Ukraine crisis: Russia steps up attacks as West vows sanctions; Indian student killed in shelling


Russian forces stepped up their attacks on populated urban areas Tuesday, bombarding the central square in Ukraine’s second-largest city and Kyiv's main TV tower. Ukraine's president accused Moscow of a blatant campaign of terror and vowed: “Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget.”

Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed and five wounded in the attack on the TV tower, which is a couple miles from central Kyiv and a short walk from numerous apartment buildings. Officials said a TV control room and a power substation were hit, and Ukrainian TV channels stopped broadcasting.

At the same time, a 40-mile (64-kilometer) convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles advanced on Kyiv in what the West feared was a bid by Russian President Vladimir Putin to topple Ukraine's government and install a Kremlin-friendly regime.

And Russian forces pressed their attack on other towns and cities across the country, including at or near the strategic ports of Odesa and Mariupol in the south.

Day 6 of the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II found Russia increasingly isolated, beset by tough sanctions that have thrown its economy into turmoil and left the country practically friendless, apart from a few countries like China, Belarus and North Korea.

Overall death tolls from the fighting remained unclear, but a senior Western intelligence official, who had been briefed by multiple intelligence agencies, estimated Tuesday that more than 5,000 Russian soldiers had been captured or killed so far.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky said in a phone call with US president Joe Biden that it was important to stop "aggressor" Russia as soon as possible.

"Just had a conversation with the US president... We must stop the aggressor as soon as possible," Zelensky said on Twitter following the call.

'All Indian nationals left Kyiv'

All Indian nationals have left Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Tuesday.

At a media briefing, Shringla said he has conveyed to envoys of Russia and Ukraine India's demand for "urgent safe passage" for all Indian nationals stuck in Kharkiv and other conflict zones.

He said at a high-level meeting on the Ukraine crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed deep anguish over the loss of life of an Indian citizen in Kharkiv.

"We remain very concerned over the situation in Kharkiv, Sumy and other conflict zones," Shringla said.

"Over the next three days, 26 flights have been scheduled to bring back Indian citizens," he said.

Shringla said a C-17 IAF aircraft is expected to fly out at 4AM on Wednesday to Romania to repatriate our citizens.

India has been operating flights to bring back Indians from Romania and Hungary after they crossed over to these countries.

Shringla also said that Prime Minister Modi received a call from President of France Emmanuel Macron. Modi also spoke to the President of Poland.

Apart from Bucharest and Budapest, airports in Poland and the Slovak Republic will also be used to operate evacuation flights, he said.

Indian student killed in Ukraine shelling

This, as New Delhi, confirming that an Indian student was killed on Tuesday, urged Moscow and Kyiv to secure safe passage for around 12,000 of its stranded nationals.

"With profound sorrow we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning," Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter.

He added that the foreign secretary was "calling in the Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors to reiterate our demand for urgent safe passage for Indian nationals who are still in Kharkiv and cities in other conflict zones."

Speaking to reporters in the Karnataka, the student's father pleaded to Indian authorities and representatives in Ukraine: "Bring back my son's dead body."

Before Russia's invasion there were around 20,000 Indians in Ukraine. Around 8,000 have since managed to leave the country, of whom some 1,400 have been flown back to India, according to officials.

According to Indian media, some Indian students are being prevented from crossing into neighbouring countries, with border guards reportedly refusing to let them pass and demanding money.

"I was standing near the Ukrainian border, awaiting my turn to enter Romania when I saw a few guards point guns at Indian students and start abusing them in their language," the Times of India quoted one student as saying.

"Students, who were already scared, started screaming in terror."

Hindustan Times quoted Ishika Sarkar, a student in eastern Ukraine, saying in a video that Indians in the area were in bunkers and running short of food.

"(We) have been asked to reach the western border, which is impossible for us because the connecting bridges have been blown up due to bombardment... but we are not getting any kind of help in Ukraine," he said.

Aruj Raj, a student in Kharkiv, told the paper that he has been in a hostel bunker with 400 other Indian students since Thursday.

"There is so much bombing happening outside. We can see street fighting through our windows. The city is still under curfew. It is impossible for us to step outside. We hardly have anything left to eat or drink," he said.

India, which has long walked a tightrope in its relations with Moscow and the West and which gets most of its arms from Russia, last week abstained in the UN Security Council resolution deploring Russia's "aggression".

An AFP reporter saw rescue workers carrying a body out of the building, which was surrounded by debris and whose windows were completely shattered.

"This is State terrorism on the part of Russia," said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, who also reiterated his urgent appeal for his pro-Western country to join the European Union.

In a video address to the European Parliament, he said: "Prove you are with us, prove you are not abandoning us and you are really Europeans".

