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Ukraine war: Russia escalates attacks on civilian areas as forces close on main cities

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By Alasdair Sandford  & Alice Tidey  with AP, AFP
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An armed man stands by the remains of a Russian military vehicle in Bucha, close to the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022.
An armed man stands by the remains of a Russian military vehicle in Bucha, close to the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Serhii Nuzhnenko

Russia escalated its attacks on Ukraine on Tuesday, unleashing a campaign of violence in urban areas as its forces closed in on the main cities. The long military convoy outside Kyiv continues to advance slowly on the capital.

Ukraine's second city Kharkiv saw more civilian casualties as Russian forces intensified their bombardment, hitting residential areas.

Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed in an airstrike on Kyiv's main TV tower, on the site of a World War II Holocaust memorial. "History repeating," said President Volodomyr Zelenskyy.

Russia says it plans to target key security infrastructure in the capital, warning residents to flee. Moscow has denied targeting civilian areas, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

President Zelenskyy called on the European Union during an emotional address to MEPs to "prove that you are with us."

03.01.2022
22:56

A summary of Tuesday's key points: 

  • Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed in the attack on the TV tower in Kyiv. A TV control room and power substation were hit, and at least some Ukrainian channels briefly stopped broadcasting, officials said. A Jewish cemetery at the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial was damaged.
  • In intensified Russian shelling of Kharkiv, authorities said at least 10 were killed when the largest public square was hit by a missile, Zelenskyy calling the attack a war crime. Explosions tore through residential areas, with eight people reportedly killed in another airstrike. President Zelensky condemned Russian "state terrorism".
  • Ukraine's president was given a standing ovation by MEPs as he called on the EU to "prove that you will not let us go", saying Ukrainians are fighting for rights, freedoms and survival". EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: "The destiny of Ukraine is at stake, but our own fate also lies in the balance."
  • EU diplomats and their partners at two UN conferences walked out as the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov addressed them by videolink. 
  • Russian forces pressed their assault on other towns and cities across the country, including the strategic ports of Odesa and Mariupol in the south.
  • Human Rights Watch said it documented a cluster bomb attack outside a hospital in Ukraine’s east in recent days. Local residents also reported the use of the weapons in Kharkiv and the village of Kiyanka. The Kremlin denied using cluster bombs.
  • A senior U.S. defense official described the long Russian army convoy heading to Kyiv as “bogged down,” saying Russia appeared to be pausing and regrouping to evaluate how to retake the momentum in the fighting.
  • On a highway between Odessa and Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, residents piled tractor tires filled with sand and topped with sandbags to block convoys.
  • Overall, the Russian military has been been stalled by fierce resistance on the ground and a surprising inability to completely dominate Ukraine’s airspace. 
  • The UN says more than 660,000 refugees have fled Ukraine in six days and numbers are growing "exponentially". 
03.01.2022
23:07
That's all from our live blog tonight. Scroll down below to see how today's events unfolded. Join us again from 06.00 CET on Wednesday for more live updates. 
03.01.2022
22:16

Watch: Diplomats walk out during Lavrov speeches at UN

In contrast to the standing ovation MEPs gave Ukraine's President Zelenskyy, hundreds of diplomats staged walkouts on Tuesday while Russia's foreign minister was speaking by videolink, in protest at his countr's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Watch: Diplomats walk out during Sergey Lavrov speeches at UN

Envoys left en masse as Russia's foreign minister addressed the United Nations in Geneva via video.
03.01.2022
22:12

Washington strikes note of caution over Russian lack of progress

The U.S. on Tuesday injected a strong note of caution into the persistent reports that Russian military progress — including by the massive convoy outside Kyiv — has slowed, plagued by food and fuel shortages and logistical problems.

One senior Defense official said that the U.S. has seen Russian military columns literally run out of gas, and in some places running out of food, and that morale is suffering as a result.

But the official added that it is important to be pragmatic. The Russians still have a significant amount of combat power that has not yet been tapped, and “they will regroup, they will adjust, they will change their tactics.”

