Russian missiles and artillery fire have continued pounding several Ukrainian cities, as Moscow’s slow advance continued for its 19th day and officials from the two sides held a new round of negotiations.
Amid the heavy bombardment, Russian forces regrouped around the capital, Kyiv, and also in Ukraine’s south and east in a bid to deal with logistical challenges exacerbated by Ukrainian counterattacks and poor planning.
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Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry said Russian naval forces have established a “distant blockade” of Ukraine’s strategic Black Sea coast, effectively isolating it from international maritime trade.
People fleeing to Kyiv
A residential building in northern Kyiv’s Obolon area was hit by Russian strikes in the early hours of Monday, killing at least one person and wounding 12 others, including three who required hospital treatment, according to Ukrainian authorities. The figures could not be independently verified.
As Kyiv braces for an all-out assault, its Mayor Vitali Klitschko told Al Jazeera the capital will “never give up” and Russian forces will “never ever” be able to take it.
Half of the city’s four-million population has already fled, but more people from surrounding areas that are likely to become active combat zones are trying to reach the capital. Sixteen buses with local residents were evacuated from the village of Nemishayeve, while eight more departed from the village of Dmytrivka.
Shelling, meanwhile, continued causing widespread damage in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, as well as in Sumy and the blockaded port city of Mariupol, where conditions remain dire. Still, more than 160 civilian cars were able to leave Mariupol after several failed attempts at evacuating residents from the key southern city.
Military activity in the south
In the Melitopol area, in southeastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian army said it had destroyed a Russian convoy consisting of 200 units of armoured hardware. The claim could not be independently verified.
A little to the north, Russian forces were accused of bombing a bridge near Kamenskoye, cutting off transport and supply links between Zaporizhzhia and Enerhodar.
Deaths reported in Donetsk
Further east, pro-Russia separatists said fragments from a downed Ukrainian Tochka-U 9M79-1 tactical ballistic missile fell in the city centre of Donetsk, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 20. Ukraine denied responsibility.
In Luhansk, meanwhile, local Governor Serhii Haidai accused Russian forces of destroying “residents and settlements” in the province and warned that “ghost towns” were being created due to the ongoing attacks.
Russia not ruling out taking ‘full control’ of major cities
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin initially had ordered troops “not to assault the cities immediately, including Kyiv”, citing the large number of casualties that would be caused amid “the deployment of weapons by militants in the cities”.
However, Peskov added that the defence ministry now did not exclude “the possibility of taking major population centres under full control”, while “ensuring the maximum safety” of civilians.