(Kharkiv) The country continues to shell several cities in Ukraine and gives an initial assessment of 500 of its soldiers killed since the start of the invasion.
Ukrainian emissaries were already heading to “the place of negotiations” in Belarus for a second round of talks, the Ukrainian presidency said.
These talks, which will focus in particular on a ceasefire, will begin Thursday morning in a determined place “together” located “not far from the border with Poland”, said Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinski.
Initial negotiations on Monday, also in Belarus, had yielded no tangible results. Kyiv demanded an immediate end to the invasion, while Moscow seemed to expect a surrender.
At the same time, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted on Wednesday a resolution which “demands that Russia immediately cease to use force against Ukraine”, only five countries opposing it and 35 abstaining, including the China, out of the 193 members of this organization.
In this text, the UN asks Moscow to “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces” from Ukrainian territory and “condemns Russia’s decision to increase the alerting of its nuclear forces”.
The Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya, had previously denounced an ongoing “genocide” in his country, perpetrated by Russia.
His American counterpart, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, for her part accused Moscow of wanting to use in Ukraine weapons banned by the Geneva Conventions.
And Sweden has reported the violation of its airspace by four Russian fighter planes, near the island of Gotland.
Kharkiv City Hall affected
On the ground, on the seventh day of the offensive launched by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, Russian airborne units landed in Kharkiv, the second largest city in the country, located 50 km from the border with Russia, said the Ukrainian army .
After several bombings in the city center the day before, which killed at least 21 people according to the regional governor, buildings housing security forces and the university were hit. At least four people were killed and nine injured.
Independence Square was the target during the day of an airstrike which shattered the windows of the town hall and destroyed businesses, noted an AFP journalist.
In Kyiv, 500 km further west, whose residents who did not flee have been preparing for an assault for days, relative calm reigned on Wednesday, after the television tower had been targeted the day before.
Several localities northwest of the capital, including Bucha and Gostomel, were however bombarded, the regional authorities deplored.
Survival was organized in the Kyiv metro transformed into an air-raid shelter.
In Dorohozhychi station, close to the television tower, AFP saw dozens of families. Many have spent the last six nights on the floor, lying on sheets and towels.
Antonina Pouzyi, a pensioner accompanied by her grandchildren, was preparing a carrot and potato soup there.
“It’s scary up there,” she said, pointing her paring knife at the ceiling. “My daughters bring us down to eat and the neighbors bring cakes for the little ones. Everyone is trying to help”.
The tower dominates the district of the Babi Yar memorial park, where more than 33,000 Jews were slaughtered in September 1941, under the Nazi occupation.
If no monument in homage to the victims of this massacre has been reached, President Volodymyr Zelensky, of Jewish descent, accused Moscow of seeking to “erase” Ukraine and called on the Jews “not to remain silent”.
The capital’s mayor, ex-boxer Vitaly Klitschko, called on all residents to resist: “Kyiv is holding and will hold”.
Bombings also took place in Zhitomir, 150 km further west. AFP saw people digging through the rubble of a small market on Wednesday. At least three people were killed there and a dozen injured, according to residents of the city.
The Russian army, for its part, officially provided the first figures on its losses in seven days of fighting.
“498 Russian servicemen died […] 1,597 of our comrades were injured, ”announced his spokesman Igor Konashenkov, in front of the cameras of Russian public television.
In the south, the Russian military claimed complete control of Kherson. The mayor of this city in southern Ukraine, Igor Kolykhaiev, spoke of a “humanitarian disaster”.
In Mariupol, further east, around 100 people were injured on Tuesday in Russian fire, the town hall said.
If it takes control of this key port, the Russian army can ensure territorial continuity between its forces coming from Crimea and those arriving from the separatist territories of Donbass further north.
In this context, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday the establishment of humanitarian corridors to allow the exit of civilians from the most exposed Ukrainian cities, in particular Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol.
The “corrupt oligarchs” in the crosshairs
The strikes on Kyiv and Kharkiv have aroused great emotion in the world, where demonstrations against the war and gestures of solidarity with Ukraine have multiplied in recent days.
US President Joe Biden said overnight that Vladimir Putin, whom he called a “dictator”, was now “more isolated than ever from the rest of the world”, against a backdrop of strong international pressure and unprecedented economic sanctions.
Among these measures, the EU confirmed on Wednesday that seven Russian banks, including the second, VTB, would, from March 12, be excluded from the Swift messaging system, a key cog in international finance.
The first Russian bank Sberbank – whose European subsidiary filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday – and Gazprombank, the financial arm of Gazprom, are however spared.
The US Secretary of Justice has assigned a dozen prosecutors to prosecute “corrupt Russian oligarchs” and anyone who violates Washington’s sanctions.
The Russian authorities are for their part trying to avoid financial haemorrhage and panic: the ruble has lost in a few days more than a third of its value in foreign currencies. Russian planes can now only land in a handful of countries. Jobs, wages and bank loans are potentially at risk.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday acknowledged “a serious blow”, but predicted that the Russian economy would “stay on its feet”.
At the diplomatic level, the European Union is organizing an extraordinary meeting on Friday of the Foreign Ministers of its Member States with their American, British and Canadian counterparts, present in Brussels for a meeting at NATO, devoted to the invasion of Ukraine.
The head of Luxembourg diplomacy Jean Asselborn went so far as to wish for the “overthrow” of Vladimir Putin by his people to stop the war.
The global economy suffers from the conflict
The entire world economy is suffering from the conflict: the prices of hydrocarbons and aluminium, of which Russia is a major exporter, were soaring, with oil prices at their highest for almost a decade.
The consequences for the American economy are “very uncertain”, said Jerome Powell, the president of the American central bank, on Wednesday. The United States and other countries were already facing rising inflation before the conflict.
In addition to economic sanctions, Russia has been excluded from a multitude of sporting and cultural events, from the 2022 World Cup to the Davis Cup in tennis, via the Cannes Film Festival.
In Russia, the opponent Alexeï Navalny, from his prison, called on his fellow citizens to demonstrate every day, calling Putin a “completely crazy little tsar”.
Dozens of people were arrested in the evening during rallies against the invasion of Ukraine organized in Moscow and Saint Petersburg at his call.
Ukrainians are also increasingly numerous to leave their country: nearly 900,000 have already gone abroad since February 24, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on Wednesday.