Officials said more than 20 people were also wounded in Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine and 10 more people discovered alive under the rubble.

The International Criminal Court has already opened a war crimes investigation against Russia and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the most recent attack "violates the rules of war".

In southern Ukraine, the city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea was left without electricity after bombardment, while Kherson on the Black Sea reported Russian checkpoints encircling the city.

In a key strategic victory for Moscow, Russia's defence ministry said its troops had linked up with the forces of pro-Moscow rebels from eastern Ukraine in a region along the Azov Sea coast.

'Shattered peace in Europe'

Russian president Vladimir Putin has "shattered peace in Europe", NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to an airbase in neighbouring Poland.

"Russia's aim is clear -- mass panic, civilian victims and the destruction of infrastructure. Ukraine is valiantly fighting back," Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, said on Twitter.

Ukraine says more than 350 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed since the Russian invasion began.

New Delhi said an Indian student was among the victims, killed by shelling in Kharkiv on Tuesday.

More than 660,000 people have already fled abroad, the UN refugee agency said, estimating that a million people are displaced within ex-Soviet Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million.

The UN estimates that four million refugees may need help in the coming months and 12 million more will need relief within the country.

Russia has defied international bans, boycotts and sanctions to press ahead with an offensive which it says is aimed at defending Ukraine's Russian speakers and toppling the leadership.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia would continue "until set goals are achieved" after initial ceasefire talks between Moscow and Kyiv failed to secure a breakthrough.

He vowed to "demilitarise and de-Nazify" Ukraine and protect Russia from a "military threat created by Western countries".

Western powers are planning more sanctions in response.

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia's Security Council, hit back saying "don't forget that in human history, economic wars quite often turned into real ones".

'Bombing kept us up all night'

Russia on Tuesday urged Kyiv residents living near infrastructure linked to Ukrainian intelligence to evacuate and fears are growing of an all-out assault to capture Kyiv -- a city of 2.8 million people.

Satellite images provided by US firm Mazar showed a 65-kilometre (40-mile) long build-up of armoured vehicles and artillery north of the city.

Zelensky said defending the city was now "the key priority for the state".

Inside Kyiv, makeshift barricades dotted the streets and residents formed long queues outside the few shops that remained open to buy basic essentials.

In the village of Shaika near Kyiv, Natasha, 51, opened a canteen in the local church to feed soldiers and volunteers.

"The shelling and the bombing kept us up all night," she said.

Neighbouring Poland has taken in nearly 400,000 people.

Iryna Plakhuta, a pregnant 43-year-old executive, had to leave her family behind in the capital because of fears over her safety.

"Our husbands stayed in Kyiv," she said. "They are protecting Ukraine. It's so hard."

The UN launched an emergency appeal for $1.7 billion (1.5 billion euros) and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen pledged 500 million euros.

"The destiny of Ukraine is at stake, but our own fate also lies in the balance," she told the European Parliament.

Sanctions hit Russians 

Western nations have moved to increasingly isolate Russia, responding with an intensifying diplomatic, economic, cultural and sporting backlash.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday suggested Russia should be stripped of UN rights council membership, further squeezing the diplomatic noose.

Germany has already promised arms for Ukraine, while the EU also said it would buy and supply arms to Ukraine, the first such move in its history.

And Turkey said it would implement an international treaty to limit ships passing through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits, a move requested by Ukraine to block the transit of Russian warships.

Within Russia, sanctions imposed by the West have begun to bite.

Putin announced emergency measures intended to prop up the Russian ruble, including banning Russians from transferring money abroad, after the currency crashed to a record low.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Moscow was also preparing a presidential decree to prevent foreign investment exiting the country.

Many ordinary Russians raced to withdraw cash.

Retired soldier Edward Sysoyev, 51, fidgeted impatiently while in line at a bank in Moscow.

"It'll be ordinary people who pay for this military bun-fight," he said.

Russian conductor sacked 

The response from the world of sports also gathered steam, as Russia was expelled from the World Cup and the country's clubs and national teams were suspended from all international football competitions.

The International Olympic Committee on Monday urged sports federations and organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events.

And Russia was stripped of hosting the 2022 Volleyball World Championships, while YouTube said it was blocking Russian channels RT and Sputnik in Europe and shipping giant Maersk said it would stop deliveries to Russian ports.

In the arts, the Munich Philharmonic said it was parting ways with star Russian conductor Valery Gergiev "with immediate effect" after he failed to respond to a request to denounce the invasion.

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Ukraine crisis: Russia steps up attacks as West vows sanctions; Indian student killed in shelling
Ukraine crisis: Russia steps up attacks as West vows sanctions; Indian student killed in shelling
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