Beleaguered Ukrainians hope that renewed diplomatic talks with Moscow could pave the way for the evacuation of more civilians, as Russian forces maintain pressure on the capital.
Overnight, Russian forces fired artillery at the northwestern outskirts of Kiev, a major political and strategic target for the invasion, as well as at points east of the city, the leader said. of the regional administration Oleksiy Kuleba on Ukrainian television.
A city councilor from Brovary, east of Kyiv, was killed in fighting there and shells fell on the towns of Irpen, Bucha and Hostomel, which saw some of the worst fighting in the stalled attempt to Russia to take the capital, Kuleba said.
Artillery hit a nine-story building in a northern neighborhood of the city early Monday morning, destroying apartments on several floors and starting a fire. The state emergency agency, which released footage of the smoking building, said it had no immediate reports of casualties.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff said Monday morning that Russian troops had made no major advances in the past 24 hours, despite expanding strikes westward.
In one such attack, Russian missiles pounded a military base in western Ukraine on Sunday, killing 35 people in an attack on a facility that served as a crucial hub for cooperation between Ukraine and the NATO countries supporting its defence.
This raised the possibility that the alliance could be drawn into the fight. The attack was also fraught with symbolism in a conflict that has reignited old Cold War rivalries and threatened to rewrite the current global security order.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called it a “dark day” and again urged NATO leaders to establish a no-fly zone over the country, a plea the West says could escalate into a nuclear confrontation.
“If you don’t close our skies, it’s only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall on your territory…NATO territory…On the homes of the citizens of the countries of the NATO,” Zelensky said, urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him. directly, an unanswered request from the Kremlin.
A fourth round of talks is expected Monday between Ukrainian and Russian officials via video conference to discuss aid to towns and villages under fire, among other issues, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said.
The talks will involve the same high-level officials who met earlier in Belarus, with the aim of “assessing the preliminary results” of the talks so far, Mr Podolyak said. Previous talks have failed to produce major breakthroughs or a solution to deliver aid or evacuation convoys to the desperate and strategic city of Mariupol.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden is sending his national security adviser to Rome to meet with a Chinese official over fears Beijing is amplifying Russian disinformation and could help Moscow evade Western economic sanctions.
The UN has recorded at least 596 civilian deaths, though it estimates the true toll to be much higher, and Ukraine’s attorney general’s office said at least 85 children were among them. Millions more people have fled their homes amid Europe’s biggest land dispute since World War II.
Since their invasion more than two weeks ago, Russian forces have struggled to advance through Ukraine, facing stronger-than-expected resistance, bolstered by support from Western weapons. Instead, Russian forces besieged and pounded several towns, hitting two dozen medical facilities and creating a series of humanitarian crises.
That fight spilled over Sunday to the sprawling Yavoriv facility, which has long been used to train Ukrainian soldiers, often with instructors from the United States and other Western alliance countries. More than 30 Russian cruise missiles targeted the site. In addition to the dead, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said 134 people were injured in the attack.
The base is less than 24 km from the Polish border and appears to be the westernmost target hit during the 18-day Russian invasion. It has hosted NATO training exercises, making it a potent symbol of Russia’s longstanding fears that the expansion of the 30-member Western military alliance to include former Soviet states threatens its security – which NATO denies. Yet the perceived threat from NATO is central to Moscow’s justifications for the war, and it has demanded that Ukraine abandon its ambitions to join the alliance.
Ina Padi, a 40-year-old Ukrainian woman who crossed the border with her family, was sheltering in a fire station in Wielkie Oczy, Poland, when she was awakened on Sunday morning by explosions that rattled her windows.
“I understood at that moment, even if we are freed from it, (the war) still pursues us,” she said.
Russian fighters also fired at the airport in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk, located 94 miles north of Romania and 155 miles from Hungary, two other NATO allies.
NATO said on Sunday it currently has no personnel in Ukraine, although the United States has increased the number of American troops deployed in Poland. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the West would react if Russian strikes traveled outside Ukraine and hit NATO members, even accidentally.
Ukrainian and European leaders have lobbied with limited success for Russia to grant safe passage to civilians trapped in the fighting. Ukrainian authorities said on Sunday that more than 10 humanitarian corridors were to open, including from the beleaguered port city of Mariupol. But those promises repeatedly crumbled and no one said late Sunday whether people could use the escape routes.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the suffering in Mariupol was “simply immense” and that hundreds of thousands of people faced extreme shortages of food, water and medicine.
“Corpses, both civilians and combatants, remain trapped under the rubble or lie in the open where they fell,” the Red Cross said in a statement. “Life-changing injuries and chronic, debilitating conditions cannot be treated.”
The fight for Mariupol is crucial because its capture could help Russia establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.