Ukraine and Russia News Tracker: Live Updates
LVIV, Ukraine – A week after their invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces are stepping up their assaults on civilian areas, making strategic advances on the southern coast and beginning to besiege major cities.
The invasion by President Vladimir V. Putin’s troops, which began on February 24, sparked the largest ground war in Europe since World War II.
In the days that followed, parts of towns along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia were reduced to rubble by Russian forces, according to video evidence verified by The New York Times and interviews with residents. who fled. Major cities, including the capital, Kiev, have faced heavy assaults, with Ukrainian officials saying Russian forces have taken control of the war’s first major city, the strategic southern port of Kherson.
As the war enters an increasingly brutal phase, Russian artillery and rocket fire has knocked out electricity, water and heat in many communities. Reports are also mounting of Russian strikes on hospitals, schools, apartment complexes and critical civilian infrastructure. And a humanitarian crisis is looming: more than a million people have already fled the country, according to the head of the United Nations refugee agency.
Even as Russian forces continue their assault, soldiers and civilian warriors from Ukraine, a country of 44 million people, are fiercely resisting the onslaught of its much larger and more heavily armed neighbour.
Russia has made huge gains across the country, particularly in the south, but has yet to gain air superiority over Ukraine, a strategic setback for Mr Putin that analysts attribute to fighter jets Ukrainians and surprisingly strong air defenses. Ukrainian and American officials have also said that a number of Russian units – which are believed to include many poorly trained young conscripts – have been hampered by delays, low morale and shortages of food and fuel.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged on Thursday to regain control of parts of the country where Russian forces had made gains.
“I’m sure: if they got in anywhere, it was only temporarily,” he said in an address to the nation. “We will chase them away. With shame.
Here’s how the war progresses:
Bombardment of the capital
After facing stronger resistance than expected, Mr Putin has stepped up the bombardment of Kiev as his forces seek to overthrow the government. As many as 15,000 people, mostly women and children, took up residence on the metro, Andrew Kramer of The Times reported from Kyiv.
This week a missile hit a TV tower in Kyiv and airstrikes hit a residential area in Zhytomyr, a city less than 100 miles west of Kyiv. Video verified by The New York Times also showed what appeared to be two low-flying Russian warplanes moments before an airstrike hit a residential apartment complex in Irpin, a city on the northern border west of Kyiv.
Such attacks, along with a roughly 40-mile convoy of Russian military vehicles heading towards Kiev in recent days, have raised fears that troops will surround and shell what was just a week ago a capital peaceful and modern European country of about 2.8 million inhabitants. people. But on Thursday there were indications the convoy could be struggling with soggy ground and other logistical issues slowing its progress.
Lay siege to cities
Mr Putin’s forces have already surrounded the northeast city of Kharkiv, 20 miles from the Russian border, and bombarded it from the outside with missiles and artillery shells.
Taking Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, would be a major strategic prize and could allow Russia to consolidate its strengths in other areas. But running a city requires large military presence, and Russia is already facing a rebellion from the general public. It’s unclear what Russian forces plan to do if they take over government buildings – or how they would react to what would likely be an insurgent effort to oust them.
What is clear for now is that the siege of Kharkiv will most likely inflict heavy collateral damage on civilians as the war continues. There are already reports of men, women and children in Kharkiv going for days without food or water, huddled in freezing basement shelters as Russian forces continue to shell a city that there barely a week ago, had 1.5 million inhabitants.
Russia is also mounting increasingly brazen attacks on infrastructure in downtown Kharkiv, a strategy aimed at scaring away the civilian population as part of a precursor to a ground invasion. Missiles hit administrative buildings and clashes ensued with Russian forces as they probed and tested the city’s defences.
Win in strategic areas
Russia has made significant strategic gains in recent days on Ukraine’s southern Black Sea coast. Securing the south would cut off the Ukrainian government’s access to vital ports and could allow Russia to bring in troops and supplies by sea.
From the southern coast, Russian troops could move north towards Kiev and join fellow Russians who fought in eastern Ukraine. This would extend Mr Putin’s control east of the Dnieper River, which runs through central Ukraine and divides its western and eastern regions.
Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port city, is not as militarily important as the neighboring Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. But seizing it would be essential if Russia is to control the south of Ukraine, Michael Schwirtz of The Times reported from Odessa on Wednesday.
Now that Russian forces have entered the southern port of Kherson, they have a path to Odessa. They also surrounded another key port city, Mariupol. If Mariupol falls, two flanks of Russian and Russian-backed fighters could trap Ukrainian forces in the southeast.
Russian Navy ships have gathered just outside Ukrainian territorial waters in the Black Sea. Ukraine has accused Russia of shooting at civilian ships and using them as cover.
In western Ukraine, people have sought refuge from the invasion in Lviv, a city of ornate buildings about 45 miles from the Polish border that has so far been spared heavy fighting.
But since the first air raid siren sounded a week ago, there has been a growing sense of urgency and anxiety in Lviv.
A vast network of volunteers has sprung up to help both those fleeing the conflict and those heading to the front lines. The roads leading into the city were also lined with checkpoints and hastily erected defences.
Heavily armed soldiers patrol the streets, arresting foreigners and apprehending people they claim are Russian agents and saboteurs. In an incident witnessed by a New York Times reporter in Lviv on Tuesday, several men were taken out of a red sedan in the heart of the old town and led away by security.
In restaurants that remain open, bottled water is now served exclusively in plastic bottles. The glass ones are used to make Molotov cocktails.
Marc Santora reported from Lviv, Ukraine, and Mike Ives from Seoul.