Kyiv/Moscow, Feb 28 (EFE).- The first round of negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials to secure a ceasefire concluded on Monday with both parties agreeing to meet for further talks later this week.
The talks were held in the Gomel region on the Ukraine-Belarus border on the fifth day of Russia’s military assault of Ukraine that saw heavy bombardments of the capital Kyiv and the country’s second-largest city Kharkiv.
Many people, including civilians, are feared to have been killed in Russian rocket attacks on Kharkiv, located near the border in northeast Ukraine.
Local officials have confirmed the deaths of at least 11 people, adding that dozens more were wounded.
“Due to the shelling, which is still ongoing, we cannot even involve the rescuers and eliminate the consequences,” regional governor Oleh Synehubov said, adding that Russian forces were shelling residential areas “where there is no critical infrastructure or positions of the Armed Forces.”
“Dozens of civilians are dying. It happens during the day when people go to pharmacies, to buy food and drinking water. It is a crime,” he said.
A senior official from the Ukraine’s interior ministry claimed that dozens of people were killed and hundreds of civilians injured in Kharkiv.
Anton Herashchenko shared graphic footage on his official Facebook page purporting to show the Russian bombardment of the city and the aftermath, which included bodies strewn across a street and an older woman with a severe leg injury.
The Ukrainian military accused Russian forces of dropping cluster bombs – which are illegal under the Geneva Convention – on a village in Chernihiv, “killing peaceful Ukrainians and wiping entire villages from the face of the earth,” the local military command said.
KYIV STILL STANDING
In Kyiv, a weekend-long curfew was lifted at 8am Monday morning to allow millions of residents to head out to shops for supplies along fortified streets, before a 10pm-7am curfew begins.
Ukraine’s military commander declared that the country’s armed forces successfully defended the capital from Russian troops trying to storm the outskirts of Kyiv overnight.
“All attempts to achieve the target by Russian-occupation troops have failed,” Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said on Facebook on Monday morning. “The situation is under control in the capital.”
“Columns of the occupant’s technology have been destroyed. The opponent suffered significant losses of the personnel team. Russian troops are demoralized and exhausted,” he added.
An intelligence update by the British defense ministry on Monday backed Syrskyi’s claims, saying “the bulk of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s ground forces remain more than 30km to the north of Kyiv their advance having been slowed by Ukrainian forces defending Hostomel airfield, a key Russian objective for day one of the conflict.”
It added that “logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance,” while heavy fighting continues around Chernihiv and Kharkiv.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said that some 500,000 people have fled the country since the invasion began, most seeking refuge in the neighboring countries of Poland, Hungary, Moldova and Romania.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday said the majority of civilian casualties were caused by long-range heavy artillery fire, adding that 102 civilians had been killed and 304 injured so far, including seven children, a lower estimate than Kyiv’s figures.