Strategic Ukrainian port of Kherson falls to Russian forces

Black Sea city of 290,000 people now under Russian control as Moscow's forces press on with their offensive

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Russian forces have taken the Ukrainian port of Kherson, local officials have confirmed, the first major urban centre to fall since Moscow's attack a week ago.

“The [Russian] occupiers are in all parts of the city and are very dangerous,” Gennady Lakhuta, head of the regional administration, wrote on messaging service Telegram on Wednesday.

Mayor Igor Kolykhayev said late on Wednesday that Russian troops were in the streets and had entered the council building. He called on civilians to walk through the streets only in daylight and in ones and twos.

“There were armed visitors in the city executive committee today,” he said in a statement. “I didn't make any promises to them … I just asked them not to shoot people.”

The strategic port city of 290,000 people near the Black Sea came under siege as Russian forces pressed ahead with their offensive across other towns and cities.

Another important Ukrainian port, Berdiansk, has already been seized by Russian troops, while Mariupol has repelled attacks “with dignity,” according to that city's mayor, Vadim Boichenko.

Russian forces struck a radio and television centre in Kyiv and captured the town of Balakliya near the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the Interfax news agency quoted Russia's defence ministry as saying on Thursday.

Russian missiles struck a TV tower in Kyiv this week in what Moscow said was a targeted attack against Ukraine's information warfare.

Russian-backed forces threaten strikes on Mariupol

A spokesman for Russian-backed separatists threatened strikes on Mariupol to demoralise the Ukrainian army and said an evacuation corridor for civilians was not working, in comments broadcast on Rossiya 24.

A Pentagon official said earlier Russian forces appeared to be preparing to assault the encircled port city.

Ukraine’s military headquarters also confirmed that Russia is sending four amphibious assault ships to land troops near Odesa’s seaport and seize the city.

National police in Kyiv said that there were explosions in the capital overnight, but that they were the result of Ukraine’s anti-missile systems hitting Russian targets.

Russian forces have also bombarded Ukraine's second-biggest city, Kharkiv, prompting comparisons to the civilian massacres in Sarajevo in the 1990s.

After days of intense fighting, hundreds of civilians have been killed, while about one million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began. The Russian invasion triggered western sanctions intended to cripple Russia's economy.

Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, continued to issue upbeat statements, rallying his forces to fight back.

“We are a people who broke the enemy's plans in a week,” Mr Zelenskyy said in a video address. “These plans had taken years to write — they are mean, with hatred for our country, for our people.”

A Ukrainian delegation left for a second round of talks with Russian officials about a ceasefire, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters.

With more than a million refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, according to the UN, the second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine was due to take place on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, is travelling to Nato member states neighbouring Ukraine.

Russia continued to suffer the economic fallout from its invasion, with its rating slashed to junk by Fitch and Moody's Investors Service on the back of a wave of sanctions by the US, the EU and other countries.

The global economy was further roiled with crude oil extending its gains; Brent was near $117 a barrel.

Russia’s Lavrov compares the US to Hitler

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday accused western politicians of fixating on nuclear war, one week after Moscow launched its offensive on Ukraine.

“It’s clear that World War Three can only be a nuclear war,” Lavrov said in an online interview with Russian and foreign media.

“I would like to point out that it’s in the heads of western politicians that the idea of a nuclear war is spinning constantly, and not in the heads of Russians,” he said.

“Therefore I assure you that we will not allow any provocations to throw us off balance.”

He also compared the US to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and German dictator Adolf Hitler.

“In their time, both Napoleon and Hitler set themselves the task of subjugating Europe. Now the Americans have subdued it,” Lavrov said.

Updated: March 03, 2022, 12:26 PM
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