KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia renewed its assault Wednesday on Ukraine’s second-largest city in a pounding that lit up the skyline with balls of fire over populated areas, even as both sides said they were ready to resume talks aimed at stopping the new devastating war in Europe.
The escalation of attacks on crowded cities followed an initial round of talks between outgunned Ukraine and nuclear power Russia on Monday that resulted in only a promise to meet again. It was not clear when new talks might take place — or what they would yield. Ukraine’s leader earlier said Russia must stop bombing before another meeting.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has decried Russia’s bombardment as a blatant terror campaign, while U.S. President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday that if the Russian leader didn’t “pay a price” for the invasion, the aggression wouldn’t stop with one country.
The bombardment continued Wednesday. Ukrainian UNIAN news agency quoted the health administration chief of the northern city of Chernihiv as saying two cruise missiles hit a hospital there.
The hospital’s main building suffered damage, Serhiy Pivovar said, and authorities were working to determine the casualty toll. No other information was immediately available.
A Russian strike also hit the regional police and intelligence headquarters in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city with a population of about 1.5 million, killing four people and wounding several, the state emergency service of Ukraine said. It added that residential buildings were also hit, but did not provide further details.
A blast blew the roof off of the five-story police building and set the top floor alight, according to videos and photos released by the service. Pieces of the building were strewn across adjacent streets.
The attack followed a day after one in Kharkiv’s central square that killed at least six people and shocked many Ukrainians for hitting at the center of life in a major city. A Russian strike also targeted a TV tower in the capital of Kyiv.
Roughly 874,000 people have fled Ukraine and the U.N. refugee agency warned the number could cross the 1 million mark soon. Countless others have taken shelter underground.
The overall death toll from the seven-day war is not clear, with neither Russia nor Ukraine releasing the number of troops lost. Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said more than 2,000 civilians have died, though it was impossible to verify that claim. The U.N. human rights office has tallied 136 civilian deaths, while acknowledging the actual toll is surely far higher.