Tuesday, March 28th, 2023

Brutal onslaught rages in Ukraine as Russia

Kyiv and Moscow (CNN)Fierce fighting for control of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson left dozens dead as Russia’s onslaught against multiple Ukrainian cities intensified Wednesday and fears over the civilian toll mounted.

More than 800,000 civilians have fled since the invasion began a week ago, with fears of further casualties increasing as Russian strikes hit built-up areas. Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reported “massive shelling and bombing” of the central part of Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, on Wednesday morning.
In other developments:

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Sounds of air raid sirens and a new explosion in Kyiv as night falls.
Fighting continues in the southern city of Mariupol, with residents reporting heavy shelling overnight.
Russian forces moving towards Kyiv, including a large Russian military convoy, “remain stalled,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday.
Western sanctions are dealing “serious blows” to Russia’s economy, the Kremlin said.
On Wednesday night, CNN teams on the ground heard air raid sirens in Ukraine’s third-largest city Odessa and the town of Uman, Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in the capital of Kyiv, a major heating pipeline was damaged as a result of a missile strike to the area of the Central Railway station in the evening, the country’s interior ministry said. The sound of the blast could be heard across the city, according to a CNN team, though the target of the strike was not clear.
Kyiv’s mayor Vitaly Klitschko said preliminary reports suggested there were no casualties in a blast, adding: “We are clarifying the details.”
Klitschko said in a Telegram post that despite shelling in a number of Kyiv suburbs Wednesday, “Thank God, there are no casualties.”
“The enemy was trying to breakthrough to our city, but Ukrainian defenders are repulsing the occupiers and defending our capital.”
It’s unclear what caused the blast near the station. An Interior Ministry adviser said the damage was caused by the falling wreckage of a cruise missile after it had been intercepted by Ukrainian air defense systems.
Kherson mayor indicates city has fallen
The mayor of Kherson, Ihor Kolykhaiev, said that the Ukrainian military is no longer in the city and that its inhabitants must now carry out the instructions of “armed people who came to the city’s administration” — indicating that the city has now fallen under Russian control.
The announcement on the mayor’s Facebook page late Wednesday follows several days of pressure on Kherson by Russian forces who had surrounded the city.
Kherson City Council said earlier in the day that least 36 people had been killed in an ongoing battle for control of the area.
Kherson is a strategically important city on an inlet from the Black Sea with a population of nearly 300,000. If Kherson is now under Russian control, it would be a significant turning point for the invading military — the first major city seized. Earlier Wednesday, Ukraine disputed Russian claims of control saying Ukrainians forces were still fighting in parts of the city. The new post said Ukrainian forces had left.
The mayor also told the New York Times in an interview that a group of about 10 armed Russian officers, including the commander of forces attacking the city, entered the city hall building Wednesday. He said he was informed by the Russian officers that they were planning to set up a new administration similar to those in two Russian-backed separatist statelets in eastern Ukraine, according to the NY Times interview.
Late Wednesday, Hennady Lahuta, the head of Kherson regional administration, issued a message saying: “I ask everyone who is not at home now, or who is planning to go outside, not to do so. The occupiers are in all areas of the city and are very dangerous.”

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Mayor Kolykhaiev did not explicitly say that the Russians controlled the city, but that “there were armed visitors in the city executive committee today.”
Strikes in Kharkiv
In Kharkiv, a Wednesday morning strike on the regional police department and Kharkiv National University left the buildings engulfed by fire, according to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service and videos geolocated by CNN.
Four people were killed and nine injured, the State Emergency Service said Wednesday, while rescuers pulled 10 people from the rubble.
New videos posted to social media early Wednesday and verified by CNN showed badly damaged buildings in western Kharkiv in an area with markets, stores and residential buildings.
In Kharkiv’s northern neighborhood of Saltivka, a school was the latest site of Russian military strikes on Wednesday, according to a video and photo posted to social media. CNN geolocated and confirmed the authenticity of the video and photo.
The school has been the site of repeated strikes in recent days.
Video from the scene shows a large hole in the wall of a school, rubble strewn across a courtyard and broken glass. “School number 17 of Kharkiv city,” a voice says in the video. “It flew right here, everything is in ruins, everything is fallen out, shell fragments everywhere, everything is in smoke.”
Fighting took place overnight between Russian and Ukrainian forces near a Kharkiv military hospital, the head of the local police told Ukraine’s public broadcaster, Suspilne News.

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It’s unclear how many Ukrainian civilians have been killed during the war. The UN on Tuesday reported at least 136 civilian deaths since Russia’s invasion started, but cautioned the toll is likely “much higher.” CNN could not independently verify this figure. Earlier today, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service issued a statement claiming more than 2,000 civilians had been killed, before removing it.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has previously said it is targeting only military infrastructure.

Police officers remove the body Wednesday of a passerby killed in an airstrike that hit Kyiv’s main television tower.

While the US and NATO allies have aided Ukraine by sharing arms, military equipment and intelligence, as well as imposing severe economic sanctions on Russia, the alliance has thus far made clear it has no plans to send soldiers into Ukrainian territory.
Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, has mounted a fierce resistance, but in a rare interview from a Kyiv bunker Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that his country — which has a much smaller military than Russia — needs more help to prevent the crisis from spreading across Europe.
“I’ve spoken to Biden many times,” Zelensky told CNN. “And I’ve told them many times that Ukraine will resist and fight stronger than anyone else but on our own against Russia we won’t manage it.”

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