Russia’s relentless bombardment of Ukraine edged closer to central Kyiv on Tuesday, with a series of strikes hitting a residential neighborhood as the leaders of three European Union countries planned a bold visit to Ukraine’s embattled capital in a show of support.
Shortly before dawn, large explosions thundered across Kyiv from what Ukrainian authorities said was artillery strikes. The shelling ignited a huge fire and a frantic rescue effort in a 15-story apartment building. At least one person was killed and others remain trapped inside.
Shockwaves from an explosion also damaged the entry to a downtown subway station that has been used as a bomb shelter. City authorities tweeted an image of the blown-out façade, saying trains would no longer stop at the station.
As Russia stepped up its assault on Kyiv, the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia announced they would travel to Ukraine’s capital Tuesday on a European Union mission to show support for the country.
He will be joined by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is Poland’s deputy prime minister for security and the leader of the conservative ruling party.
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators also planned to hold a second day of talks as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its 21st day.
When Russia launched the war nearly three weeks ago, fear of an imminent invasion gripped the Ukrainian capital, and residents slept in subway stations or crammed onto trains to flee. But as the Russian offensive bogged down, Kyiv saw a relative lull.
Fighting has intensified on the city’s outskirts in recent days, and sporadic air raid sirens ring out around the capital.
Tuesday’s early morning artillery strikes hit the Svyatoshynskyi district of western Kyiv, adjacent to the suburb of Irpin, which has seen some of the worst battles of the war.
Flames shot out of the 15-story apartment building as firefighters climbed ladders to rescue people. Smoke choked the air. A firefighter at the scene confirmed one person had died and that several had been rescued, but others remained inside as rescuers tried to reach them.
A 10-story apartment building in the Podilsky district of Kyiv, north of the government quarter, also was damaged by unspecified ammunition.
Russian forces also stepped up strikes overnight on Irpin and the northwest Kyiv suburbs of Hostomel and Bucha, said the head of the capital region, Oleksiy Kuleba.
“Many streets (in those areas) have been turned into a mush of steel and concrete. People have been hiding for weeks in basements, and are afraid to go out even for evacuations,” Kuleba said on Ukrainian television.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is seeking to extend martial law until April 24 and to require men ages 18 to 60 to stay in the country to fight. Zelenskyy submitted the extension in a bill to parliament, which is expected to vote on it this week.
Talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators were due to resume Tuesday, after failing to make a break through — or to break down — on Monday. The two sides had expressed some optimism about the negotiations, which Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said would discuss “peace, ceasefire, immediate withdrawal of troops & security guarantees.”
Russia’s military is bigger and better equipped than Ukraine’s, but its troops have faced stiffer-than-expected resistance, bolstered by arms supplied by the West.U.S. officials say Russian troops have made little progress on the ground in recent days and were still about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the center of Kyiv as of Monday. The Pentagon said Russian forces have launched more than 900 missiles but have not taken control of the air above Ukraine.
U.S. administration officials say Russia has asked China for help, and Beijing had signaled to Moscow that it would be willing to provide both military support in Ukraine and financial backing to help stave off effects of Western sanctions.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned China against helping Russia during a meeting in Rome on Monday with a senior Chinese diplomat.
The Kremlin has denied asking China for military equipment to use in Ukraine.