Russian forces have invaded Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv and fighting was underway on Sunday, the regional government chief said on the fourth day of Moscow’s invasion of the pro-Western country.
“The light vehicles of the Russian enemy broke into the city of Kharkov”, Oleg Sinegubov said in a Facebook post†
“The Ukrainian armed forces are eliminating the enemy.”
As fighting raged in Kharkiv, the city government in Kiev, 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the west, said the capital remained completely under the control of Ukrainian forces despite clashes with “sabotage groups”.
Russia’s defense ministry claimed on Sunday that its forces had besieged the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson and the city of Berdyansk in the southeast.
“In the past 24 hours, the cities of Kherson and Berdyansk have been completely blocked by the Russian armed forces,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
He added that Russian forces had also taken control of Genichesk, a port city on the Sea of Azov, and an airport near Kherson.
On Sunday, the Russian army said it had destroyed 975 military facilities in Ukraine and shot down eight fighter jets, seven helicopters and 11 drones.
Konashenkov claimed that Ukrainian soldiers laid down their arms “en masse”.
He claimed that the forces of an anti-aircraft missile regiment near Kharkov “voluntarily” laid down their weapons, adding that more than 470 Ukrainian servicemen had been detained.
There was no independent verification of any of these claims and Ukraine maintains that it inflicted heavy casualties on the Kremlin’s armed forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on Thursday. Russian ground forces have penetrated Ukraine from the north, east and south, but have encountered stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces, the intensity of which likely surprised Moscow, according to Western sources.
On Saturday, Moscow ordered its troops to advance into Ukraine “from all sides”, with the Kremlin claiming Ukrainian authorities have refused to hold talks.
Russia praises India’s ‘balanced’ stance on Ukraine
Russia praised what it called India’s “independent and balanced” position after Delhi abstained from a vote in the UN Security Council deploring Moscow’s “aggression” against Ukraine.
India, along with China and the UAE, did not vote on the resolution on Friday, a step in line with the fine balance Delhi has been trying to achieve between partnerships with Moscow and Western allies.
The Russian embassy in India welcomed India’s booth on Saturday.
“I very much appreciate India’s independent and balanced position in the UN Security Council vote,” it said on Twitter.
“In the spirit of the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership, Russia is committed to a close dialogue with India on the situation surrounding Ukraine.”
Despite being the largest democracy in the world and a member of the ‘Quad’ grouping with Australia, Japan and the United States, India has not explicitly condemned Moscow’s actions, nor has it so far called it an invasion.
New Delhi and Moscow were close during the Cold War, a relationship that continues to this day, and Russia remains India’s largest arms supplier.
The United States spoke with India about its stance on Ukraine and on Saturday urged Delhi to use its influence over Russia to “protect the rules-based international order”.
“India and Russia have a relationship, including in the defense and security sector, that we don’t have,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
“We’ve asked every country that has a relationship, especially those that have leverage, to use that leverage in a constructive way.”
Since the attack, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, out of concern over the violence.
Critics have frankly condemned India’s balancing act.
“India’s cautious response, avoiding Putin’s wrath at all costs, despite Russia’s blatant aggression against Ukraine, shows that the country remains unprepared to take on major responsibilities of power or be a reliable partner,” tweeted Richard Haass, an expert on the field of foreign relations.
“Disappointing and short-sighted given China’s rise.”
The diplomatic frenzy comes as India embarks on an air evacuation exercise for thousands of its students stranded in Ukraine after the Russian attack on the capital Kiev and other cities.
On Saturday, the first batch of some 200 Indian students who arrived on a special flight expressed relief and joy after landing in Mumbai.
“I was in the city of Chernovitsky, in western Ukraine, so it was considered the safest, but a town near us was bombed and we were afraid if we were the next to be bombed,” Rutuja said. Kamble, a medical student at AFP.