by Ben Packham for The Australian – is Foreign Affairs and Defence Correspondent
Vladimir Putin has ramped up Russia’s attacks on civilians in Ukraine as the UK Defence Chief said Moscow’s lead forces had been “decimated” and it was “not inevitable” that it would succeed in taking over its neighbour.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said Russia’s invasion was “not going well”, and warned the Russian President was preparing to “turn up the violence” with “more indiscriminate killing”.
Russian troops have for the first time directly targeted an evacuation route as they pummelled Ukraine’s cities from the air, land and sea with apparent disregard for civilian casualties.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late on Sunday there were “credible reports” Russian troops had committed war crimes against non-combatants, just hours after a mortar bombardment of the southern Kyiv suburb of Irpin during an evacuation of woman, children and the elderly killed eight civilians. There have also been reports of the use of widely banned cluster bombs in residential areas.
Russia said on Monday it would open at 10am (7pm AEDT) humanitarian corridors to allow the evacuation of civilians from several cities experiencing heavy fighting, including the capital, Kyiv, and the besieged Mariupol, after two previous ceasefires in the southern port city were broken by Moscow.
Relentless Russian fire has killed at least 364 Ukrainian civilians and injured at least 759 across Ukraine, the UN said, but the real toll is certain to be higher amid ongoing attacks on residential areas and the closure of planned escape routes from Ukrainian cities.
Intense aerial bombardment continued in Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, which has endured almost non-stop fire in recent days, while Ukrainian authorities said cities across the country were also under attack.
“The enemy continues the offensive operation against Ukraine, focusing on the encirclement of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mykolayiv,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said, adding Russian forces had begun to “accumulate resources for the storming of Kyiv”.
In the south of the country, regional military officials said Russia had shelled the village of Tuzly in the Odessa region from the sea, targeting “crucial infrastructure sites” but causing no injuries.
In Kharkiv, Russian fire hit a university and apartment block in the northeastern city, blowing out all the windows and leaving the facade blackened and charred.
In the tangle of splintered wood and mangled metal strewn across the ground in front of the building lay several dead bodies next to a car.
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Ukrainian soldier stands in tank