A week into the war in Ukraine, Russian forces have renewed their bombardment of the country’s second-biggest city and besieged its strategic ports.
A huge, 40-mile-long column of Russian tanks and other military vehicles have been slowly advancing on the capital, and Russian invaders pressed their assault on the strategic port cities of Kherson and Mariupol.
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.
Russian attacks – many with missiles – blew the roof off Kharkiv’s five-story regional police building and set the top floor on fire, and also hit the intelligence headquarters and a university building, according to officials and videos and photos released by Ukraine’s State Emergency Service.
Russia reported its military casualties for the first time since the invasion last Thursday, saying nearly 500 of its troops had been killed and almost 1600 wounded.
Ukraine insisted Russia’s losses were far higher but did not immediately disclose its own casualties.
Despite intensifying violence, both sides have said they were also ready to resume peace talks. They will meet on the Belarus-Poland border for the second round of negotiations.
UN condemns Putin
Most of the world has lined up against Moscow in the United Nations to demand it withdraw from Ukraine.
The UN General Assembly, convening its first emergency session since 1997, voted to demand that Russia stop its offensive and immediately withdraw all troops.
Countries that spoke up for Russia included Belarus, Cuba, North Korea and Syria.
China, Iraq, India and Iran were among those that abstained.
Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding, but they do have clout in reflecting international opinion.
Civilians ‘constantly’ under fire in Kharkiv
Meanwhile, Russia pounded Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second-largest city with about 1.5 million people – with another round of aerial attacks that shattered buildings and lit up the skyline with balls of fire.
At least 21 people were killed and 112 injured over the past day, said Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration.
Russia claims it has hold of the city – but Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov has vowed that the city will not fall to Vladimir Putin.
Mr Terekhov told the BBC Russian troops are shelling and firing cruise missiles at residential areas “constantly”.
“They [Russia] threw against Kharkiv all the imaginable forces and a colossal number of tanks are approaching Kharkiv,” he said.
Mr Terekhov said Kharkiv’s citizens remained defiant, adding there have been no reports of casualties in the city’s bomb shelters, where many have retreated.
“The city of Kharkiv will hold and today Kharkiv is unified like never before. The mood in the city is serious and everybody is focused, but the city is united and will stand-fast,” he said.
Human toll mounts
Seven days into Russia’s invasion, a refugee crisis unfolded on the European continent, with the United Nations saying that more than 870,000 people have fled Ukraine.
That number could soon hit one million.
The State Emergency Service reported that more than 2000 civilians have been killed, but that could not immediately be independently verified, and neither side has disclosed its military casualties.
A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov, gave his side’s casualty figures, rejecting reports about “incalculable losses” of the Russians as “disinformation.”
Mr Konashenkov also said more than 2870 Ukrainian troops have been killed and about 3700 wounded, while 572 others have been captured.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky claimed almost 6000 Russian soldiers have been killed.