The United Nations reported Thursday that more than 1 million people had left Ukraine as a result of Russia’s invasion, the fastest refugee exodus this century, as Russian soldiers continued to assault the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and lay siege to two major seaports.
According to a calculation provided to The Associated Press by the United Nations Refugee Agency, more than 2% of Ukraine’s population has been forced to flee the nation in less than a week. Residents frantic to flee falling shells and bombs crammed the city’s train station and packed into trains, not knowing where they were going.
Before recordings of alleged attacks on the city began to circulate, Associated Press correspondents in Kyiv heard at least one explosion overnight. The objectives were not readily apparent.
The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces issued a statement that did not mention the strikes, instead stating that Russian forces were “regrouping” and “trying to approach the city’s northern boundaries.”
“The push on Kyiv was not well-organized, and they’re now trapped,” military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer told the Associated Press in Moscow.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged on Ukrainians to maintain their resistance in a televised message. He promised the invaders “not a single quiet moment,” and referred to Russian soldiers as “confused youngsters who have been manipulated.”
Moscow’s isolation was exacerbated when the majority of the world spoke out against it in the United Nations, demanding that it leave Ukraine. In addition, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has launched an inquiry into alleged war crimes.
Felgenhauer believes that if Russian President Vladimir Putin does not find a means to stop the conflict swiftly, the country would face a “severe domestic political crisis.”
“There is no real money to fight this battle,” he claimed, adding that if Putin and the military “are unable to wrap up this campaign very quickly and victorious,” they would be “in a pickle.”
With conflict raging across Ukraine, Britain’s Defense Ministry reported Russian forces had encircled Mariupol, a significant city on the Azov Sea, while the fate of another important port, Kherson, a Black Sea shipbuilding city with a population of 280,000, remained unknown.
In a statement, Ukraine’s military stated that Russian forces “did not fulfill the principal aim of taking Mariupol,” but did not mention Kherson.
Putin’s army claimed to have completely seized control of Kherson, the largest city to fall so far in the assault. That was refuted by a senior US defense officer.
“In our opinion, Kherson is a fiercely disputed city,” the official added on the condition of anonymity.
The Associated Press was told by Zelenskyy’s office that it couldn’t comment on the situation in Kherson since the fighting was still going on.
Russian military were in the city, according to Kherson Mayor Igor Kolykhaev, who stated they came to the local administration building. He stated that he requested that they not kill people and that they enable workers to collect the remains from the streets.
“There are no Ukrainian military in the city; simply citizens and people who want to LIVE,” he claimed in a message subsequently published on Facebook.
Kherson will have a rigorous curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., according to the mayor, and only food and medication delivery will be allowed into the city. Pedestrians will also be required to stroll in groups of no more than two, heed halt directions, and not “provoke the military,” according to the city.
He wrote, “The flag flying over us is Ukrainian.” “And in order for it to continue that way, certain requirements must be met.”
The attacks on Mariupol, according to Mayor Vadym Boychenko, have been persistent.
He was cited by the Interfax news agency as stating, “We cannot even evacuate the injured from the streets, from houses and apartments today since the bombardment does not cease.”
For the first time in the battle, Russia revealed its military fatalities, stating that roughly 500 men were killed and almost 1,600 were injured. Ukraine did not reveal its military casualties, but claimed that over 2,000 civilians died, a figure that could not be independently corroborated.
Zelenskyy lauded his country’s fight in a video message to the nation delivered early Thursday.
“We are a people who have wrecked the enemy’s plans in a week,” he declared. “There will be no tranquility here for them.” They won’t be able to eat. They will not have a single calm minute here.”
The battle, he claimed, is affecting Russian soldiers’ morale, who “walk into grocery stores and attempt to find something to eat.”
“These aren’t superhero fighters,” he remarked. “These are befuddled kids who have been manipulated.”
Meanwhile, a senior US defense official stated that an enormous Russian column consisting of hundreds of tanks and other vehicles had halted about 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Kyiv and had made no substantial advance in the past several days.
The convoy, which had appeared to be on the verge of launching an attack on the capital earlier this week, has been hampered by gasoline and food shortages, according to the source.
Volunteers in their 60s manned a roadblock on the outskirts of Kyiv to attempt to halt the Russian advance.
“I had to take up arms in my old age,” said Andrey Goncharuk, 68. “We’ll kill the enemy and steal their weapons,” he stated, adding that the fighters needed additional guns.
Others crammed into railway stations around Ukraine, carrying blanket-wrapped toddlers and dragging wheeled bags into new lives as refugees.
The UN refugee agency’s spokesman, Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, told the Associated Press in an email that the refugee count in Central Europe had topped 1 million as of midnight, based on data obtained by national authorities.
Another agency spokesman, Shabia Mantoo, stated that the migration from Ukraine might become the cause of “the worst refugee catastrophe this century” if it continues at its current pace.
In another wave of aircraft bombardment, Russian forces blasted Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city after Kyiv, with a population of around 1.5 million people, shattering buildings and lighting up the skyline with fire. According to Oleg Sinehubov, the president of the Kharkiv regional government, at least 21 persons have been slain in the last 24 hours.
According to Oleksiy Arestovich, a prominent adviser to Zelenskyy, many Russian jets were shot down above Kharkiv.
“Today, Kharkiv is the Stalingrad of the twenty-first century,” Arestovich added, referring to one of Russia’s most heroic incidents, the five-month defense of the city against the Nazis during World War II.
“The city is unified, and we shall stand fast,” Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov told reporters from his subterranean bunker.
According to officials and videos and photographs posted by Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, Russian missile assaults ripped the roof off Kharkiv’s five-story regional police station and put the top floor on fire, as well as hitting the intelligence headquarters and a university building. Officials stated that residential structures were also damaged, but provided no further information.