A series of powerful explosions shook the residential areas of Kiev early Tuesday, killing two people just hours before talks between Ukraine and Russia were to resume.
At least three large explosions were heard from the center of the capital, sending columns of smoke high into the sky.
As dawn broke, the damage became apparent, with one blow hitting a large 16-storey residential block.
There, a fire raged and smoke billowed from the building’s charred shell as emergency services and stunned locals navigated an obstacle course of glass, metal and other debris on the road.
“The bodies of two people were recovered, 27 people were rescued,” the Ukrainian emergency service said.
Another residential building in the Podilsk area was also attacked.
Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko posted a photo of a fire crew putting out a smoldering fire there – the building’s facade turned into a mess of bent and tangled window frames and dangerously dangling air conditioning units.
Vasylenko said the neighborhood had been “a place to have coffee and enjoy life. Not anymore. Explosive hit just 30 minutes ago.”
Hours earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — with his now trademark military-green crewneck — released a new video speech in which he displayed a tone of cautious optimism about the ongoing peace talks.
He claimed that Russia was beginning to realize that victory would not come on the battlefield.
“They’re already starting to understand that war won’t get them anywhere,” Zelensky said.
“Pretty good, as I’ve been told,” he said of Monday’s first discussion day. ‘Let’s see. They will continue tomorrow.’
The two sides are still far apart in negotiations, with Moscow demanding Ukraine turn its back on the West and recognize Moscow-backed breakaway regions.
Ukrainian negotiators say they want “peace, an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops”.
Nearly three weeks after huge columns of Russian troops crossed the border, Moscow’s troops bombed and besieged several Ukrainian cities.
The capital Kiev is surrounded to the north and east and nearly half of its population of three million has fled. Only roads to the south remain open, city authorities have set up checkpoints and residents stock up on food and medicine.
The United Nations estimates that nearly 2.8 million people have fled Ukraine and that about 636 civilians have died, including dozens of children. The real toll is probably much higher.
Russia’s military progress has been slow and costly, with Moscow apparently underestimating the strength of the Ukrainian resistance.
Many military experts believe that the Russian military now needs time to regroup and resupply its troops, paving the way for a possible pause or slowdown in the fighting.
The head of the Russian National Guard Viktor Zolotov has reportedly admitted that the operation “didn’t go as fast as we would like”, but said victory would come step by step.
Moscow has reportedly turned to Beijing for military and economic aid — what one US official said was several hours of “very candid” talks between senior US and Chinese officials.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday that his country does not want to be affected by Western sanctions against Russia as US pressure mounts on Beijing to withdraw aid from Moscow.
“China is not a party to the crisis and wants to be even less affected by the sanctions,” Wang said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his troops to “stop any immediate attack on major cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, citing “civil losses” as the reason for halting an attack.
He added, however, that the Defense Department “doesn’t rule out” the possibility of taking major cities “completely under control”.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s allies have pressured Putin’s regime with unprecedented economic sanctions, and the Kremlin faces domestic pressure despite widespread censorship of the war.
During Russia’s most-watched evening newscast on Monday, a deviant employee entered the studio with a poster that read “Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda.”
An opposition protest monitor said the woman, an editor at the tightly controlled state broadcaster Channel One, was detained after the highly unusual security breach.
†Shooting in Kyiv
Across Ukraine, the Russian invasion continues to take a bloody toll, ravaging cities and ensuring that many lives will never be the same.
“They say he was burned too badly, that I won’t recognize him,” sobbed Lidiya Tikhovska, 83, staring at the spot where a paramedic said her son Vitaliy’s remains lay after a rocket attack in Kiev.
“I wish Russia the same grief I feel now,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks as she clung to her grandson’s elbow for support.
A Fox News correspondent — Britain’s Benjamin Hall — was injured and hospitalized while reporting on the outskirts of town, the network said, a day after an American journalist was shot dead in a suburb of Irpin. Kyiv.
Meanwhile, Russian forces have besieged southern Mariupol, where officials say nearly 2,200 people have died.
In a ray of hope for the inhabitants of the besieged port city, more than 160 civilian cars were able to leave on a humanitarian evacuation route on Monday after several failed attempts.
Meanwhile, Moscow-backed separatists said fragments of a shot down Ukrainian Tochka-U missile ripped through the center of the eastern city of Donetsk, killing 23 people.
Moscow called it a “war crime” and rebels published images of bloody corpses lying in the streets.
But the Ukrainian army denied firing a missile at the city, with Ukrainian army spokesman Leonid Matyukhin saying in a statement: “It is undeniably a Russian missile or other munitions.”
‘World War III’
Ukrainian leader Zelensky on Monday renewed his call for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over his country — a day after at least 35 people were killed in Russian airstrikes near the border with NATO member Poland.
“If you don’t close our skies, it’s only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall on your territory, on NATO territory, on the homes of NATO citizens,” Zelensky said in a video address.
He will likely repeat that call on Wednesday when he delivers a high-profile virtual speech to both chambers of Congress.
President Joe Biden and America’s NATO allies have so far consistently refused, arguing that any attempt to impose a no-fly zone would put them in direct conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.
Instead, Washington and its EU allies have poured money and military aid into Ukraine and imposed unprecedented economic sanctions on Russia.
In Biden’s words, NATO fighting Russia “is World War III”.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has again sounded the alarm about the dangers of a possible confrontation between nuclear powers – a prospect “once unimaginable” but “now back within the realm of possibility”.
And he warned that the war was already threatening to lead to a “collapse of the global food system” – with both Ukraine and Russia vital suppliers of wheat to dozens of the world’s least developed countries.
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)