“Russian occupiers continue to use heavy weaponry against the civilian population,” he said, adding that the number of victims was not yet known. He posted footage of the massive blast and debris inside the building.
Kharkiv, a largely Russian-speaking city near the Russian border, has a population of around 1.4 million. It has been a target for Russian forces since President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine last Thursday.
Separately, an official in the region of Sumy, which lies north of Kharkiv close to Russia’s border, said early on Monday that some 70 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in Russian shelling on a military facility in the area. “Many died. Currently, places are being prepared in the cemetery for about 70 dead Ukrainian soldiers,” Dmytro Zhyvytsky, the head of the Sumy region, wrote on Telegram after strikes on the town of Okhtyrka.
He posted images of charred buildings with caved-in walls and rescue workers digging through rubble. The Ukrainian military, however, has not confirmed the deaths. Russia has denied targeting civilian areas despite rockets landing in residential neighbourhoods. Ukraine says more than 350 civilians have been killed since Moscow launched the attack last week.
Satellite images taken on Monday show a Russian military convoy north of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv that stretches for about 40 miles (64 km), substantially longer than the 17 miles (27 km) reported earlier in the day, a U.S. private company said, according to a Reuters report. Maxar Technologies also said additional ground forces deployments and ground attack helicopter units were seen in southern Belarus, less than 20 miles (32 km) north of the Ukraine border.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressed confidence that NATO’s and the Western public’s silence on the situation in Donbass had resulted in a humanitarian and political disaster in Europe.
“NATO’s experiments and the deafening silence of the Western public – these are the reasons behind the humanitarian and political disaster in Europe. An end was to be put to this, since the West refused to conduct any negotiations whatsoever and welcomed aggressive statements and direct threats of Kiev puppets towards Russia,” the diplomat wrote on her Telegram channel, according to a report by RT.
Russia did not start a war; it is ending it, according to Zakharova. “Throughout these years, the Russian side has urged the international community to oppose the ongoing annihilation of the Donbass population. These are millions of people who were losing loved ones every day and were living in basements to escape the shelling,” she added.
Meanwhile, the United States said Monday that it was expelling 12 members of Russia’s UN mission from America for being “intelligence operatives,” prompting a furious response from Moscow, which denounced what it called a “hostile move.” A spokeswoman for the US mission to the UN said those ordered to leave had “abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”
“We are taking this action in accordance with the UN Headquarters Agreement. This action has been in development for several months,” said the spokeswoman, Olivia Dalton. Richard Mills, the US’s deputy ambassador to the UN, told a Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine that the dozen had engaged in non-diplomatic activities.
“Those diplomats that have been asked to leave the United States were engaged in activities that were not in accordance with their responsibilities and obligations as diplomats,” he said, without elaborating further. “This is a hostile move against our country,” Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, said on Facebook, adding that Moscow was “deeply disappointed” and “totally rejected” the US claims.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia — who has not been targeted for himself for expulsion — informed reporters of the decision first in a highly unusual way. While giving a press conference ahead of the UN meeting, Nebenzia asked reporters for a minute to answer a telephone message. He then revealed that he had just learned of the expulsion order issued by the United States.
A Russian diplomatic source later told AFP that the expulsion decision did not target either the ambassador or his two senior deputies, Dmitry Polyanskiy and Anna Evstigneeva. “It’s bad news,” said Nebenzia, adding that the staff in question were to leave the country by March 7.
The Russian mission to the UN has around 100 staff, according to a Russian diplomatic source. The announcement of the expulsion came on the last day of Russia’s rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, which changes every month. Russia is to cede the presidential seat to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.
The Russian diplomatic mission planned a reception later Monday to mark the end of its presidency, which has been marked, unprecedentedly, by its launch of a war against a neighboring country. “It is not clear that there will be many guests,” one ambassador told AFP on condition of anonymity about this event which, unusually, no journalists were invited to attend.
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