Russian bombs rained down on Ukrainian cities on Wednesday, according to Ukrainian officials, despite talks of compromise between Moscow and Kiev in peace talks after three weeks of fighting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was willing to discuss neutral status for its neighbor while still achieving the operation’s goals, which he said were “on track.”
However, Putin admitted that Western sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its actions were hurting the country.
In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden called Putin a “war criminal”. The United States is not seeing Russia take any actions that would suggest progress in talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Earlier, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said talks between Moscow and Kyiv were becoming “more realistic” and Russia’s foreign minister said proposals under discussion were “close to an agreement”.
On the 21st day of the conflict, Russian forces kept up their bombardments of besieged cities, including intensified shelling of the capital Kyiv.
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said Russian forces had shot dead 10 people waiting in line for bread in Chernihiv, northeast of Kyiv. Footage from Ukraine’s state broadcaster showed bodies lying on the street. Ukraine’s general prosecutor’s office said it had opened an investigation.
Russia denied the attack and said the incident was a hoax.
Emergency service said rescue workers had found the bodies of five people, including three children, during searches of shell-hit residential buildings in Chernihiv.
In the besieged southern port of Mariupol, the city council said Russian forces bombed a theatre where civilians were sheltering. The number of casualties was not known.
Russia’s defense ministry denied it had carried out an air strike against the theatre. Reuters could not independently verify the information.
The governor of Zaporizhzhia region said Russian forces had fired artillery at a convoy of evacuees from Mariupol, wounding five people. Ukraine’s military said children were among the casualties.
Three people were killed and five wounded after shelling caused a fire at a market in eastern Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, emergency services said.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 400 staff and patients were being held hostage at a hospital Russian forces had captured in Mariupol on Tuesday.
Moscow denies targeting civilians.
Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said Russian shelling caused a fire and damaged private homes and a gas line there on Wednesday evening after early morning barrages.
Russian troops have halted at the gates of the capital after taking heavy losses and failing to seize any major city in a war Western officials say Moscow expected to win within days.