Russian forces fired a projectile at a government building in the central square of Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv on Tuesday morning, a day after dozens of victims were reportedly killed by other strikes in the city.
“This is terror against Ukraine. There were no military targets in the square – nor are they in those residential districts of Kharkiv which come under rocket artillery fire,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
Cartoons on Ukraine and Russia
And Russian defense officials said strikes were imminent in Kyiv, again claiming they would pursue intelligence and communications targets in order to “thwart informational attacks against Russia.”
But the message contained an ominous warning for Ukrainian civilians.
“We urge Ukrainian citizens involved by Ukrainian nationalists in provocations against Russia, as well as Kiev residents living near relay stations, to leave their homes,” the Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement to Tass, the Russian state news service.
Moscow’s advance has come at a cost, with Western intelligence officials reportedly estimating the number of Russians killed or captured at 5,000 along with significant losses of aircraft, tanks and equipment, alongside enormous economic consequences for the country amid coordinated sanctions from Western countries.
Zelenskyy, looking to further cement Western support, delivered an emotional appeal Tuesday to the European Parliament in a speech condemning Russia’s latest moves and requesting entry into the EU that caused a translator to choke up and elicited a standing ovation from members.
“The European Union is going to be much stronger with us, that’s for sure,” Zelenskyy said. “We have proven our strength. We have proven that at a minimum, we are exactly the same as you are. So do prove that you are with us. Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you indeed are Europeans. And then life will win over death and light will win over darkness.”
The remarks came after Zelenskyy formally signed an application for membership into the EU on Monday and as the heads of eight central and eastern European nations called on member states to immediately grant Ukraine an EU candidate country status.
“We, the Presidents of the EU member states: the Republic of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Poland, the Slovak Republic, and the Republic of Slovenia strongly believe that Ukraine deserves receiving an immediate EU accession perspective,” the leaders wrote in a letter obtained by Reuters.
Meanwhile, around 100 diplomats walked out of a speech by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, according to The New York Times, protesting the country’s invasion of Ukraine as opposition from Western countries has intensified in recent days.
But on the sixth day of the invasion, the Russians appeared to be ramping up their efforts and closing in on many of Ukraine’s major cities, as satellite images captured by U.S. firm Maxar Technologie showed a 40-mile long convoy approaching the capital Kyiv.
In the first five days of Russia’s invasion, at least 136 civilians were killed, according to the U.N. Human Rights office. And the U.N.’s refugee agency is warning that Europe will soon face its largest refugee crisis this century, with at least 660,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine since the attack began.
The developments come as Western security officials said on Monday that Ukrainians were still putting up a strong resistance against Russia’s attack – to the point where President Vladimir Putin’s forces could be a “few days behind” on their plans to subjugate the former Soviet state.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Monday that he could not speak to the specifics of Russia’s ground status but noted that Ukrainians are “resisting quite effectively around Kyiv” and have “made it a tough slog for the Russians to move further south.”
“You’ve got to hand it to the Ukrainians who have been fighting very hard for their country and making an impact and making a dent on Putin’s abilities,” Kirby said.