• Western sanctions against Russia are on the rise
  • Ukraine says 70 servicemen killed by artillery in Okhtyrka
  • Turkey seals straits to warships of warring countries

KIEV/MOSCOW, March 1 (Reuters) – A Russian armored column slammed into Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Tuesday and invading forces fired barrages of rockets into the center of the country’s second-largest city, on the sixth day of the Russian assault on its western neighbour.

Rocket fire on central Kharkiv killed at least 10 people and injured 35, said Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko. Similar strikes killed and injured dozens of people in the city the day before.

“The rubble is being cleared away and there will be even more casualties and injuries,” he said.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has declared the artillery barrages on Kharkiv to be state terrorism.

Nearly a week after Russian troops crossed the border, they failed to capture a single major Ukrainian city after encountering fierce resistance. The civilian deaths of the past 48 hours were an ominous sign that frustrated Russian commanders might resort to more devastating tactics.

Russia still has more forces to throw in the fight, even as President Vladimir Putin faces global condemnation and international sanctions for his actions, which have shattered the post-Cold War peace in Europe.

Oil company Shell has become the latest Western company to announce its withdrawal from Russia. Sanctions and global financial isolation have already had a devastating impact on the Russian economy, with the ruble plummeting and queues outside banks as Russians rush to save their savings.

Zelenskiy’s government remained in control of Kiev on Tuesday, with soldiers and civilians ready to fight the invaders street by street.

But images released by US satellite company Maxar showed Russian tanks, artillery and tankers stretching 60 km along a highway to the north.

“For the enemy, Kiev is the key target,” Zelenskiy, who remained in the capital to rally the Ukrainians, said in an overnight message. “We will neutralize them all.”

Russian troops fired artillery at Kiev, Kharkiv and the southern port city of Mariupol overnight while the Ukrainian side shot down Russian military jets around the capital, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said during a briefing. briefing.

Ukrainian authorities also reported 70 soldiers killed in a rocket attack in a town between Kiev and Kharkiv.

Zelenskiy, addressing the European Parliament via video link a day after signing a formal application to join the European Union, urged the bloc to prove it sided with Ukraine.

“Prove that you won’t let us go. Prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will prevail over death and light will overcome darkness. Glory to Ukraine,” he said. in a moving speech.

RISK FOR CIVILIANS

In Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Kremlin will continue its military operation in Ukraine until it achieves its goals. It was aimed at protecting itself from threats created by the West, and Russia was not occupying Ukrainian territory, the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update that the Russian advance on Kiev had made little progress in the past 24 hours, likely due to logistical problems. But he also warned of a change in Russian tactics that could worsen the plight of civilians.

“The use of heavy artillery in densely populated urban areas greatly increases the risk of civilian casualties,” he said.

Kharkiv, a predominantly Russian-speaking city of 1.5 million people near the Russian border, has suffered the brunt of the attacks since Monday. Read more

Human rights groups and Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States have accused Russia of using cluster bombs and vacuum bombs, weapons condemned by many organizations.

The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian losses included 5,710 men, 29 destroyed and damaged aircraft and 198 tanks, all figures which could not be verified.

Russia did not give a full account of its battlefield losses, but footage from Ukraine showed burnt Russian tanks and bodies on the road where they were attacked by Ukrainian defenders.

Talks held on the Belarusian border on Monday did not lead to a breakthrough. Negotiators did not specify when a new round will take place.

“I SAW THE WAR”

More than 660,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries such as Poland and Romania, the UN refugee agency said.

At the Hungarian border post of Tiszabecs, a mother cradled a baby in her arms after a four-day drive from Kiev.

“I saw war, I saw rockets,” said her eldest son Ivan, 15, who looked exhausted and pale after the trip. His father had stayed to fight.

At the United Nations, the General Assembly convened ahead of a vote to isolate Russia, deploring Moscow’s “aggression against Ukraine” and demanding that its troops stop fighting and withdraw.

Putin’s Russia faces near-total international isolation, with the notable exception of China, following his decision to launch what he called a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and capture “neo-Nazis and drug addicts” who run it.

Most devastating for Russia have been the sanctions imposed on its central bank that prevent it from using its war chest of $630 billion in foreign exchange reserves to support the rouble. The currency clawed back some losses on Tuesday after hitting a record low on Monday.

Read more

Oil companies Shell (SHEL.L), BP and Norway’s Equinor (EQNR.OL) said they would exit positions in Russia, which depends on oil and gas for export revenue. Read more

Canada has said it will ban imports of Russian crude oil and Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has urged the Biden administration to target Russia’s energy sector with sanctions.

Major banks, airlines and automakers have ended partnerships, halted shipments and called Russia’s actions unacceptable. Read more

Mastercard said it blocked several financial institutions from its payment network following sanctions against Russia and Visa (VN) said it would also take action. Read more

Three major studios, Sony, Disney and Warner Bros., have said they will suspend theatrical releases of upcoming films in Russia while FIFA and the International Olympic Committee ban Russian teams and athletes from competing. Read more

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a disarmament meeting in Geneva via video link on Tuesday that Ukraine was seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, a “real danger” that required a Russian response. Dozens of diplomats from the European Union, United States and Britain left his speech.

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Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Kyiv; Natalia Zinets, Matthias Williams and Pavel Polityuk in Lviv; Kevin Liffey and Mark Trevelyan in London; and other Reuters offices, including Moscow; Written by Peter Graff and Angus MacSwan; Editing by Nick Macfie and Peter Graff

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