Russian invasion convoy mass near Ukrainian capital

Kyiv (AFP) – A huge Russian military convoy massed on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday as fears grew that invading forces were preparing to launch devastating assaults aimed at taking control of Kiev and other major cities.

Satellite images showed a long buildup of armored vehicles and artillery beginning 29 kilometers (18 miles) north of the city, as Moscow defied mounting global pressure and a wave of international sanctions that have wrecked Russia’s economy .

Initial ceasefire talks between Moscow and Kyiv on Monday failed to achieve a breakthrough, with Russia bombing residential areas in Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, and other parts of the country after the negotiations.

The Russian military has regrouped and massed its forces over the past 24 hours “mainly to encircle and take control of Kyiv and other major cities,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff wrote on Facebook.

The column is more than 65 kilometers long and covers the entire route from Antonov airport near Kiev to the city of Prybirsk, US satellite imagery company Maxar said.

“Some vehicles are quite spaced out while in other sections equipment and military units are driving two or three vehicles abreast on the road,” Maxar said.

A resident and volunteer of Kyiv is preparing a rear post with trenches Daphne ROUSSEAUAFP

The images also showed “additional deployments of ground forces and ground attack helicopter units” in southern Belarus, near the Ukrainian border.

The mayor of the eastern city of Kharkiv, Igor Terekhov, quoted by Ukrainian media, warned that armored vehicles and tanks from Moscow are “everywhere in the city”.

Russian forces killed several civilians, including children, on Monday night, he said.

‘Flowers for the Grave’

Kherson Mayor Igor Kolykhayev also wrote on Facebook that the Russian military had set up checkpoints at all entrances to the city, but said they “remain Ukrainian” and “will be able to resist”.

Explosions were also reported in and around Brovary, a town on the outskirts of the capital.

In Kiev, many were bracing for another onslaught with makeshift barricades dotting the streets.

School that was destroyed near the city of Kharkiv, which came under heavy attack from Russian invaders
School that was destroyed near the city of Kharkiv, which came under heavy attack from Russian invaders Sergei BOBOK AFP

“We will welcome them with Molotov cocktails and bullets in the head,” bank employee Viktor Rudnichenko told AFP. “The only flowers they could receive from us will be for their grave.”

More than 350 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed since last Thursday’s invasion, according to Ukraine, while more than half a million people have fled the country.

Moscow said on Monday that it had “gained air superiority over the whole of Ukrainian territory”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for a global ban on Russian planes and ships entering airports and seaports around the world in a bid to stem the onslaught on Moscow.

War Crimes Investigation

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his demands to end the war on Monday during a phone call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

They included the recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea and the demilitarization of Ukraine.

Instead, Western nations moved to increasingly isolate Russia, responding with an escalation of diplomatic, economic, cultural and sporting reactions.

The weekend was marked by a series of momentous announcements from Europe, with Germany unveiling a historic change to its defense policy.

Russia invades Ukraine
Russia invades Ukraine Kenan AUGEARDAFP

The EU also announced that it would buy and supply arms to Ukraine, the first in its history.

Moscow came under fire Monday at the UN General Assembly and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened a war crimes investigation.

“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to believe that alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine” since 2014, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement.

Russia also faced urgent calls in a special debate of the United Nations General Assembly to end its “unprovoked” and “unwarranted” assault.

In the General Assembly Hall on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded: “The fighting in Ukraine must stop. Enough is enough.”

The United States expelled 12 members of the UN mission in Moscow from America on Monday for being “intelligence agents”.

Canada announced a ban on Russian oil imports on Monday.

The European Union and its allies are also preparing new sanctions against Russia in the coming days to “increase the cost” of the war in Ukraine, a Macron aide told reporters.

And Turkey has said it will implement an international treaty to limit ships passing through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits, a measure requested by Ukraine to block the transit of Russian warships.

The Russian ruble slumped to a record high as sanctions imposed by the West over the weekend had an immediate impact in Moscow, forcing the central bank to more than double its key interest rate to 20 %.

Cars destroyed by recent shelling in Kyiv
Cars destroyed by recent shelling in Kyiv Genya SAVILOV AFP

Putin also announced emergency measures to support the ruble, including banning residents from transferring money abroad.

Many Russians rushed to withdraw cash.

Retired soldier Edward Sysoyev, 51, fidgeted impatiently as he queued at a bank in Moscow.

“Ninety percent of Russians are going to rush to withdraw their rubles and change them into dollars, goods or even gold… it will be ordinary people who will pay for this military brawl,” he said. declared.

Sports isolation

The sports world’s response has also gathered momentum, with Russia expelled from the World Cup and the country’s clubs and national teams suspended from all international football competition “until further notice”, said FIFA and UEFA.

The International Olympic Committee on Monday urged sports federations and organizers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events.

Women and children rest where they can at Lviv station
Women and children rest where they can at Lviv station Yuriy Diachyshyn AFP

Badminton, rugby, ice hockey, basketball and Formula 1 authorities have all decided to act against Russia, either by banning Russian national teams and clubs or by suspending events in Russia .

The growing sporting isolation comes as hundreds of thousands of people flee their homes west in Europe after the Russian invasion.

More than half a million people have already fled abroad, the UN refugee agency said on Monday, with neighboring Poland alone hosting nearly 300,000 people.

Iryna Plakhuta, a 43-year-old pregnant executive, had to abandon her family in the capital out of fear for her safety.

“Our husbands stayed in Kiev,” she said. “They protect Ukraine. It’s so difficult.”