Russian forces enter Ukraine’s second-biggest city, gas pipelines explode

Internet in Ukraine disrupted as Russian troops advance

: Russian military vehicles pushed into Ukraine’s second-largest city on Sunday and explosions rocked oil and gas installations on the fourth day of fighting.

Russian soldiers and armoured vehicles were seen in different parts of the northeastern city of Kharkiv and firing could be heard. A burning tank was visible in a video posted by the government. Russian troops blew up a natural gas pipeline in Kharkiv before daybreak, a Ukrainian state agency said, sending a burning cloud up into the darkness.

“The Russian enemy’s light vehicles have broken into Kharkiv, including the city centre,” regional Governor Oleh Sinegubov said. “Ukraine’s armed forces are destroying the enemy. We ask civilians not to go out.”

Ukraine’s Western allies ratcheted up their response to Russia’s land, sea and air invasion late on Saturday with sanctions to banish major Russian banks from the main global payments system and other measures aimed at limiting Moscow’s use of a $630 million war chest of central bank reserves.

Finland and Sweden became the latest European countries to close their airspace to Russian flights, and EU could follow suit with a coordinated European-wide ban, an official said.

Ukrainian forces were holding off Russian troops advancing on the capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said. He said shelling hit civilian infrastructure and targets including ambulances.

A United Nations agency reported 64 civilian deaths and Ukraine claimed to have killed more than 4,000 Russian soldiers. Reuters was not able to verify the numbers. More than 368,000 refugees, mainly women and children, have poured into neighbouring countries, clogging railways, roads and borders.

The Kremlin sent a diplomatic delegation to neighbouring Belarus offering talks, but Ukraine rejected the offer, saying Belarus had been complicit in the invasion. Ukraine was happy to hold talks elsewhere, Zelenskiy said.

Russian missiles found their mark overnight, including a strike that set an oil terminal ablaze in Vasylkiv, southwest of Kyiv, the town’s mayor said. Blasts sent huge flames and billowing black smoke into the night sky, online posts showed.

Ukraine’s gas pipeline operator said the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine, vital for Europe’s energy needs, was going on as normal. Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom also said gas exports via Ukraine continued normally.

Russian-backed separatists in the eastern province of Luhansk said a Ukrainian missile had blown up an oil terminal in the town of Rovenky. A United Nations relief agency said at least 64 civilians had been killed among 240 civilian casualties.

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