukrainian city as fighting enters second week

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


Russia has claimed it has seized control of its first major city in Ukraine following another intense night of fighting and mass destruction in several Ukrainian cities. The southern port city of Kherson has reportedly become the first major city in the country to be taken over by Russian forces, a significant victory for Moscow following a string of military setbacks. 

Meanwhile, the city of Mariupol is now surrounded by Russian forces. Ukrainian officials fear there are mass casualties following more than 15 hours of nonstop shelling and “terrifying fighting.” Russia also continues its campaign of terror on Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, striking residential areas and police and university buildings. Meanwhile, Ukrainian media has reported numerous explosions in the capital of Kyiv, accompanied by fierce fighting on the outskirts of the city, according to updates by AP and MSN.

Additional reports say two cruise missiles struck a hospital in the northern city of Chernihiv, damaging the facility’s main building. Authorities have not yet released a casualty toll.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians to keep up the resistance in an overnight video address. 

“We are a people who in a week have destroyed the plans of the enemy,” Zelenskyy said. “They will have no peace here. They will have no food. They will have here not one quiet moment.”

Moscow, meanwhile, released its first declared death toll since the invasion began Feb. 24, claiming 498 of its troops have been killed in Ukraine, though U.S. and British intelligence suggest the number is much higher. Ukraine’s State Emergency Service has said more than 2,000 civilians have died.

Second round of talks to take place in Belarus

A second round of face-to-face talks between delegations from Russia and Ukraine are expected to take place in Belarus today, with little hope that they will be fruitful in terms of a ceasefire. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday said his country was ready for talks to resume but insinuated that the talks will be fruitless, as Russia’s demands have not changed, and that Ukraine would not accept any ultimatums. 

UN overwhelmingly condemns Russia

Meanwhile, the U.N. General Assembly passed a historic resolution Wednesday condemning Russia’s invasion and calling on Moscow to immediately withdraw its troops from Ukraine. According to Reuters, 114 countries supported the measure, with five nations voting against it, including Russia, North Korea, Belarus, Syria, and Eritrea. Thirty-five members, including China, abstained. 

“The evil will never stop. It requires more and more space,” Ukraine’s U.N. envoy, Sergiy Kyslytsa, said in a speech given ahead of the resolution, calling it “one of the building blocks to build a wall to stop” the Russian offensive. 

Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vassily Nebenzia, accused the West of exerting pressure on assembly members to pass the resolution, adding that doing so would serve to fuel further violence. He also denied that Moscow is targeting civilians. Nebenzia also doubled down on Russia’s assertion that its military action is in response to purported attacks on civilians in the Moscow-backed Donetsk and Luhansk republics in eastern Ukraine. 

U.S. announces more sanctions

In Washington, meanwhile, the White House announced additional sanctions against Russia and Belarus, including extending export controls targeting Russian oil refineries and entities that support both countries’ militaries.

The administration says the measure “will help prevent diversion of items, technologies, and software through Belarus to Russia and…degrade both countries’ ability to sustain their military aggression and project power,” according to a White House Fact Sheet. The U.S. has also joined Europe and Canada in closing off its airspace to Russian airlines.

President Biden has made a point of repeatedly asserting that the U.S. will not put American boots on the ground in Ukraine, though the country has never asked for this. Instead, Ukrainian officials are urging world leaders to continue providing them with defensive weapons, economic aid, and are calling for the U.S. and European countries to cut political and economic ties with Russia.

President Biden is expected to meet with his cabinet today to discuss the ongoing crisis, and a congressional delegation is heading to the Ukrainian border as frustration mounts over an aid package that remains stalled in the House over questions of size and where the money will come from.

In another development, the Pentagon has canceled a scheduled nuclear missile test today in an effort to “show restraint.”