(Kiev) Russian forces on Tuesday struck the television tower in Kiev and Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine, confirming the intensification of their offensive, but the Pentagon considered their progress towards the capital “at a standstill” , hampered by the resistance encountered and logistical problems.
At the same time, international pressure on the Kremlin did not weaken.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest judicial instance of the United Nations, announced hearings on March 7 and 8 in a case brought before it by the Ukrainian government, which accuses Moscow of planning genocide.
And the 27 member states of the European Union gave the green light to exclude “certain Russian banks” from the Swift messaging system, a key cog in international finance, and to ban the broadcasting of state media Russians RT and Sputnik.
As a result of the sanctions, a bankruptcy procedure will be opened for the main subsidiary in Europe of the largest Russian bank, Sberbank, the EU banking regulator announced on Tuesday evening.
Television tower affected
On the sixth day of the Russian invasion, the bombings followed one another on Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million inhabitants near the border with Russia, which the assailants are trying to seize.
In its central square, the headquarters of the regional administration was partly destroyed, Governor Oleg Sinegoubov said, in a video showing an explosion.
At least 10 people were killed and more than 20 injured, while eight others perished when an apartment building was hit.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson compared the strikes to the deadly bombings of Sarajevo, Bosnia, in the 1990s.
In the Ukrainian capital, five people died and five others were injured when the television tower was targeted in the late afternoon.
But an hour after the attack, most Ukrainian channels appeared to be functioning normally again.
In the evening, new explosions sounded in Kiev and Bila Tserkva. For its part, the city of Zhitomir (north-west) was targeted by an air strike which left two dead and three injured and seriously damaged 10 residential buildings, according to Ukrainian relief.
Earlier, the Russian army had called on civilians living near security services infrastructure to evacuate, saying it wanted to attack them to stop “computer attacks against Russia”.
The future Russian assault on Kiev raises fears of a considerable number of victims in this metropolis, which normally has nearly three million inhabitants and is endowed with a rich historical heritage.
Photos made public overnight from Monday to Tuesday by the American satellite imagery company Maxar showed in this regard a Russian convoy stretching for tens of kilometers and heading towards the capital.
The remaining residents have been preparing for days, erecting barricades, digging trenches and making Molotov cocktails.
But for the US Department of Defense, the situation is not so clear.
“We have the general feeling that the movement of the Russian army […] to Kyiv has stalled at this point,” said one of its officials. “We believe that it is partly linked to its own supply and to logistical concerns” and that, “more generally”, “the Russians are taking stock to rethink” their strategy.
Mariupol under the bombs
Russian forces also appeared to have advanced in southern Ukraine, on the shores of the Sea of Azov.
In the port of Mariupol, “all neighborhoods” are bombarded, said the regional governor, speaking of 21 wounded and an unknown number of dead.
The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops advancing up the coast from Crimea had joined those in the pro-Russian separatist territory of Donetsk, giving them strategic territorial continuity.
The information was immediately unverifiable. Shortly before, the Ukrainian army had claimed to have thwarted this attempt.
The Russians also control the entrances to the coastal city of Kherson (290,000 inhabitants), further west, according to its mayor.
“Massive impact” of sanctions
“We must stop the aggressor as soon as possible,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted after talking with his American counterpart Joe Biden.
In this context, an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers of NATO member states was convened in “face-to-face” for Friday in Brussels, while their G7 finance colleagues discussed on Tuesday additional sanctions against the Russian economy. , already under the influence of a series of measures of historic proportions.
Four of the world’s five largest shipowners have stopped serving Russian ports, while German-Russian gas pipeline operator Nord Stream 2, headquartered in Switzerland, has filed for bankruptcy. The Italian oil giant Eni plans to withdraw from a gas pipeline linking Russia to Turkey.
Apple also said it has suspended sales of all of its products in Russia, following in the footsteps of many companies opting to distance themselves from Moscow.
The Russian government, which is striving to counter these sanctions, was preparing a new decree on Tuesday to stem the flight of foreign investors.
At the same time, he blocked access to a renowned independent online television channel and radio station, Dojd and Echo of Moscow, as part of a tightening of control over information.
As a result of these tensions, the European stock markets and Wall Street ended down sharply. Oil prices continued to rise at the same time, ahead of Wednesday’s meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (OPEC+). Ditto for wheat and corn prices, at a record level in Europe.
No cycling events or Davis Cup
In addition to the economic sanctions, to which are added the demonstrations of solidarity with Ukraine in many countries, Russia is now excluded from a multitude of cultural and sporting events, from the 2022 Football World Cup to cycling events and the Davis Cup of tennis.
Even China, which has so far not condemned the Russian invasion, on Tuesday expressed “deep regret” at the conflict.
Despite everything, Vladimir Putin seemed determined to continue the offensive and put an end to the aspirations of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, to belong to the EU and NATO.
In an exchange Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron, he set as conditions, to stop the invasion, the recognition of Crimea as Russian territory, the demilitarization and the “denazification” of Ukraine. He had previously called its leaders “neo-Nazis”.
And this while the first Russian-Ukrainian talks were taking place, which ended with the only commitment that they would resume “soon”.
2000 Ukrainian orphans in Poland
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, a million people have been displaced within Ukraine itself and more than 677,000 have left for neighboring countries, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The World Bank has announced that it is preparing three billion dollars in emergency aid for Ukraine, of which at least 350 million could be released this week.
Long lines of cars continued to head towards the Polish border, from Lviv, the big city in western Ukraine that had become an exit door and a center of retreat for Ukrainians and for Western embassies.
Women refugees in this city, leaving the men of their family “to defend Ukraine”, mobilized to support them, giving their blood or making camouflage nets.