By The Associated Press undefined
A Russian military convoy threatening Kyiv is far bigger than initially thought, with satellite images from Monday showing it occupying much of a 40-mile (64-kilometer) stretch of road north of the Ukrainian capital.
Explosions and gunfire were heard in embattled cities in eastern Ukraine as Russia’s invasion met unexpectedly stiff resistance.
The Russian military assault on Ukraine was in its fifth day Monday.
A Ukrainian delegation held talks with Russian officials at the border with Belarus, though they ended with no agreements except to keep talking. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone with Putin, urging him to halt the offensive.
Meanwhile, Western sanctions triggered by the invasion sent the Russian ruble plummeting, leading ordinary Russians to line up at banks and ATMs. And Russian teams were suspended from all international soccer matches, including qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, pushing the country toward sports pariah status.
WHAT’S HAPPENING ON THE GROUND?
Kyiv’s outgunned but determined troops slowed Russia’s advance and held onto the capital and other key cities — at least for the time being.
U.S. officials say they believe the invasion has been more difficult than the Kremlin envisioned, though that could change as Moscow adapts. Russia still lacked control of Ukrainian airspace.
As talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations wrapped up near the Belarusian border, several blasts could be heard in Kyiv itself.
Russian troops have been advancing slowly on the capital city of nearly 3 million people. On Monday, a military convoy consisting of hundreds of armored vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles was no more than 17 miles (25 kilometers) from the city center, according to satellite imagery from the Maxar company.
It was believed earlier Monday to be 17 miles (25 kilometers) long, but additional satellite imagery showed it stretching for 40 miles. Maxar said the newer images cover a wider area and were less obscured by clouds. Several homes and other buildings were seen burning near roads where the convoy is traveling.
HOW ARE ORDINARY UKRAINIANS COPING?
Long lines formed outside Kyiv supermarkets Monday as residents were allowed out of bomb shelters and homes for the first time since a curfew was imposed Saturday. Some found food, but others didn’t.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have sought safety at night in Kyiv’s subway system and other makeshift shelters around the country, where parents try to calm their children’s fears. Despite the shortages, lack of privacy and other challenges, Ukrainians were trying to put on a brave face.
“It’s much harder for soldiers at the front. It’s embarrassing to complain about the icy floor, drafts and terrible toilets,” said 74-year-old Irina, who sought safety in a Kyiv underground station and would not give her last name. Her grandson Anton is among those fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities said at least seven people were killed and dozens were injured in fighting in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, where social media videos showed apartment buildings being shelled. They warned that the actual figures could be much higher.
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said her office had confirmed that 102 civilians, including seven children, have been killed in the Russian invasion and 304 others wounded since Thursday, though she cautioned the tally was likely a vast undercount.
IS THERE ANY CHANCE FOR DIPLOMACY?
Ukrainian and Russian delegations met Monday on Ukraine’s border with Belarus. The meeting ended with no immediate reports of agreements, but Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said further talks could take place “in the near future.”
Before the meeting, Zelenskyy’s office said Ukraine would demand an immediate cease-fire.
While Ukraine sent its defense minister and other top officials, the Russian delegation was led by Putin’s cultural adviser — Vladimir Medinsky — an unlikely envoy for ending the war and a sign of how Moscow viewed the talks.
Medinsky said the sides “found certain points on which common positions could be foreseen.” He also said the talks would continue in the coming days on the Polish-Belarusian border.
Western officials believe Putin wants to overthrow Ukraine’s government and replace it with a compliant regime, reviving Moscow’s Cold War-era influence. His comments have raised fears that the invasion of Ukraine could lead to nuclear war, whether by design or mistake.
On Monday afternoon, Macron spoke by phone with Putin for 90 minutes, according to the French presidency. It said Putin expressed his “will to commit” to stopping all strikes against civilians and residential areas and to preserving civilian facilities. Macron asked him to end the military offensive in Ukraine and reaffirmed the need for an “immediate cease-fire.”
DOES UKRAINE WANT TO JOIN THE EUROPEAN UNION?
In a move sure to antagonize the Kremlin, Zelenskyy signed an application Monday asking that Ukraine be allowed to join the 27-nation European Union.
He posted photos online of himself signing the application, and his office said the paperwork was on its way to Brussels, where the EU is headquartered. The move was largely symbolic, as Ukraine is very far from reaching the EU’s membership standards, and the bloc is expansion-weary and unlikely to take on new members anytime soon.
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE UNITED NATIONS?
The U.N.’s two major bodies — the 193-nation General Assembly and the more powerful 15-member Security Council — were holding separate meetings Monday to discuss the war.
The council meeting opened with the news that the United States was kicking out 12 Russian U.N. diplomats whom Washington accuses of spying.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said he plans to open an investigation “as rapidly as possible” into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. Prosecutor Karim Khan said the investigation will look at alleged crimes committed before the Russian invasion, but that he also intends to look into any new crimes that either side might have committed since the invasion started.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE FLED UKRAINE?
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, speaking by video to the U.N. Security Council, said more than 520,000 refugees had fled Ukraine and that the number “has been rising exponentially, hour after hour.”
The U.N. expects the total to reach 4 million in the coming weeks, he said.
Earlier Monday, when the overall count still stood at around half a million, UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said the count included 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. The rest were scattered in other countries, she said.
WHAT ABOUT THE ECONOMIC FALLOUT OF THE INVASION?
The Russian currency plunged about 30% against the U.S. dollar on Monday after Western nations moved to block some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system and to restrict Russia’s use of its massive foreign currency reserves. The ruble later recovered ground after swift action by Russia’s central bank. The Moscow stock exchange was closed all day.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions targeting the Russian central bank and state investment funds. It said the move effectively immobilizes any assets of Russia’s central bank in the United States or held by Americans.
The EU on Monday officially slapped sanctions on 26 more Russians, including oligarchs, senior officials and an energy insurance company, bringing the total of people targeted to 680. EU sanctions also target 53 Russian entities, which are usually organizations, agencies, banks or companies.
The president of neutral Switzerland said his country would adopt the EU’s sanctions targeting Russians, including asset freezes, all but depriving well-heeled Russians of access to one of their favorite safe havens to park money.
In Russia, people have been flocking to banks and ATMs for days, seeking to exchange rubles for dollars or euros, with reports on social media of long lines and machines running out.
Economists and analysts said a sharp devaluation of the ruble would mean a drop in the standard of living for the average Russian. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the new sanctions as “heavy,” but argued Monday that “Russia has the necessary potential to compensate the damage.”
WHAT ARE WORLD SPORTS BODIES DOING ABOUT RUSSIA?
World soccer body FIFA and European soccer authority UEFA on Monday banned Russian national and clubs teams from their competitions “until further notice.” Russia’s men’s national team had been scheduled to play in World Cup qualifying playoffs in just three weeks.
The high-level punishment involving sports and politics — not seen for decades — came after the International Olympic Committee pushed dozens of sports governing bodies to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events. The IOC said this was needed to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”
Denying Russia a place on the international stage should deliver a financial and psychological blow to the country, along with tarnishing its image as an elite sports powerhouse.
Follow AP’s coverage of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine