Kherson Falls as Russia Pummels Port Cities and Cuts off Power, Water, and Supplies

Russia continued its all-out assault on Ukraine Wednesday afternoon, capturing the strategically important port city of Kherson near the Black Sea and making it the first major Ukrainian city to fall. 

Russian forces had circled the city, but after days of fighting and being severely outnumbered, Ukrainian soldiers retreated to the nearby city of Mykolaiv, the New York Times reported, citing the mayor of the city.

“There is no Ukrainian army here,” Kherson Mayor Ihor Kolykhaev said. “The city is surrounded.”

There had been uncertainty earlier about Kherson’s fate, with Russia claiming it had captured the city early Wednesday while the mayor said it remained under Ukrainian control. That changed by early afternoon.

Russian troops also pummeled the port city of Mariupol for 15 hours while bearing down on several others, including Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, and Kyiv, its capital.

Russia has conducted more than 450 missile launches since invading Ukraine six days ago, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters during a briefing. The missiles being launched run the gamut and include “short-range, medium-range, surface air missiles, [and] cruise missiles.” 

The mayor of Mariupol told the BBC that his city was “near to a humanitarian catastrophe.”

“The Russian army is working through all their weapons here — artillery, multiple rocket launch systems, airplanes, tactical rockets,” Serhiy Orlov said. “They are trying to destroy the city.”

Orlov said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army had surrounded the city before launching strikes on key infrastructure. It also cut off water and power supplies. One residential district on the city’s left bank had almost been demolished.

“We cannot count the number of victims here, but we believe at least hundreds of people are dead,” Orlov said. “We cannot go in to retrieve the bodies. My father lives there. I cannot reach him. I don’t know if he is alive or dead.”

Russian paratroopers landed near Kharkiv, leading to street fighting on the outskirts of the city. Local officials said a cruise missile hit a city council meeting, blowing the top off the building and injuring three people.

“It is exhausting and terrifying living under this pressure,” resident Iryna Ruzhynska told the BBC. The 40-year-old was sheltering in place with her family.

“We have put Scotch tape on the windows and pillows by the window stills,” she said. “We don’t turn on the lights, only the torches on our phones. We managed to go to the store yesterday, but we queued for four hours, and there was virtually no food left.”

APTOPIX Russia Ukraine War
People look at the gutted remains of Russian military vehicles on a road in the town of Bucha, close to the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Russia on Tuesday stepped up shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, pounding civilian targets there. Casualties mounted and reports emerged that more than 70 Ukrainian soldiers were killed after Russian artillery recently hit a military base in Okhtyrka, a city between Kharkiv and Kyiv, the capital. (AP Photo/Serhii Nuzhnenko)

In Kyiv, thousands scrambled to get out as the city braced for Russian air and land strikes. Over the past 48 hours, a line of tanks 40 miles long has crept closer to the capital.

An adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry said a powerful explosion was heard near a railway station where thousands were seeking safety.

As the fighting intensified in Ukraine, the United Nations’s General Assembly adopted a resolution to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with 141 countries voting in favor and five voting against, including North Korea, Syria, Belarus, and the small eastern Africa nation of Eritrea. Thirty-five countries abstained from voting, including China, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.

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Andrey Goncharuk, 68, right, a member of the territorial defense speaks to a man in the backyard of a house damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

While the General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding, they carry political weight.

“This is an extraordinary moment,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. “Now, at more than any other point in recent history, the United Nations is being challenged. Vote ‘yes’ if you believe U.N. member states, including your own, have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity. Vote ‘yes’ if you believe Russia should be held to account for its actions.”

Thomas-Greenfield also warned that banned weapons were being used by Russia.

“We have seen videos of Russian forces moving exceptionally lethal weaponry into Ukraine, which has no place on the battlefield. That includes cluster munitions and vacuum bombs, which are banned under the Geneva Convention. We have seen the 40-mile-long lethal convoy charging toward Kyiv. President Putin continues to escalate — putting Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert, threatening to invade Finland and Sweden. At every step of the way, Russia has betrayed the United Nations. Russia’s actions go against everything this body stands for,” she said.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia denied that Moscow was targeting civilians and warned that adopting the resolution would escalate matters.

Hundreds of people have been killed since Russian soldiers forced their way into neighboring Ukraine six days ago.

A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said 498 Russian troops have been killed and 1,597 have been wounded. Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov rejected reports that Moscow suffered bruising defeats and “incalculable losses” as “disinformation.” He also claimed that Ukrainian troops had lost more than three times the number of soldiers. He said 2,870 Ukrainian troops have been killed, 3,700 have been wounded, and 572 have been captured.

Ukrainian officials have not yet commented on the figures.

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Smoke rises from a damaged armored vehicle at a checkpoint in Brovary, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Russian shelling pounded civilian targets in Ukraine’s second-largest city Tuesday and a 40-mile convoy of tanks and other vehicles threatened the capital — tactics Ukraine’s embattled president said were designed to force him into concessions in Europe’s largest ground war in generations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The European Union, for the first time, has opened a hub in Poland to get weapons into Ukraine, the New York Times reported.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said earlier that it would finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other military equipment to Ukraine. Polish authorities have declined to comment.

Sweden’s defense minister slammed Russia after four fighter jets briefly entered Swedish territory over the Baltic Sea on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Two Russian SU27 and two SU24 fighter jets briefly entered Swedish airspace east of the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, Sweden’s armed forces said in a statement, adding that Swedish jets were sent to document the violation.