Firefighters extinguish flames after a Russian rocket attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine. AP
In the war's third week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested there was still some reason to be optimistic that negotiations with the Russian government might yet yield an agreement.
Previewing his speech to the US Congress, Zelensky thanked President Joe Biden and "all the friends of Ukraine” for $13.6 billion in new support. He appealed for more weapons and more sanctions to punish Russia and repeated his call to "close the skies over Ukraine to Russian missiles and planes.”
Zelenskyy said Russia’s demands were becoming "more realistic" after their delegations met Tuesday via video. The sides were expected to speak again later Wednesday.
"Efforts are still needed, patience is needed,” he said in his video address to the nation. "Any war ends with an agreement.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Reuters
He said Russian forces had been unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory but had continued their heavy shelling of cities.
Developments on the diplomatic front and on the ground occurred as the number of people fleeing Ukraine amid Europe’s heaviest fighting since World War II eclipsed 3 million.
Zelensky said 28,893 civilians were able to flee through nine humanitarian corridors in the past day although the Russians refused to allow aid into Mariupol.
Shrapnel from an artillery shell slammed into a 12-story apartment building in central Kyiv on Wednesday, obliterating the top floor and igniting a fire that sent plumes of smoke over the area, according to a statement and images released by the Kyiv emergencies agency. The neighboring building was also damaged. The agency reported two victims, without saying if they were injured or killed.
Smoke rises after an explosion in Kyiv on Wednesday. AFP
Also, a powerful explosion thundered overnight in Kharkiv that was heard across the eastern city.
In addition to airstrikes and shelling by ground forces, Russian naval ships fired overnight on a town south of Mariupol on the Azov Sea and another near Odessa on the Black Sea, according to local officials.
Russian forces have intensified fighting in the Kyiv suburbs, notably around the town of Bucha in the northwest and the highway leading west toward Zhytomyr, the head of the Kyiv region Oleksiy Kuleba said. He said Russian troops are trying to cut off the capital from transport arteries and destroy logistical capabilities even as they plan a wide-ranging attack to seize Kyiv.
Twelve towns around Kyiv are without water and six without heat.
Russia has occupied the city of Ivankiv, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Kyiv, and controls the surrounding region on the border with Belarus, Kuleba said.
Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said Russia dropped a bomb on Saturday afternoon on the school where about 90 people were sheltering, causing a fire that engulfed the building.
Sergei Orlov, the encircled port city’s deputy mayor, told the BBC people had been taking cover at the location since the conflict began. He added the number of casualties was not yet known, but estimated that between 1,000 and 1,200 people were there.
Shabia Mantoo, a UNHCR spokeswoman, said the latest and still growing count had 281,000 in Poland, more than 84,500 in Hungary, about 36,400 in Moldova, over 32,500 in Romania and about 30,000 in Slovakia.
Governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy posted photographs of the charred shell of a four-story building and rescuers searching rubble. In a later Facebook post, he said many Russian soldiers and some local residents also were killed during the fighting on Sunday.
The Fire broke out over an area of about 100 square metres and was extinguished around an hour later, Interfax news agency reported, adding that the small refinery belonged to a company called Resource LLC.
Pope Francis offered his prayers for the thousands of victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey on Wednesday and called on the international community to continue to support rescue and recovery efforts.
Pakistani national Ikra Jiwani was arrested in Bengaluru in the last week of January along with her husband Mulayam Singh Yadav. The 19-year-old, Ikra Jivani was illegally staying in India.
The jacket was presented to the Prime Minister by Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) during India Energy Week in Bengaluru on Monday. The IOCL will recycle 100 million PET bottles annually to make fabrics, in a push to decarbonise the economy.