More than 70 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in Okhtyrka, a town between Kharkiv and Kiev, after a Russian strike on a military base.
The region’s leader, Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, posted on Telegram photographs of the charred shell of a four-story building and rescuers digging through the rubble after Monday’s strike.
There are reports of shelling or missiles hitting a building used as a base by the Ukrainian army as well as fuel tanks, with a local official saying an air-fuel explosive was used, although this did not could be independently confirmed. Video from the moment of the attack showed a thick column of black smoke above the city.
In a subsequent Facebook post, Zhyvytskyy said many Russian soldiers and some local residents also died in the shelling.
Mayor of Okhtyrka Pavlo Kuzmenko posted on Facebook: “Once again the enemy is waging an infamous war. An air-fuel bomb was dropped on an oil depot, oil tanks exploded.
The news broke Tuesday morning as Russian soldiers entered the southern city of Kherson.
Meanwhile, a Russian convoy of armored vehicles, tanks and other military equipment about 40 miles long (64 km) approached Kiev on Tuesday, satellite images showed, as Washington lawmakers feared a “long and bloody” fight ahead.
US senators issued the warning after receiving classified briefings on Monday night that raised the specter of a protracted battle over the capital and a “street-to-street fight” in Kyiv against Russian forces that have been frustrated by fierce resistance and their own logistical failures.
The Russian armored convoy was 25 km from the center of the Ukrainian capital, a city normally home to three million people, according to US satellite company Maxar. His photos also showed deployments of ground forces and ground attack helicopter units in southern Belarus, as its president, Alexander Lukashenko, could send troops to help Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces in the next 24 hours.
In the United States, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said intelligence suggested Russia would try to cut off Kyiv in the coming weeks. “The fight for Kiev will be long and bloody and the Ukrainians are quickly preparing for street-to-street fighting.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio said: “What I think I’m pretty sure is that Russia is off their schedule. I think they thought that within 72 hours they would hold Kiev.
The developments followed reports in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, of the widespread use of indiscriminate weapons such as multiple rocket launchers against civilian areas on Monday, suggesting that the Kremlin, having no managed to deliver a fatal blow in the early days of the war, was ready to unleash more desperate methods.
In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of committing war crimes by attacking a “peaceful town” devoid of military installations. “The Russians knew where they were shooting,” he said in a video address.
At least nine people were killed and 37 injured in rocket fire on the east of the city in what appeared to be a pattern of shelling civilian areas. Mayor Ihor Terekhov said the death toll included three children. “Today we had a very difficult day. It showed us that this is not just a war, this is a massacre of the Ukrainian people,” Terekhov said.
The International Criminal Court prosecutor said he would open an investigation into possible war crimes or crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
In other developments:
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to visit countries on NATO’s border with Russia on Tuesday, promising that Vladimir Putin will “feel the consequences” of invading Ukraine.
China, a sort of uneasy ally of Putin, has begun evacuating citizens from Ukraine. The first group, students, left for Moldova on Monday, Chinese state media reported.
Ukraine has relaxed visa rules to allow entry of foreign volunteers willing to help repel Russian forces.
Ukraine’s UN ambassador said Russia used a thermobaric weapon during the invasion.
Talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations near the Belarus-Ukraine border ended inconclusively, with state news agencies quoting officials as saying negotiators would return to their respective capitals for consultations before embarking on a second round of talks in the coming days.
Zelenskiy on Monday signed an official application for Ukraine to join the EU. The bloc said it was expecting Ukraine’s candidacy “imminently” and that it “should be assessed very quickly by the council, and a decision should be made on whether to seek an urgent opinion from the commission. “.
On Monday, the UN General Assembly opened an emergency session to deal with the Russian invasion. Ukraine’s allies are hoping to win support from more than 100 countries to back a resolution condemning Russia, in an attempt to further isolate Moscow.
As the assembly was underway, the US mission to the UN announced that it was expelling 12 Russian diplomats for allegedly engaging in espionage activities that threatened national security.
Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzya said the diplomats had been ordered to leave by March 7. He called it another “hostile” measure against the Russian mission.
Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya on Monday evening welcomed the end of Russia’s month-long presidency of the UN Security Council, saying: “I look forward to midnight when this abomination – the occupation of the seat of the President of the Security Council by Russia – is over.
Americans and Canadians responded to Zelenskiy’s call for the formation of an “international legion” of foreign fighters. Visa rules were relaxed from Tuesday to allow those wishing to help fend off Russian forces. “I feel guilty for not going,” said Dax, 26, an Alabama veteran of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Infantry Division, who planned to deploy with other ex-servicemen Americans.