Russia renewed its assault Wednesday on Ukraine’s second-largest city in a pounding that lit up the skyline with balls of fire over populated areas, even as both sides said they were ready to resume talks aimed at stopping the new devastating war in Europe.
The escalation of attacks on crowded cities followed an initial round of talks between outgunned Ukraine and nuclear power Russia on Monday that resulted in only a promise to meet again. It was not clear when new talks might take place — or what they would yield. Ukraine’s leader earlier said Russia must stop bombing before another meeting.
Seven days into the war, roughly 874,000 people have fled Ukraine and the U.N. refugee agency warned the number could cross the 1 million mark soon. The overall death toll was not clear, but Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said more than 2,000 civilians have died. It was impossible to verify that claim.
Countless others have taken shelter underground, as Russia continued its bombardment.
Another attack came Wednesday on Kharkiv, a city with a population of about 1.5 million, and a strike reportedly hit a hospital in the country’s north. A 40-mile (64-kilometer) convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles advanced slowly the capital of Kyiv, while Russian forces pressed their assault on the strategic southern city of Kherson.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals are not clear, but the West has warned he may be seeking to topple the government and install a Kremlin-friendly regime.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has decried Russia’s attacks on civilian targets as a blatant terror campaign, while U.S. President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday that if the Russian leader didn’t “pay a price” for the invasion, the aggression wouldn’t stop with one country.