A week after launching its invasion of Ukraine, Russia says its forces have taken control of the southern city of Kherson, as fighting raged around the country and Western nations intensified economic sanctions against President Vladamir Putin’s regime.
Bombardments of Ukrainian cities continued, with video posted on social media showing heavily damaged buildings around the second city of Kharkiv.
Russian forces have taken control of Kherson, a port city of nearly a quarter million people just north of Crimea, a Russian defence ministry spokesperson said.
Strategically located on the Dniepr River, the provincial capital was the biggest city to fall to Russian forces so far.
The south-east city of Mariupol had been under intense shelling since late Tuesday and was unable to evacuate wounded, according to its mayor.
The invaders’ advances have been met with fierce resistance by Ukrainian forces and a lengthy Russian military convoy north of Kyiv has made little progress towards the capital.
In a video address on Wednesday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said nearly 6000 Russians had been killed in the first six days of Moscow’s invasion, and that the Kremlin would not be able to take his country with bombs and air strikes.
“While (Putin) may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run,” US President Joe Biden said at his State of the Union address.
Straying from the prepared text, Mr Biden added “He has no idea what’s coming.”
Mr Biden further ratcheted up sanctions on Moscow, joining the European Union and Canada in banning Russian planes from US airspace.
He also said the Justice Department would seek to seize the yachts, luxury apartments and private jets of wealthy Russians with ties to Putin.
A Kremlin spokesman says Russia is ready to resume talks with Ukraine officials.
Earlier, Ukraine’s leader called on Russia to stop bombarding civilians before talks could resume.
“It’s necessary to at least stop bombing people, just stop the bombing and then sit down at the negotiating table,” Mr Zelenskiy told media.
The United Nations General Assembly is set to reprimand Russia on Wednesday and demand that Moscow stop fighting and withdraw its military forces.
Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, has called on the US-led military alliance to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine – a request rejected by Washington, which fears stoking a direct conflict between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.
Washington and its allies have instead sent weapons to Kyiv.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Wednesday the country was set to receive Stinger and Javelin missiles from abroad, as well as another shipment of Turkish drones.
As well as isolating Russia diplomatically, the West’s main strategy is shutting off Russia’s economy from the global financial system, pushing international companies to halt sales, cut ties, and dump tens of billions of dollars’ worth of investments.
Exxon Mobil joined other major Western energy companies including British BP PLC and Shell in announcing it would quit oil-rich Russia over the invasion.
Apple Inc stopped sales of iPhones and other products in Russia, and was making changes to its Maps app to protect civilians in Ukraine.
Alphabet Inc’s Google dropped Russian state publishers from its news, and Ford Motor suspended operations in the country.
US aeroplane manufacturer Boeing said it was suspending parts, maintenance and technical support for Russian airlines.
Russia on Tuesday placed temporary restrictions on foreigners seeking to exit Russia assets, meaning that billions of dollars worth of securities held by foreigners are at risk of being trapped.