Russian troops seized the strategically important city of Kherson, Ukrainian officials said, in a significant moment in the battle for the country’s south. Explosions struck the capital, Kyiv, and Russian troops continued to lay siege to Kharkiv.

Russian forces captured the strategically important hub of Kherson on Wednesday, Ukrainian officials said, making it the first major city to be overcome by President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces since the invasion began last Thursday.

The fall of Kherson — a city of 300,000 people, northwest of the Crimean peninsula — is significant because it would allow the Russians to control more of Ukraine’s southern coastline and to push west toward the city of Odessa.

Kherson’s mayor, Igor Kolykhaev, and a senior Ukrainian government official confirmed that Kherson had fallen. Russian forces had encircled the city, said Mr. Kolykhaev, and after days of intense fighting, Ukrainian forces retreated toward the nearby city of Mykolaiv.

“There is no Ukrainian Army here,” he said in an interview. “The city is surrounded.”

About 10 armed Russian officers, including the Russian commander, had entered city hall, Mr. Kolykhaev said, and had plans to establish a Russian administrative center there.

A senior Pentagon official said that Russian forces across Ukraine continued to suffer logistical problems and that Russia’s military leadership had become much more aggressive in targeting civilian infrastructure inside cities.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Attacks by Russian troops were reported on hospitals, schools and critical infrastructure in key cities in Ukraine’s south and east. Russian forces continued to lay siege to central Kharkiv, a city of 1.5 million in Ukraine’s northeast. A government building there was hit by an apparent rocket strike on Wednesday, and supplies of food and water were running low.
  • The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with 141 countries voting in favor. Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria voted against the measure. China, Iraq, India and Iran were among the 34 abstaining.
  • Russian forces appeared to be moving to encircle the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. A military convoy with hundreds of vehicles remained north of the city, a possible prelude to an assault. A senior U.S. defense official said the convoy appeared to have “made no appreciable movement closer to the city” over the past two days.
  • Overnight, Russian troops surrounded Mariupol, a port city in the southeast. More than 120 civilians were being treated for injuries in hospitals, the city’s mayor said, and residents baked 26 tons of bread to help people survive the coming onslaught. Residents lacked electricity and heat on Tuesday after days of intense fighting, according to the mayor.
  • President Biden predicted that the invasion of Ukraine would “leave Russia weaker and the world stronger” during a fiery State of the Union address on Tuesday night. He said that the United States would bar Russian planes from American airspace. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Wednesday that the United States was “keeping the door open to a diplomatic way forward” with Russia, but that officials remained skeptical.
  • A second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine was scheduled to take place on Wednesday. A meeting on Monday failed to make progress in ending the fighting.

For weeks, fear inside Ukraine had grown. But once Russia’s invasion began on Thursday, hitting the country from the north, east and south, the war became unavoidably tangible for Ukraine’s people.

This is a full-scale military conflict, a development that once seemed unimaginable in Europe in the post-Cold War era. These images are document a populace coping with the initial stages of an invasion, and struggling with uncertainty and fear.

Source : NYTimes


Kareem Rijal

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