Russia claims to have control of Kherson in south Ukraine

Russian forces are escalating attacks on urban areas, in what Ukraine’s leader called a blatant campaign of terror

Live updates: follow the latest news on Russia-Ukraine

The Russian army claimed on Wednesday that it had taken control of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, as Moscow’s attack on Ukraine entered its seventh day.

“Russian divisions of the armed forces have taken the regional centre of Kherson under full control,” Russia’s Defence Ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said on television.

He said public services and transport were operating as usual.

“The city is not experiencing shortages of food and essential goods,” he said.

Kherson’s mayor, Igor Nikolayev, said on Facebook: “We are still Ukraine. Still firm.”

Contradicting the Russian Army’s claims, Mr Nikolayev said he needed to find a way to “collect the dead” and “restore electricity, gas, water and heating where they are damaged”.

“But I warn you right away: to complete these tasks today means to perform a miracle,” he said.

Kherson is about 73 kilometres west of Kakhovka hydroelectric plant on the Dnieper River, where a large build-up of Russian forces has been observed.

More than 2,000 civilians have been killed since the Russian incursion began last week, Ukraine’s emergency service said on Wednesday.

‘No time to be neutral’

Russia is aiming to erase Ukraine, its history and people, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video on Wednesday, amid the heavy shelling of the Black Sea port of Mariupol.

Moscow switched to strikes on Ukrainian cities on Tuesday and appeared poised for an advance on Kiev as the West tightened an economic noose around Russia in retaliation.

But Mr Zelenskyy, unshaven and wearing a khaki T-shirt, said the West’s response was not enough. He called for more international support, including backing for Ukraine’s desire to join the EU.

“This is no time to be neutral,” said Mr Zelenskyy, whose defiant and emotional tone in regular video addresses has offered his country support and leadership in the war.

“They don’t know a thing about Kiev, about our history. But they all have orders to erase our history, erase our country, erase us all.”

In the video, he said almost 6,000 Russian troops had been killed.

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's deputy prime minister, said he had asked Pope Francis to urge Vladimir Putin to open humanitarian corridors.

Russian paratroopers land in Kharkiv

Russian paratroopers landed in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Wednesday, where they are involved in heavy fighting with defenders, the Ukrainian army said.

“Russian airborne troops landed in Kharkiv … and attacked a local hospital,” the army said on messaging app Telegram. “There is a continuing fight between the invaders and the Ukrainians.”

A school in Kharkiv was hit by a Russian missile, Ukrainian officials said. They posted photos online showing a huge hole in the side of a building, and debris blown across desks and chairs.

Earlier, the deputy regional governor of the city said a cruise missile had hit the local council building.

Russian forces escalated their attacks on crowded urban areas on Tuesday, in what President Zelenskyy called a blatant campaign of terror.

“Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget,” Mr Zelenskyy said, after Tuesday’s rocket and missile attack on Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, and the bombing of a TV tower in the capital, Kiev.

At least 10 people were killed and 35 wounded in Tuesday’s strikes at the centre of Kharkiv, Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said.

US President Joe Biden vowed to make Russia’s president “pay a price” for the invasion.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled the fighting as a Russian military convoy north of Kyiv – reported to be 60 kilometres long – advances towards the city.

About 140km west of the capital, in the city of Zhytomyr, four people, including a child, were killed on Tuesday by a Russian cruise missile, a Ukrainian official said.

Mr Putin ordered the “special military operation” last Thursday in a attempt to disarm Ukraine, capture the “neo-Nazis” he claims are running the country and crush its hopes of forging closer ties with the West.

Ukraine, which is not a member of Nato, has called on the US-led military alliance to implement a no-fly zone.

The plea was rejected by Washington, which fears such a measure would stoke a direct conflict between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.

The US and its allies have sent weapons to Ukraine instead.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Washington had agreed with partners to convene a task force “to freeze and seize the assets of key Russian elites“.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday suggested Mr Putin may have committed war crimes in Ukraine.

“What we have seen already from Vladimir Putin’s regime in the use of the munitions that they have already been dropping on innocent civilians in my view already fully qualifies as a war crime,” he told MPs in the House of Commons.

Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s leader in Westminster, called Mr Putin a “war criminal” who “must face justice” in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Earlier, Mr Johnson spoke to President Zelenskyy to voice his “disgust” at the “abhorrent attacks carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine in recent hours and days", a No 10 representative said in a statement.

“The prime minister told President Zelenskyy that the UK was rallying UN General Assembly members today to ensure the strongest possible condemnation of Russia at this afternoon’s UN meeting in New York,” the representative said.

“Sharing his disgust at the attacks on Ukraine, the prime minister said the UK was doing everything possible to support the Ukrainian people and their resistance.”

Strikes that damaged the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial in Kiev and the central square in Kharkiv have caused revulsion. Western allies fear it is a sign of a shift in Russian tactics towards indiscriminate targeting of urban areas.

Updated: March 03, 2022, 6:56 AM
EDITOR'S PICKS