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UPDATED: Russian artillery pounds Ukraine's Kharkiv as ceasefire talks end with no breakthrough

The Russian invasion -- the biggest assault on a European state since World War II -- has failed to make the decisive early gains that Putin would have hoped for. But Kharkiv in Ukraine's northeast has become a major battleground.

A destroyed armoured vehicle is seen in front of a school which, according to local residents, was on fire after shelling in Kharkiv
A destroyed armoured vehicle is seen in front of a school in Kharkiv, Ukraine, which, according to local residents, was on fire after shelling on Monday, Feb. 28.
Vitaliy Gnidyi / Reuters
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KYIV/MOSCOW -- Russian artillery bombarded residential districts of Ukraine's second largest city Kharkiv on Monday, killing possibly dozens of people, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow's invading forces met stiff resistance from Ukrainians on a fifth day of conflict.

The attacks took place while Russian and Ukrainian officials met on the Belarusian border, but their talks made no breakthrough.

Russia also faced deepening isolation and economic turmoil as Western nations, united in condemnation of its assault, hit it with an array of sanctions that rippled around the world. Global shares slid and oil prices jumped.

WORLD-NEWS-USRUSSIA-UKRAINE-4-LA
Volunteers for Territorial Defense Units arrive in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, and march past trenches dug to defend their positions against the incoming Russian invasion.
Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times / TNS

The United States imposed new sanctions -- on Russia's central bank and other sources of wealth.

And President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a letter formally requesting immediate membership of the European Union for Ukraine -- a request unlikely to shorten the admission process, but an emphatic statement of commitment to Western values.
Zelenskyy also urged the West to consider a no-fly zone for Russian aircraft over Ukraine. In a video address, Zelenskyy said it was time to block Russian missiles, planes and helicopters from Ukraine's airspace.

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"Fair negotiations can occur when one side does not hit the other side with rocket artillery at the very moment of negotiations," Zelenskiy said. He did not specify how and by whom a no-fly zone would be enforced.

The United States has ruled out sending troops to fight Russia and officials have voiced concern about further escalating tensions between the world's two biggest nuclear powers.

"A no-fly zone would require implementation," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. Such a move would require "deploying U.S. military to enforce, which would be... potentially a direct conflict, and potentially a war with Russia, which is something we are not planning to be a part of."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signs an official request for Ukraine to join the European Union, in Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signs an official request for Ukraine to join the European Union, with Prime Minister Denys Shmygal, right, and Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk, left, standing next to him, in Kyiv, Ukraine on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service via Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin showed no sign of reconsidering the invasion he unleashed on Russia's neighbor last Thursday in an attempt to pull it firmly back under Moscow's influence and redraw Europe's security map.

He dismissed the West as an "empire of lies" and replied to the new sanctions with moves to shore up Russia's crumbling rouble currency.

The Russian invasion -- the biggest assault on a European state since World War II -- has failed to make the decisive early gains that Putin would have hoped for. But Kharkiv in Ukraine's northeast has become a major battleground.

Regional administration chief Oleg Synegubov said Russian artillery had pounded residential districts even though no Ukrainian army positions or strategic infrastructure were there. At least 11 people were killed, he said.

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"This is happening in the daytime, when people have gone out to the pharmacy, for groceries, or for drinking water. It's a crime," he said.

A woman holds her newborn baby as they take shelter in the basement of a perinatal centre in Kharkiv
A woman holds her newborn baby as they take shelter in the basement of a perinatal center in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.
Vitaliy Gnidyi / Reuters

Earlier Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said Russian rocket strikes on Kharkiv had killed dozens. It was not possible to verify the casualty figures independently.

Video posted by the military showed thick columns of smoke rising from apartment blocks and flashes of flames.

Moscow's United Nations ambassador, speaking in New York, said the Russian army did not pose a threat to civilians.

Images from the U.S. satellite company Maxar showed a Russian military convoy stretching over 17 miles on the way to Kyiv.

Fighting also occurred throughout Sunday night around the port city of Mariupol, the head of the Donetsk regional administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said. He did not say whether Russian forces had gained or lost ground.

Russian forces seized two small cities in southeastern Ukraine and the area around a nuclear power plant, according to the Interfax news agency, but the capital Kyiv remained under government control.

Explosions were heard in the city before dawn and soldiers set up checkpoints and blocked streets with piles of sandbags and tires as they waited to take on Russian soldiers.

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On Kyiv's streets, signboards normally used for traffic alerts showed the message: "Putin lost the war. The whole world is with Ukraine."

Talks on border

Talks between the two sides took place on the border with strong Russian ally Belarus -- a launch pad for invading Russian troops.

Ukraine had said it wanted to secure an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces. The Kremlin declined to comment on its goals.

The meeting ended with officials heading back to capitals for further consultations before a second round of negotiations, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told reporters.

"The Russian side, unfortunately, still has a very biased view of the destructive processes it has launched," Podolyak tweeted.

Ukrainian service members are seen at a check point in Zhytomyr
Ukrainian service members are seen after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, at a check point in the city of Zhytomyr, Ukraine on February 27, 2022.
VIACHESLAV RATYNSKYI/REUTERS

Russian delegation head Vladimir Medinsky told reporters: "The most important thing is that we agreed to continue negotiating."

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation" that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbor's military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.

The Western-led response has been emphatic, with sanctions that effectively cut off Moscow's financial institutions from Western markets. The rouble plunged 32% against the dollar on Monday before recouping about half of its losses.

Over the weekend, Western nations announced sanctions including barring some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system.

Russia's central bank on Monday cranked up its key interest rate to 20% from 9.5% as the rouble dived. Authorities told export-focused companies to be ready to sell foreign currency.

The bank also ordered brokers to block any attempts by foreigners to sell Russian securities. But the global bank HSBC and the world's biggest aircraft leasing firm AerCap joined companies looking for the exit after British oil major BP, the biggest foreign investor in Russia, said on Sunday it would abandon its stake in state oil company Rosneft, writing off up to $25 billion.

In Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said EU sanctions would have a cost for Europe "but we have to be ready to pay the price, or we will have to pay a much higher price in the future."

The EU will provide intelligence to Ukraine about Russian troop movements and EU countries will increase their military support, he said.

Battle for cities

The Ukrainian military said Russian forces were also focusing on Chernihiv, northeast of Kyiv, and parts of the Donetsk region in the east. Separatists there raised a Russian flag on a local administration building in one shattered village on Sunday.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said at least 102 civilians in Ukraine had been killed since Thursday but the real figure could be "considerably higher."

Ukraine's health ministry said on Sunday 352 civilians, including 14 children, had been killed since the beginning of the invasion.

More than half a million people have fled to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

Partners in the U.S.-led NATO defense alliance were providing Ukraine with air-defense missiles and anti-tank weapons, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

The Kremlin accused the EU of hostile behavior, saying weapons supplies to Ukraine were destabilizing and proved that Russia was right in its efforts to demilitarize its neighbor.

But there was support for Ukraine from unexpected quarters.

The U.S. technology firm Microsoft said it had provided threat intelligence and defensive suggestions to Ukrainian officials about attacks on a range of targets, and also advised the government about attempted cyberthefts of data.

And European soccer's governing body, UEFA, scrapped sponsorship by the Russian state gas giant Gazprom reported to be worth $45 million a season, and UEFA and the global federation FIFA suspended all Russian teams until further notice.

Related Topics: UKRAINERUSSIANATO
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