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Talks to resume as Russia pressures Kyiv

LVIV, UKRAINE (AP) – Russia’s military forces kept up their punishing campaign to capture Ukraine’s capital with fighting and artillery fire in Kyiv’s suburbs yesterday after an airstrike on a military base near the Polish border brought the war dangerously close to NATO’s doorstep.

Residents of besieged Ukrainian cities held out hope that renewed diplomatic talks might open the way for more civilians to evacuate or emergency supplies to reach areas where food, water and medicine are running short.

Air raid alerts sounded in cities and towns all around the country overnight, from near the Russian border in the east to the Carpathian Mountains in the west, as fighting continued on the outskirts of Kyiv. Ukrainian officials said Russian forces shelled several suburbs of the capital, a major political and strategic target for an invasion in its 19th day.

Two people died after artillery hit a nine-storey apartment building in a northern district of the city, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. Using a ladder, a group of firefighters painstakingly carried an injured woman on a stretcher away from the blackened and still smoking building. A town councilor for Brovary, east of Kyiv, was killed in fighting there, officials said.

Shells also fell on the Kyiv suburbs of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, which have seen some of the worst fighting in Russia’s stalled attempt to take the capital, regional administration chief Oleksiy Kuleba said on Ukrainian television.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy talks with a wounded soldier during his visit to a hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

A fourth round of talks was expected to be held yesterday between Ukrainian and Russian officials to discuss getting food, water, medicine and other desperately needed supplies to cities and towns under fire, among other issues, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said.

The surrounded southern city of Mariupol, where the war has produced some of the greatest human suffering, remains cut off despite earlier talks on creating aid or evacuation convoys.

It will be a “hard discussion”, Podolyak wrote on Twitter. “Although Russia realises the nonsense of its aggressive actions, it still has a delusion that 19 days of violence against (Ukrainian) peaceful cities is the right strategy.”

The hope for a breakthrough came the day after Russian missiles pounded a military training base in western Ukraine that previously served as a crucial hub for cooperation between Ukraine and NATO. The attack killed 35 people, Ukrainian officials said, and the base’s proximity to the borders of Poland and other NATO members raised concerns that the Western military alliance could be drawn into the largest land conflict in Europe since World War II.

Speaking on Sunday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called it a “black day”, and again urged NATO leaders to establish a no-fly zone over his country, a plea that the West has said could escalate the war to a nuclear confrontation.

“If you do not close our sky, it is only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall on your territory. NATO territory. On the homes of citizens of NATO countries,” Zelenskyy said, urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with him directly, a request that has gone unanswered by the Kremlin.

The president’s office reported yesterday that airstrikes hit residential buildings near the important southern city of Mykolaiv, as well as in the eastern city of Kharkiv, and knocked out a television tower in the Rivne region in the northwest. Explosions rang out overnight around the Russian-occupied Black Sea port of Kherson.

Three airstrikes hit the northern city of Chernihiv overnight, and most of the town is without heat. Several areas haven’t had electricity in days. Utility workers are trying to restore power but frequently come under shelling.

The government announced plans for new humanitarian aid and evacuation corridors, although ongoing shelling caused similar efforts to fail in the last week.

Despite Russia’s punishing assault on multiple fronts, Moscow’s troops did not make major advances over the past 24 hours, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said yesterday.

The Russian Defence Ministry gave a different assessment, saying its forces had advanced 11 kilometres and reached five towns north of Mariupol.

A defence ministry spokesman said Russian forces shot down four Ukrainian drones overnight, including a Bayraktar drone. Ukraine’s Bayraktar drones, made by NATO member Turkey, have become a symbol of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s accusations that the US and its allies pose an existential security threat to Russia.