Russia and Belarus suspended international football and hockey attacks on Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has accused Russia of committing a war crime after his country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, came under heavy shelling and Russian forces massed outside the national capital.

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“The missile strike against Kharkiv is a war crime, an act of state terror,” Zelensky said in a video statement following the deadly March 1 attack that targeted the regional capital’s central square. from the northwest and hit the city administration building. “After such an attack, Russia is a terrorist country.”

Emergency services reported that at least 10 people were killed in the attack, which came after dozens were killed by Russian shelling a day earlier. Moscow has repeatedly asserted that it was not targeting civilian areas during what it calls its “military operation” in Ukraine, which entered its sixth day.

The attacks on Kharkiv came in the form of a convoy of artillery and armored vehicles stretching over 65 kilometers massed outside Kiev.

“Kharkiv and Kyiv are now Russia’s most important targets. Terror is aimed at breaking us and breaking our resistance,” Zelensky said in his video address. “They are advancing on the capital in the same way as on Kharkiv. That is why the defense of the capital is today the main priority of the state.”

Zelenskiy went on to announce that he had appointed General Mykola Zhyrnov as military governor of Kyiv to “ensure adequate defense of the capital”.

Satellite images showed the convoy which regularly approached Kyiv was within a few miles of the city in what Ukraine’s armed forces believe was an attempt to encircle and take control of the country’s largest city.

The developments came after ceasefire talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials on February 28 failed to yield a breakthrough, although each side agreed to continue negotiations in the coming days.

Zelenskiy, who in a video address on February 28 directly called on Russian troops to ignore their orders and stop fighting, offered no details of the hours-long talks that took place in neighboring Belarus. However, he said, Kiev was not ready to make concessions “when one side hits another with artillery rockets”.

Zelenskiy said Kiev was hit by three missile strikes on February 28, hundreds of Russian saboteurs roamed the city and capturing the capital remained a “key objective” for Moscow.

“They want to smash our national identity. That’s why the capital is under constant threat,” Zelenskiy said.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on March 1 that Russian forces would strike the infrastructure of Ukrainian security services and a psychological operations center in Kyiv and advised residents living near these targets to leave their homes.

Zelenskiy also challenged European lawmakers to “prove” they support Ukraine. Speaking on March 1 via video link to the European Parliament a day after Ukraine made a formal application to join the European Union, Zelenskiy said in an impassioned plea that his country had proven its strength in six days of resisting the unprovoked invasion of Russia.

“The European Union is going to be much stronger with us, that’s for sure. Without you, Ukraine is going to be alone,” Zelenskiy said in a speech delivered via video link on March 1.

“Prove that you are with us. Prove that you will not let us go. Prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will prevail over death and light will prevail over darkness,” he said. added.

The Ukrainian Air Force reported that five Russian fighter jets and a helicopter were shot down in airstrikes over towns outside the capital on February 28, although the information was not reported. could be independently verified.

The Air Force command also said that a Russian cruise missile was destroyed by a Buk anti-missile system and that Ukrainian planes hit columns of Russian armored vehicles in Kyiv and neighboring areas of Zhytomyr.

Ukrainian warplanes also reportedly dropped bombs and fired missiles at Russian forces in areas outside Kiev.

Video footage of the fighting in Kharkiv on February 28 showed residential areas bombed and apartment buildings rocked by powerful explosions. Reports that the northeastern city had been heavily bombed had dampened optimism of a deal.

Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said dozens of people were killed in the February 28 rocket attacks. On March 1, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called the attacks on Kharkiv a violation of war.

“The bombing of civilian infrastructure yesterday [February 28] in Kharkiv violates the laws of war,” Borrell said after a call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. “The EU stands steadfast with Ukraine in these dramatic times.”

Elsewhere in Ukraine, Sumy region chief Dmytro Zhyvytskyy wrote on Facebook on March 1 that more than 70 Ukrainian servicemen were killed when Russian troops shelled a military base in the town of Okhtyrka, located between Kharkiv and Kyiv.

In Kherson, a city just northwest of the Crimean peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, Mayor Ihor Кolykhayev wrote on Facebook that the Russian army was setting up checkpoints at the entrances to the city. Kolykhayev swore that “Kherson was and will remain Ukrainian”.

Mariupol has been without power following attacks by Russian forces, according to Donetsk region chief Pavlo Kyrylenko, who wrote on Facebook on March 1 that Ukrainian forces still hold the sea port city of ‘Azov.

The leader of the Eastern Region separatists, Denis Pushilin, said the aim was to encircle the strategically important city by the end of the day.

On March 1, Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Ihor Konashenkov said that the separatist forces had “joined the military units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, which took over the regions of Ukraine along the coast of the Sea of ​​Azov”.

In the town of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, near the border with Belarus, witnesses said a rocket blast set fire to a building early on February 28. Residents blamed the Russian military for the attack.

In his February 28 speech, Zelenskiy called on invading Russian soldiers to lay down their arms.

“Drop your gear. Get out of here. Don’t believe your commanders. Don’t believe your propagandists. Just save your lives,” Zelenskiy said, adding that more than 4,500 Russian troops had already lost their lives in the assault. of the Kremlin over the country.

There have been no independent confirmed casualty figures. On February 27, the Russian military admitted for the first time that some of its soldiers had been “killed and wounded”, but gave no figures or further details.

With reports from Reuters, AP, AFP, TASS and dpa

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