Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russian forces of committing acts of terror, as the Kremlin stepped up its offensive despite a barrage of sanctions directed at Moscow.
Russian troops continued to shell military and civilian facilities alike, the Ukrainian General Staff HQ said Tuesday morning, as satellite images showed a massive Russian column of armor on the road to Kyiv. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it plans to strike Ukrainian security service targets inside the capital to take out the source of “information attacks,” according to Interfax.
The latest developments suggest an escalation in the conflict, with Ukraine pointing to a dangerous shift in approach by Russia. The prime minister of Lithuania, a Baltic state that is a member of the European Union, warned of an impending humanitarian disaster as a result, both inside Ukraine and across its borders.
As light cleared on the sixth day after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Russia’s neighbor, video published on social media showed a missile striking the main square of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, as cars drove across it.
“It is terror against the city,” Zelenskiy said, adding that there were no Ukrainian military forces on the square. He called on the world to condemn “the new tactics” of Russia’s forces, saying that they want to do the same to the capital.
European stocks and U.S. futures sank while oil pushed higher on signs the war was taking a new turn, potentially for the worse. The Moscow stock market remained closed for a second day after Russia’s economy was hammered by waves of sanctions imposed by the U.S., the European Union, Japan and others.
The Kremlin’s international isolation only grew as the EU discussed the exclusion of seven Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system, and the U.K. indicated it may follow. Speaking during a visit to Poland, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. is examining how “we can tighten up yet further” restrictions on SWIFT.
Ukraine’s authorities said that Russian forces entered the southern city of Kherson, and were shelling residential buildings. In Kyiv, an office building belonging to Yara International ASA of Norway, one of the world’s major fertilizer makers, was struck by a missile. No employees were injured, the company said Tuesday, adding that it is “extremely concerned about the grave situation unfolding.”
Putin has said that he wants to “demilitarize” Ukraine and remove its democratically elected leadership in favor of an administration more favorable to the Kremlin. Russia says it isn’t targeting civilian structures.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the armed forces will continue their “military operation” in Ukraine until they meet their goals, Interfax reported. It cited Shoigu as saying that Russia is hitting Ukrainian military infrastructure with high-precision weapons, and isn’t occupying Ukrainian territory.
Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.K., told Parliament in London that the Kharkiv administration was still trying to get the wounded out from under the rubble after Russia’s bombardment of a military establishment that he said resulted in 70 dead. “The losses are enormous,” Prystaiko said.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte warned that the magnitude of scale of the shelling is bound to lead to increased numbers of people fleeing. The United Nations said on Monday that more than 500,000 people had fled to neighboring countries, and the numbers have continued to rise since.
“Should such operations continue — and there’s grounds to believe that these war crimes will continue — we will see more refugees,” Simonyte told reporters. “This may lead to a huge humanitarian disaster.”
A majority of delegates attending a regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council walked out Tuesday as Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov made his intervention. Lavrov spoke by video because he couldn’t fly to Geneva after Switzerland and the EU closed their airspace to Russian flights.
Zelenskiy, addressing the European Parliament later on Tuesday, reiterated his call on the EU to fast-track membership for Kyiv, saying that the 27-nation bloc would be stronger with Ukraine.
Question of Survival
While EU accession is likely to be years off, several members have voiced their approval. Tuesday meanwhile brought more evidence of European attitudes undergoing a step change in response to the attack on Ukraine.
In Bulgaria, an EU member with deep historical and economic ties to Russia, the war in Ukraine has changed public opinion “dramatically,” turning it against Putin, pollster Alpha Research said in a statement. Some 63% of respondents to a flash poll of 500 people conducted Feb. 28 said they were in favor of EU countries uniting to impose heavier sanctions against Russia and to help Ukraine.
Sweden wants a thorough investigation of potential war crimes, further isolation of Russia and EU funds redirected to reconstruction, EU minister Hans Dahlgren said.
The so-called Weimar Triangle format for meetings between Germany, France and Poland that was almost redundant amid EU disputes with the nationalist government in Warsaw has been reinvigorated.
“With his military attack, Putin is showing that he no longer respects any rules,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement before leaving for Lodz in Poland to meet with her French and Polish counterparts. “That makes our unity a question of survival for Europe.”
–With assistance from Tony Halpin, Greg Sullivan, Lyubov Pronina, Milda Seputyte, Iain Rogers, Megan Durisin, Liezel Hill, Kitty Donaldson and Bryce Baschuk.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)