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments. Overall, the U.S. assesses that Russia has launched more than 400 missiles into Ukraine, of various types and sizes. As of Tuesday, the Ukrainian air and missile defense systems remain viable and are being used. Also, weapons from the U.S. and others continues to flow into Ukraine. The official said that the aid is getting to the Ukrainian military and troops are “actively using these systems.”

The official said Russians have made progress in the south, moving along two routes out of Crimea – one to the northeast and one to the northwest. It’s not clear that Russians have taken control of Kherson, but heavy fighting continues. And, the official said Russian forces have not yet advanced into Mariupol, but are close enough to strike into the city with long-range weapons. (AP)

03.01.2022
22:07

Cannes Film Festival bars Russian delegations as cultural backlash intensifies

The cultural backlash against Russia's invasion of Ukraine intensified on Tuesday as the Cannes Film Festival said no Russian delegations would be welcome this year.

Meanwhile the Venice festival announced free screenings of a film about the 2014 conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

The announcements by Europe's two premier film festivals came on the heels of other high-profile protests in the arts, including Hollywood's decision to pull films scheduled for release in Russia, and the Munich Philharmonic's decision to fire chief conductor Valery Gergiev.

The orchestra, joined by other orchestras and festivals linked to Gergiev, cited his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his refusal to reject the invasion.

Cannes, which is scheduled for May, is the most global of film festivals and its international village of flag-waving pavilions annually hosts more than 80 countries from around the world.

In a statement, festival organisers said the ban on any official Russian delegation or individuals linked to the Kremlin would remain “unless the war of assault ends in conditions that will satisfy the Ukrainian people.”

The festival didn’t rule out accepting films from Russia. (AP)

03.01.2022
21:32

Putin acts to offset Western sanctions

Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a decree that prohibits taking more than $10,000 (€9,000) worth of foreign currency in cash and “monetary instruments” out of Russia.

The move comes in response to the crippling sanctions Western nations have imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, which this week tanked the rouble and sent Russians flocking to banks and ATM in fear for the fate of their savings.

Other measures Putin ordered this week included obligating Russian exporters to sell 80% of their revenues in foreign currency, prohibiting Russian residents from providing non-residents with foreign currency under loan agreements and from depositing foreign currency into foreign bank accounts.

Meanwhile the total market value of Bitcoin has overtaken that of the plummeting Russian rouble, as speculation is growing that the digital coin and other cryptocurrencies could help Moscow cushion the blow of international sanctions.

Here's our write-up on that:

As sanctions hit Russia, Bitcoin overtakes plunging rouble in value

As missiles pummel Ukraine and financial sanctions slam Russia, people are increasingly turning to cryptocurrencies.

03.01.2022
21:14

Nuclear alert: Putin's order to ready Russia’s deterrent forces explained

There has been some confusion over what the Russian president's order to his generals on Sunday means specifically. Some interpret Putin’s manoeuvre as an order to prepare Russia’s nuclear forces for an attack.

Experts, however, say it is a little more complicated than that.

Read more:

Will the war in Ukraine go nuclear? The risks of escalation explained

Vladimir Putin shocked leaders around the world on Sunday by bringing the threat of nuclear escalation into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

03.01.2022
21:05

UK imposes sanctions on Belarus

The British government has said it's to impose sanctions on individuals and organisations from Belarus, over its involvement in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Described as a "first tranche of sanctions", it targets several senior defence officials and two "military enterprises".
"The Lukashenko regime actively aids and abets Russia’s illegal invasion and will be made to feel the economic consequences for its support for Putin," Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a UK government statement.
03.01.2022
20:34

Biden and Zelenskyy speak on the phone

03.01.2022
20:23

Is there a 'shocking distinction' over refugees in parts of the EU?

Eastern European countries are being praised for letting in tens of thousands of people from Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion. 
But the open-door policy of several states has highlighted an apparent double-standard, as these countries have not been so welcoming to people fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa.
Read more here:

Does the Ukraine exodus reveal a ‘shocking distinction’ on refugees?

Critics say Europe should be treating all refugees equally, regardless of where they come from.