KYIV: Ukraine's besieged cities were bracing for more attacks on Wednesday (Mar 2) as Russian commanders facing fierce Ukrainian resistance intensify their bombardment of urban areas in a push toward the capital Kyiv.
Already shunned by the West over its nearly week-long invasion of Ukraine, Russia has shown no sign of stopping an assault that has included strikes on Kyiv and rocket attacks in the second city of Kharkiv. Dozens have been killed.
Facing emboldened Ukrainian troops bolstered by citizens taking up arms, Russia has failed to capture a single city since its full-scale invasion began nearly a week ago.
Western analysts say Russia has fallen back on tactics that call for devastating built-up areas before entering them.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled the fighting as a miles-long Russian military convoy north of Kyiv advances toward the city.
West of Kyiv, in the city of Zhytomyr, four people, including a child, were killed on Tuesday by a Russian cruise missile, a Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn global condemnation and sanctions that have sent the rouble to historic lows and forced Russians to queue outside banks for their savings.
Putin ordered the "special military operation" last Thursday in a bid to disarm Ukraine, capture the "neo-Nazis" he says are running the country and pull it firmly into Russia's orbit and away from the United States and its NATO partners.
Ukraine, which is not a member of the military alliance, has called on NATO to implement a no-fly zone - a request rejected by the US, which fears stoking a direct conflict between the world's two biggest nuclear powers.
Washington and its allies have instead sent weapons to Kyiv, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the US had agreed with partners to convene a task force "to freeze and seize the assets of key Russian elites".
The move "will inflict financial pain on the powerful individuals surrounding Putin and make clear that no one is beyond our collective reach," Yellen said in a statement following a Tuesday call with Group of Seven officials.
'STOP BOMBING PEOPLE'
The West has imposed heavy sanctions on Russia to shut off its economy from the global financial system, pushing international companies to halt sales, cut ties, and dump tens of billions of dollars' worth of investments.
Western countries have moved to ban Russian planes from their airspace, and US President Joe Biden was expected to announce a similar ban during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night in Washington, a source familiar with the situation said.
The heaviest Russian bombardment so far appeared to be around Kharkiv, a city near the border with Russia that is Ukraine's second-largest.
A Russian strategic bomber fired 16 high-precision guided missiles toward a residential area of Kharkiv on Monday, Ukraine's defence ministry said.
"According to preliminary data, dozens of Kharkiv residents, including children, died from these airstrikes," the ministry said on its Facebook page.
In Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking city of Donetsk, in territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists, local authorities said three civilians had been killed by Ukrainian shelling.
The self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, recognised as independent by Moscow last week, was one of the transit points used by Russian forces that invaded Ukraine.
Reuters was not able to confirm any of the incidents or reports of casualties. The United Nations human rights chief says over 100 civilians have been killed in the invasion but feared the real number of people is much higher.
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met over a ceasefire on Monday but talks broke down with no further rounds yet announced.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday that Russia must "first stop bombing people" before talks could make any headway.
Zelenskyy, who has been staying in a heavily guarded government compound in Kyiv, warns that the capital remains Russia's main target. Residents have been sheltering in underground metro stations at night for fear of attacks.
"We resist the invasive aggression," Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter late on Tuesday, after thanking Western leaders for their support. "Today, more than ever, it is important for us to feel that we are not alone."