First key southern city falls, Ukrainian officials say
By Michael Schwirtz and Dan Bilefsky
As the war in Ukraine pushed into its seventh day Wednesday, Russian forces captured the strategically important hub of Kherson, Ukrainian officials said, making it the first major city to be overcome by President Vladimir Putin’s forces since the invasion began Feb. 24.
Kherson’s mayor, Igor Kolykhaev, and a senior Ukrainian government official confirmed that Kherson had fallen.
Russian forces had encircled the city, said Kolykhaev, and after days of intense fighting, Ukrainian forces retreated toward the nearby city of Mykolaiv.
“There is no Ukrainian army here,” he said in an interview. “The city is surrounded.”
Just hours earlier, Ukrainian officials had said that the municipal government was still in place, and the mayor had said Kherson was “waiting for a miracle.”
About 10 armed Russian officers, including the Russian commander, had entered city hall, Kolykhaev said, and had plans to establish a Russian administrative center there.
The fall of Kherson — a city of 300,000 people, northwest of the Crimean peninsula — is strategically significant because it would allow the Russians to control more of Ukraine’s southern coastline and to push west toward the city of Odessa.
A senior Pentagon official said that Russian forces across Ukraine continued to suffer logistical problems and that Russia’s military leadership had become much more aggressive in targeting civilian infrastructure inside cities.
Here are the latest developments:
— Attacks by Russian troops were reported on hospitals, schools and critical infrastructure in key cities in Ukraine’s south and east. Russian forces continued to lay siege to central Kharkiv, a city of 1.5 million in Ukraine’s northeast. A government building there was hit by an apparent rocket strike Wednesday, and supplies of food and water were running low.
— The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with 141 countries voting in favor. Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria voted against the measure. China, Iraq, India and Iran were among the 34 abstaining.
— Russian forces appeared to be moving to encircle the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. A military convoy with hundreds of vehicles remained north of the city, a possible prelude to an assault. A senior U.S. defense official said the convoy appeared to have “made no appreciable movement closer to the city” over the past two days.
— Overnight, Russian troops surrounded Mariupol, a port city in the southeast. More than 120 civilians were being treated for injuries in hospitals, the city’s mayor said, and residents baked 26 tons of bread to help people survive the coming onslaught.
— President Joe Biden predicted that the invasion of Ukraine would “leave Russia weaker and the world stronger” during a fiery State of the Union address Tuesday night. He said the United States would bar Russian planes from U.S. airspace and that the Justice Department would try to seize the assets of oligarchs and government officials allied with Putin as part of a global push to isolate Russia.
— A second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine was scheduled to take place Wednesday. A meeting Monday failed to make progress in ending the fighting.