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Russia says it controls Ukraine's Kherson on day 7 of military operation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A civilian trains to throw Molotov cocktails to defend the city, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, on March 1, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia has announced that its forces have taken control of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, as Moscow's large-scale military operation against its neighbor enters its seventh day.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday that Russian forces had taken control of Kherson on the Black Sea, Reuters reported. Kherson, a city of nearly a quarter million people just north of Crimea, is the biggest city to fall to Russian forces so far.

City Mayor Igor Kolykhayev was quoted by local media on Tuesday as saying that Russian forces had taken control of the railway station and the port overnight and that the occupation of Kherson was underway.

Russian airborne troops land in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Meanwhile, Ukraine's army says Russian paratroopers have landed in the country's second-largest city of Kharkiv, triggering immediate cashes in the streets.

“Russian airborne troops landed in Kharkiv… and attacked a local hospital,” the army said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app on Wednesday, adding that there was heavy fighting going on between Ukrainian armed forces and the Russian forces.

Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said a fire had broken out in the barracks of a flight school in the northeastern city following an air raid. “Practically there are no areas left in Kharkiv where an artillery shell has not yet hit,” he said in a statement posted on Telegram.

The city’s governor, Oleg Synegubov, also said on Telegram that seven people were killed in an attack on a government building and that 24 people were wounded.

Kharkiv, a largely Russian-speaking city near the Russian border, has a population of around 1.4 million. It has been a target of Russian forces since President Vladimir Putin announced a military offensive in Ukrainian territory last Thursday.

On Tuesday, local media reports said that Russian airstrikes had hit a residential block in the city, killing eight people.

Russia has denied targeting civilian infrastructure since the start of its military offensive in Ukraine, saying it is only targeting the country's military infrastructure, air defenses, and air forces with high-precision weapons.

In Mariupol, a port on the Sea of Azov, more than a hundred people were injured on Tuesday in Russian fire, the mayor of the city, Vadym Boychenko was quoted as saying by Ukrainian media.

In Borodyanka, 50 kilometers from Kiev, Russian airstrikes destroyed two residential buildings on Tuesday, according to Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Dzhaparova, who shared a video of the grey buildings partially in ruins, with apartments in flames.

Belarus attack fears

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has also said it feared an attack from Belarus over its northern border.

"Belarusian troops have been put on high alert and are concentrated in areas closest to the border with Ukraine," the ministry said in a statement on Facebook on Tuesday. Ukrainian intelligence noted “significant activity” of aircraft in the border area, and convoys of vehicles carrying food and ammunition were observed there, the statement said.

In view of these movements, Belarus could probably support Russian forces in the ongoing war in the future, the ministry warned.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his country has no plans to join the war.

Biden condemns Putin's attacks on Ukraine

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has used his State of the Union address to condemn Russia's military offensive against Ukraine, saying it was "premeditated and totally unprovoked."

"While he (Putin) may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run," Biden said, adding that, "He has no idea what's coming," without elaborating.

Biden further ratcheted up sanctions on Moscow, joining the European Union and Canada in banning Russian planes from US airspace.

Ukraine's besieged cities brace for more Russian attacks

Ukraine's besieged cities are bracing for more attacks as Russian commanders facing fierce Ukrainian resistance intensify their bombardment of urban areas in a push toward the capital, Kiev.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled the fighting as a miles-long Russian military convoy north of Kiev advances toward the city.

West of Kiev, in the city of Zhytomyr, four people, including a child, were killed on Tuesday by a Russian cruise missile, a Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.

The British Ministry of Defense has published its latest intelligence report on the situation in Ukraine, saying that while Russian forces have moved into the center of Kherson, overall gains have been “limited” due to ongoing logistical issues and strong Ukrainian resistance.

Heavy Russian artillery and airstrikes have continued to hit built-up areas, focused in the cities of Kharkiv, Kiev, Mariupol, and Chernihiv, in the past 24 hours, it says.

The update adds that the number of civilians left displaced and forced to flee stands at about 660,000.

In a video address on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that nearly 6,000 Russians had been killed in the first six days of Moscow's invasion, adding that the Kremlin would not be able to take his country with bombs and airstrikes.

Ukraine's leader also called on Russia to stop bombarding civilians and resume talks.

"It's necessary to at least stop bombing people, just stop the bombing and then sit down at the negotiating table," Zelenskiy said from a heavily-guarded government compound in Kiev.


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