Russian troops continued to press into Ukraine on Monday after a weekend slowdown in hostilities. The government of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1.5 million, on Monday reported 11 deaths and dozens more injured following a Russian rocket attack in residential areas. Ukrainian authorities estimated civilian deaths since the launch of the military offensive at 350, while the United Nations said it was 102.
Meanwhile, a meeting in Belarus between Ukrainian and Russian delegations ended with a pledge to meet again at a later, unspecified date. The talks extended for five hours, according to Leonid Slutsky, a lawmaker and one of the members of the Russian delegation. Slutsky said that Moscow’s position on the outcome of this first round will be established within the next 24 hours.
“After that, we will go back to contacts with the Ukrainian side and we may then establish a precise date and time for the next round of negotiations,” said Slutsky in statements to the Russian television channel Russia-24.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has asked the European Union to grant his country immediate emergency accession to the bloc. In a video broadcast on Monday, the president appealed “for Ukraine’s immediate accession under a new special procedure” and said that Ukraine’s soldiers are fighting for their country but also to defend all of Europe.
The General Assembly of the United Nations was meeting at a special session on Monday (the 11th in its 70-year history) to address Moscow’s military operation. “The fighting in Ukraine must stop,” said Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “The mere idea of a nuclear conflict is inconceivable,” he added, alluding to the Kremlin’s claims that its land, air and sea nuclear forces were on high alert following President Vladimir Putin’s order on Sunday to put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on “special mode of combat duty.”
The Russian Defense Ministry on Monday said Russian troops had taken the cities of Berdiansk and Enerhodar, in southeast Ukraine, as well as the area around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the news agency Interfax reported. Ukraine has not confirmed Russia’s claims about taking the cities, but on Monday Ukrainian authorities denied that Zaporizhzhia was under Russian control.
Following a slowdown on Sunday, hostilities flared up again early Monday morning. There was also fighting around Mariupol, a city of nearly 500,000 residents in the southeast Donbas region.
Russia’s financial system continued to feel the effects of escalating sanctions by the international community. The Russian ruble has fallen more than 30% against the dollar and the European Central Bank (ECB) said on Monday that an Austria-based subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned Sberbank is likely to fail after “significant deposit outflows” due to “geopolitical tensions.”
In the United States, the Treasury Department announced a freeze on assets held by the Russian Central Bank. In response to the escalating sanctions by many of the world’s nations, Russia closed its air space to 36 countries, including all EU members, the United Kingdom, Canada and Norway.