AP – A Russian military convoy threatening Kyiv is far bigger than initially thought, with satellite images from Monday showing it occupying much of a 64-kilometre stretch of road north of the Ukrainian capital.
Explosions and gunfire were heard in embattled cities in eastern Ukraine as Russia’s invasion met unexpectedly stiff resistance. The Russian military assault on Ukraine was in its fifth day on Monday.
A Ukrainian delegation held talks with Russian officials at the border with Belarus, though they ended with no agreements except to keep talking. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone with Putin, urging him to halt the offensive.
WHAT’S HAPPENING ON THE GROUND?
Kyiv’s outgunned but determined troops slowed Russia’s advance and held onto the capital and other key cities – at least for the time being.
United States (US) officials said they believe the invasion has been more difficult than the Kremlin envisioned, though that could change as Moscow adapts. Russia still lacked control of Ukrainian airspace. Russian troops have been advancing slowly on the capital city of nearly three million people.
On Monday, a military convoy consisting of hundreds of armoured vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles was no more than 17 miles from the city centre, according to satellite imagery from the Maxar company.
It was earlier believed to be 17 miles long, but additional satellite imagery showed it stretching for 40 miles. Maxar said the newer images cover a wider area and were less obscured by clouds.
HOW ARE ORDINARY UKRAINIANS COPING?
Long lines formed outside Kyiv supermarkets on Monday as residents were allowed out of bomb shelters and homes for the first time since a curfew was imposed on Saturday. Some found food, but others didn’t.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have sought safety at night in Kyiv’s subway system and other makeshift shelters around the country, where parents try to calm their children’s fears. Despite the challenges, Ukrainians were trying to put on a brave face.
“It’s much harder for soldiers at the front. It’s embarrassing to complain about the icy floor, drafts and terrible toilets,” said 74-year-old Irina, who sought safety in a Kyiv underground station. Her grandson Anton is among those fighting in eastern Ukraine.
United Nations (UN) Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet said her office had confirmed that 102 civilians, including seven children, have been killed in the Russian invasion and 304 others wounded, though she cautioned the tally was likely a vast undercount.
IS THERE ANY CHANCE FOR DIPLOMACY?
Ukrainian and Russian delegations met on Monday on Ukraine’s border with Belarus. The meeting ended with no immediate reports of agreements, but Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said further talks could take place “in the near future”. Before the meeting, Zelenskyy’s office said Ukraine would demand an immediate cease fire.
While Ukraine sent its defence minister and other top officials, the Russian delegation was led by Putin’s cultural adviser – Vladimir Medinsky – an unlikely envoy for ending the war and a sign of how Moscow viewed the talks.
Western officials believe Putin wants to overthrow Ukraine’s government and replace it with a compliant regime, reviving Moscow’s Cold War-era influence. His comments have raised fears that the invasion of Ukraine could lead to nuclear war, whether by design or mistake.
On Monday afternoon, Macron spoke by phone with Putin for 90 minutes, according to the French presidency. It said Putin expressed his “will to commit” to stopping all strikes against civilians and residential areas and to preserving civilian facilities. Macron asked him to end the military offensive in Ukraine and reaffirmed the need for an “immediate cease fire”.
DOES UKRAINE WANT TO JOIN THE EUROPEAN UNION?
In a move sure to antagonise the Kremlin, Zelenskyy signed an application on Monday asking that Ukraine be allowed to join the 27-nation European Union (EU).
He posted photos online of himself signing the application, and his office said the paperwork was on its way to Brussels, where the EU is headquartered.
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE UNITED NATIONS?
The UN’s two major bodies – the 193-nation General Assembly and the more powerful 15-member Security Council – held separate meetings on Monday to discuss the war.
The council meeting opened with the news that the US was kicking out 12 Russian UN diplomats whom Washington accuses of spying.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said he plans to open an investigation “as rapidly as possible” into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
Prosecutor Karim Khan said the investigation will look at alleged crimes committed before the Russian invasion, but that he also intends to look into any new crimes that either side might have committed since the invasion started.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE FLED UKRAINE?
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, speaking by video to the UN Security Council, said more than 520,000 refugees had fled Ukraine and that the number “has been rising exponentially, hour after hour”. The UN expects the total to reach four million in the coming weeks, he said.
Earlier on Monday, when the overall count still stood at around half a million, UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said the count included 281,000 in Poland, more than 84,500 in Hungary, about 36,400 in Moldova, over 32,500 in Romania and about 30,000 in Slovakia. The rest were scattered in other countries, she said.