By Zachary Stieber
Smoke billowed from the tower shortly after the Russian Defense Ministry was quoted by state-run news agencies as promising its military would strike sites in Kyiv belonging to Ukraine’s security service and a special operations unit.
“Russian forces have just fired at the Kyiv TV Tower,” Ukraine’s Parliament wrote in a social media post, sharing a picture of the tower with smoke billowing from it.
The Russian ministry hours earlier said the attacks were aimed at thwarting “informational attacks against Russia,” urging Ukrainians to evacuate the areas around the sites.
Capturing Kyiv, which has about 2.8 million people, is a main objective of the Russian military, according to Ukrainian, American, and British officials.
A Russian armored column was approaching Kyiv on Tuesday but had made little progress over the past day, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters on a call.
Pictures released by U.S. satellite company Maxar showed Russian tanks, artillery, and fuel trucks stretching for 40 miles (60 kilometers) along a highway to the north.
“For the enemy, Kyiv is the key target,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has remained in the capital rallying Ukrainians, said in a message overnight. “We will neutralize them all.”
Russian troops fired artillery at Kyiv and the southern port city of Mariupol while the Ukrainian side shot down Russian military planes around the capital, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a briefing.
Ukraine also reported strikes to Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.
Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said “barbaric Russian missile strikes” targeted Kharkiv’s central Freedom Square and residential districts, on day six of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kuleba accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of carrying out war crimes. Civilians were reported among the dozens of people killed in Kharkiv, according to Ukraine.Play Video
A video shared by Ukrainian officials showed a massive fireball and large plumes of black smoke that appeared to shroud several civilian cars.
Kharkiv region head Oleg Synegubov said missile attacks hit residential areas.
“Such attacks are genocide of the Ukrainian people, a war crime against the civilian population!” Synegubov said, noting that the city’s defense was still holding.
Russian forces first entered Kharkiv on Sunday morning but Kharkiv’s mayor said Ukraine took back control of the city by the evening.
Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, said after meeting with members of Congress in Washington that Russians used a vacuum bomb in addition to missiles.
“They used the vacuum bomb today, which is actually prohibited by Geneva Conventions. So, you know, the devastation that Russia is trying to inflict on Ukraine is is large. But we Ukrainians will resist. We are defending our home. We do not have any other option. We will not get tired. We will not stop. We will not surrender,” she said.
The U.S. official told reporters on March 1 that Russia has filed more than 400 missiles since the Feb. 24 invasion, including roughly 20 in the past 24 hours.
Russian officials appeared to dispute being behind at least some of the strikes.
“The Russian army does not occupy the Ukrainian territory; it takes all measures to preserve the lives and safety of civilians. I would like to stress that strikes are carried out only on military targets and uses exclusively precision weapons,” Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, told a briefing in Moscow.
“Russian forces, during special operations, do not conduct any strikes against civilian infrastructure or any residential areas; this is out of the question. We are talking only about the demilitarization of Ukraine and about military structures. We must not forget that in most cases that you bring up, that is the firing by these nationalistic groups,” added Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Putin.
The International Criminal Court is seeking approval to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine.
Russian officials alleged that the Ukrainian side is using civilians as human shields and have placed weapons, including mortars, in courtyards of residential buildings and near schools.
Peskov also emphasized that the sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries will not alter Russia’s course in Ukraine.
Russia says it is attempting to “denazify” Ukraine and invaded because the neighboring country was not abiding by pacts reached years ago.
Ukraine says the invasion lacks justification and has called on Putin to order the complete withdrawal of troops.
Ceasefire talks ended on Feb. 28 with no immediate results. A second round, Ukrainian media outlets reported, was slated for March 2.
Isabel van Brugen and Reuters contributed to this report.
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