Russian forces have launched a heavy bombardment of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, an assault that overshadowed the first direct talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials since President Vladimir Putin began his invasion six days ago.
Residents of the city said they had come under intense artillery and rocket fire from Russian positions on Monday. Video footage shared on social media showed high-rise apartment blocks in Kharkiv being hit by heavy shelling that shrouded the sky with plumes of dark smoke.
Video footage posted by Ukraine’s foreign minister appears to show the Kharkiv Region State Administration headquarters being hit by an enormous blast after a missile landed in front the building.
“Dozens of civilians are dying,” said regional governor Oleh Sinegubov. “It’s happening during the day when people go to pharmacies, for food, for drinking water. This is a crime.”
Russia’s military operation has failed to unseat Ukraine’s government or capture any major cities, but has uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians who have fled to neighbouring countries in search of safety.
The explosion happened at about 8am, two hours after the curfew in the eastern Ukrainian city had lifted, according to Anton Gerashchenko, a government advisor.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said it created a large fireball that appeared to engulf several cars driving through the area. It was not immediately clear if there were any injuries.
Commenting on the footage, Dmytro Kubela, Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister, said: “Putin is unable to break Ukraine down. He commits war crimes out of fury, murders innocent civilians. The world can and must do more.”
Russian troops also targeted Kharkiv’s historic Freedom Square overnight – the second-largest city square in Europe. Video footage shared on social media showed a large crater in the middle of the cobblestoned space on Tuesday morning, as air raid sirens continue to ring out across the city.
Kharkiv has come under intense shelling in recent days as Vladimir Putin’s troops attempt to close in on major urban centres. Dozens of civilians were killed yesterday after Russia launched a missile bombardment of the city using tube and rocket artillery weapons.
Igor Terekhov, Mayor of Kharkiv, said a family of five were burned alive in their car after being hit by one missile strike. Images shared online showed the bodies of other civilians strewn along the city streets.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for an international tribunal to investigate and punish Russia for its actions in Kharkiv on Monday, which he described as war crimes.
“Russian troops shelled Kharkiv using rocket artillery,” Mr Zelensky said in a video posted on his Facebook page. “This is, without any doubt, a military crime. A peaceful city. Peaceful residential neighborhoods. Not a single military object in sight.”