Putin toughens invasion with shelling of strategic enclaves in Ukrainian capital

EU backs Zelenski as Russia closes in on Kiev

photo_camera AFP/ JOHN THYS - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (C) applauds Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L), shown on a screen as he speaks via video conference during a special plenary session of the European Parliament focusing on Russia's invasion of Ukraine at the EU headquarters in Brussels, 1 March 2022

Ukraine dawned at war on Tuesday for the sixth day in a row. The Kremlin-driven military campaign has been degraded by the frustrated first stages of the invasion, which were watered down by the unexpected resilience of the Ukrainian army cadres and the hundreds of volunteers deployed in various parts of the country. But Russian troops are advancing towards Kiev and threaten to reduce the main centres of power in Ukraine to rubble.

Moscow's new strategy is to lower morale and intimidate the Ukrainian population by shelling. This is the roadmap being pursued in the capital, Kiev, where the Russian Defence Ministry plans to launch more air strikes against strategic installations linked to security services and communications. The low accuracy of its missiles could kill hundreds of civilians and it has urged evacuation of nearby areas.


The first target to be attacked on Tuesday was Kiev's main radio and television tower, the second largest in the world, in order to "prevent information attacks against Russia", which has claimed five lives. This would be the prelude to a definitive ground incursion into Kiev, a key enclave for controlling the rest of the country, and a likely continuation of the negotiating table in the Belarusian city of Gomel.

The Russian military convoy is approaching the capital from the north and is already some 20 kilometres from Kiev. But the invasion is also advancing on other fronts: the northwest, near Kharkov, the east, through the separatist Donbass Republics, and the south, bursting in from the Crimean peninsula. The cities of Kherson and Mariupol have seen heavy fighting in recent hours, but Kharkov has been the hardest hit area in recent hours.

With 1.5 million inhabitants, Kharkov is the country's second largest city and has deep cultural and economic connections with Russia. Many of its inhabitants are ethnic Russians, a reason that, along with its strategic importance, has not exempted it from being part of the territorial dispute. Dozens of people have died in Kharkov since the beginning of the invasion, an enclave with deep historical reminiscences.

At least 10 people were killed in the Russian shelling of the Kharkov administration building on Tuesday. The government building joined the Opera House and the Philharmonic in the number of people hit, although the authorities have not yet confirmed the number of casualties. The toll after five days of the invasion is 136 civilians dead, including 13 minors, and some 400 wounded, according to UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Liz Throssell.

Zelenski in front of Europe

Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky called the attack on Kharkov a "war crime" because it targeted "a peaceful town with residential areas, not military facilities" and kept in close contact with other European and international representatives. The Ukrainian leader continues to amaze the world, spearheading the national resistance, under serious threat to his life. And he flatly refuses to leave the country.

Zelenski received a call on Tuesday from US President Joe Biden, with whom he has been discussing the country's defence situation. But his star appearance was at the European Parliament, where he appeared in an extraordinary session that ended with the House adopting a resolution calling for the country to be granted EU membership.

Parlamento Europeo

"We are fighting to be full members of the EU and we are proving what we are, the EU will be stronger with us in it", Zelenski told the other European leaders. The Ukrainian president also assured that his citizens are defending European values in the face of the Russian invasion, in a call that also included other points such as the ban on Russian gas and the exclusion of Belarus from the SWIFT system, from which Russia has already been expelled.

"Please show that the European Union is with us and will not leave us behind. Then life will overcome death and light will overcome darkness", concluded the vibrant speech of the famous actor and comedian, who has been elevated as a new statesman and defender of the Ukrainian homeland. The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Mestsola, and Charles Michael, President of the European Council, responded by assuring that the EU should do "whatever it takes" to support Kiev and that they would favour his candidacy.

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