Ukraine accuses Russia of 'war crimes' targeting civilians as fighting enters Kharkiv

 


Ukraine has accused Russia of committing "war crimes" in an attempt to weaken its country's resistance, as Ukrainian forces engage in fierce fighting with Russian troops in multiple cities across the country.

In the capital, Kyiv, residents awoke Sunday to find the city still firmly under Ukrainian control, despite two massive explosions some 30 kilometers, or about 18 miles, south of the city lighting up the sky overnight.
Fighting has broken out on the streets of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, after Russian forces entered the city, Oleh Synehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, said Sunday. "Do not leave your shelters!" he posted on Facebook, warning civilians not to go out on the streets. Ukrainian forces had managed to deter the Russians for the past three days.
Russia's unprovoked assault on Ukraine is now entering its fourth day. But despite being far better equipped, Russia has failed to take control of key cities, as ordinary Ukrainians and reservists join efforts to defend their homes and families.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that he would be willing to hold talks with Russia but rejected the Russian proposal for a meeting to be held in Belarus, pointing out that Russian military actions are being launched from the country.
    "Of course we want peace and want to meet. We want to end the war. Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul and Baku were offered to Russia. Any other cities are fine with us as long as there are no missiles flying from this country," Zelensky said in his video message, addressing Belarus directly.
    Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetsky told reporters Saturday that Ukraine had captured around 200 Russian soldiers, some of whom were just 19 years old. They were not trained at all and were badly equipped, he said. CNN has not been able to independently verify this.
    Russia has yet to establish air supremacy over Ukraine, one US official said, as the Ukrainian Air Force and air defense systems fight for control of the airspace. Without uncontested control of the skies, it becomes more difficult for an army on the move to see and strike targets from the air.
    So far these challenges have prevented the quick overthrow of major Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kyiv, which US officials were concerned could play out in a matter of days. The city of Kharkiv near Ukraine's border with Russia also has not fallen to invading forces -- despite officials worrying that could happen on the first night of an invasion.
    A NATO official agreed that Russian forces were having problems.
    "They lack diesel, they are proceeding way too slow and morale is obviously an issue," said the official.
    Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetsky told reporters Saturday that Ukraine had captured around 200 Russian soldiers, some of whom were just 19 years old. They were not trained at all and were badly equipped, he said. CNN has not been able to independently verify this.
    Russia has yet to establish air supremacy over Ukraine, one US official said, as the Ukrainian Air Force and air defense systems fight for control of the airspace. Without uncontested control of the skies, it becomes more difficult for an army on the move to see and strike targets from the air.
    So far these challenges have prevented the quick overthrow of major Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kyiv, which US officials were concerned could play out in a matter of days. The city of Kharkiv near Ukraine's border with Russia also has not fallen to invading forces -- despite officials worrying that could happen on the first night of an invasion.
    A NATO official agreed that Russian forces were having problems.
    "They lack diesel, they are proceeding way too slow and morale is obviously an issue," said the official.
    Asked whether Russians are likely to intensify their efforts, the official said they have no choice. "They are way behind schedule," the official said. "This is getting out of hand for them, every additional day is very painful."

    Accusations of war crimes

    Concerns are now growing that Russia may look to deploy indiscriminate battlefield weaponry in civilian areas in an attempt to decisively crush Ukrainian forces.
    A CNN team spotted a Russian thermobaric multiple rockets launcher south of Belgorod, Russia, near the Ukrainian border early Saturday afternoon.
    Thermobaric weapons have been used in Chechnya, with horrifying consequences, according to Human Rights Watch, and their use has been condemned by number of non-governmental organizations.
    There is no evidence that thermobaric weapons have been used in the conflict in Ukraine.
    Though Russia has claimed it is not targeting civilian infrastructure, an increasing body of evidence on the ground suggests otherwise.
    Ukraine has reported multiple civilian deaths, including a 6-year-old boy who died in heavy gunfire in a western district of Kyiv Saturday evening, according to a local hospital.
    A woman was killed after a nine-story residential building in the eastern city of Kharkiv was hit by "enemy artillery" on Saturday night, according to Ukraine's State Emergency Service.
    And on Saturday, a large residential apartment block in the west of Kyiv was struck by what a Ukrainian government minister described as a Russian missile, as residents across the city were forced to seek shelter after a terrifying night punctuated by gunfire and explosions.

    A defiant Ukraine

    As the battle continues, a defiant Zelensky has released a series of videos urging citizens to defend their country.
    Officials armed reservists with 18,000 guns and ammunition in Kyiv alone, and Ukrainian TV has broadcast instructions for making Molotov cocktails. Ukrainian males ages 18 to 60 are banned from leaving the country.
    "Each Ukrainian should keep one thing in mind: if you can stop and destroy the occupiers -- do it. Everyone who can come back to Ukraine -- come back to defend Ukraine," Zelensky said in a video message Saturday.
    "We have withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks. Fighting continues in different cities and regions of our country," he said, adding that the capital Kyiv and key towns around it were still under Ukrainian control. "We have ruined their plans. They have no advantage over us."
    In a statement Sunday, Zelensky called on citizens of the world to join the fight against the "Russian war criminals."
    "This is not just Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against a global order of law, rules and peaceful coexistence," he said.
    At the same time, thousands of Ukrainians are fleeing for their lives. More than 150,000 people have fled Ukraine, most of them to Poland, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Saturday.
    The Polish border guard said Saturday that 100,000 people have entered Poland from Ukraine since the invasion began Thursday.

    Controlling the narrative in Russia

    At home, the Kremlin appears to be in damage control, attempting to limit information about the difficulties its forces are facing in Ukraine.
    Social media platform Twitter said Saturday it is being restricted inside Russia and is working to address the issue.
    According to the assessment issued by Britain's Defense Ministry late Saturday, the Russian government has reportedly restricted access to a number of social media platforms in a "probable attempt to conceal details regarding the situation in Ukraine from their own people."
      Russia's media regulator told 10 news outlets that it would restrict access to their publications unless they stopped spreading "false information" -- including the shelling of Ukrainian cities and the death of civilians caused by the Russian armed forces.
      Opposition to the war is also being restricted in the country. More than 2,600 people have been detained in Russia after taking part in anti-war protests, according to independent protest monitoring site OVD-Info. At least 1,370 of them were detained in protests in Moscow, according to the same site.

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