The number of people sent to flee Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion exceeded 1 million on Wednesday, making it the quickest refugee flight of the century, the UN said as Russian forces continued to bomb the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and laid siege to two strategic seaports.
According to the UN refugee agency, published by the Associated Press, more than 2% of Ukraine’s population was expelled in less than a week. A mass evacuation could be seen in Kharkiv, where residents desperately fleeing falling shells and bombs overcrowded the city station and tried to push on trains, not always knowing where they were heading.
In a video message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Ukrainians to continue resistance. He promised that the invaders would have “no peace”, and described the Russian soldiers as “confused children who were used.”
Moscow’s isolation deepened when much of the world lined up against it at the UN demanding its withdrawal from Ukraine. A prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into possible war crimes.
As fighting continues on various fronts across the country, the UK Ministry of Defense has said that Mariupol, a major city in the Sea of Azov, is surrounded by Russian troops, while the status of another important port, Kherson, a Black Sea shipbuilding city of 280,000, remains . incomprehensible.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have claimed to have taken full control of Kherson, making it the largest city killed in the invasion. A senior U.S. defense official has denied this.
“Our opinion that Kherson is a very controversial city,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The office of the Green Agency told the AP that they could not comment on the situation in Kherson while the fighting was still going on.
Kherson Mayor Igor Kalykhayev said that the Russian military was in the city and approached the city administration building. He said he asked them not to shoot at civilians and allow crews to collect bodies from the streets.
“We have no Ukrainian troops in the city, only civilians and people who want to LIVE,” he said in a statement later posted on Facebook.
The mayor said Kherson would maintain a strict curfew from 8pm to 6am and would restrict traffic to the city to deliver food and medicine. The city will also require pedestrians to go in groups of no more than two, obey commands to stop and “not provoke troops”.
“The flag flying over us is Ukrainian,” he wrote. “And for that to continue, these requirements must be met.”
Mariupol Mayor Vadzim Boychanka said the attacks there were ruthless.
“We can’t even pick up the wounded from the streets, houses and apartments today, because the shelling doesn’t stop,” Interfax quoted him as saying.
Russia reported its military losses for the first time since the invasion began last week, saying nearly 500 of its troops had been killed and nearly 1,600 wounded. Ukraine has not disclosed its own military losses, but has said more than 2,000 civilians have been killed, which cannot be verified independently.
In a video address to the nation early Thursday, Zelensky praised his country’s resistance.
“We are a nation that destroyed the enemy’s plans in a week,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. They will have no food. They will not have a single quiet here. “
He said the fighting affected the morale of Russian soldiers who “go to grocery stores and try to find something to eat.”
“These are not superpower warriors,” he said. “These are confused children who have been used.”
Meanwhile, a senior U.S. defense official said a huge convoy of hundreds of tanks and other vehicles appeared to have stopped about 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Kiev and had made no real progress in the past couple of days.
The convoy, which earlier this week seemed ready to storm the capital, is short of fuel and food, the official said.
In the remote suburbs of Kiev, volunteers, who are over 60 years old, ran a checkpoint to try to block Russia’s advance.
“In my old age I had to take up arms,” said 68-year-old Andrei Goncharuk. He said the fighters needed more weapons, but “we will kill the enemy and take away his weapons.”
In Ukraine, others crowded the train stations, carrying children wrapped in blankets, and dragging suitcases on wheels into the new life of refugees.
In an email, UN refugee spokesman Jung-A Gedini-Williams told the AP that the latest figures show that the number of refugees as far north as Central Europe has exceeded 1 million, based on data collected by national authorities.
Shabia Mantu, another spokesman for the agency, said that “at this rate” leaving Ukraine could be the source of “the biggest refugee crisis of this century.”
On Wednesday evening in the center of Kiev thundered a powerful explosion as a result of a missile strike near the South Railway Station of the capital. There was no immediate information about the dead or injured.
Russian troops have launched another round of air strikes on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s largest city after Kiev with a population of about 1.5 million people. At least 21 people have died over the past 24 hours, said the head of the Kharkiv regional administration Oleg Sinegubov.
According to Zelensky’s chief adviser Alexei Arastovich, several Russian planes were shot down over Kharkiv.
“Today, Kharkiv is the Stalingrad of the 21st century,” Orastovich said, referring to what is considered one of the most heroic episodes in Russia’s history – the city’s five-month defense against the Nazis during World War II.
The mayor of Kharkiv Igor Terekhov from his bunker in the basement told the BBC: “The city is one, and we will stand.”
Russian attacks, many with rockets, blew up the roof of a five-story regional police building in Kharkiv and set fire to the top floor, as well as damaged intelligence headquarters and the university building, officials said, and videos and photos released by Ukraine’s State Emergency Service. . Officials said that houses were also affected, but did not provide details.
The head of the UN warned that the fighting posed a danger to 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine.
Rafael Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency said the war was “the first time the military conflict has taken place against the backdrop of a major nuclear power program,” and said he was “seriously concerned.”
Russia has already seized control of the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant, the site of the world’s largest nuclear disaster in 1986.
In New York, the UN General Assembly voted to demand that Russia stop the offensive and withdraw all troops immediately, with world powers and tiny island nations condemning Moscow. Voted 141 against 5 with 35 abstentions.
Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but can reflect and influence opinion in the world.
The vote came after a 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997. The only countries that voted with Russia were Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea. Cuba defended Moscow, but eventually refrained.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN Sergei Kislits said that Russian forces “came to Ukrainian soil not only to kill some of us … they came to deprive Ukraine of its very right to exist.” He added: “The crimes are so barbaric that they are difficult to understand.”
Russia has stepped up its rhetoric. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reminded the world of the country’s huge nuclear arsenal when he said in an interview with Al-Jazeera that “World War III can only be nuclear.”
In the city of Chernihiv in the north of the country, two cruise missiles were hospitalized, according to the Ukrainian agency UNIAN, which quoted the head of the Health Department Sergei Pivovar, that the authorities are working to determine the number of victims.
The number of refugees exceeds 1 million; The Russians besieged the ports of Ukraine