Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has called on Russia to stop shelling on Ukrainian cities as Russia continued its onslaught following the first round of peace negotiations between the two countries.
More than 100 civilians have already died in Russia’s war in Ukraine, while more than 300 bystanders were injured, the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said.
At least seven children were also counted among the dead.
The Ukrainian government said the civilians’ death toll so far stood at more than 150.
Russia has rejected the idea that its advancing troops posed a threat to civilians as the invasion of Ukraine near the end of its fifth day on Monday.
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, earlier said there were credible accounts of residential buildings, critical civilian infrastructure, and other non-military targets sustaining heavy damage, calling civilian deaths “totally unacceptable.”
“A state that commits war crimes against civilians cannot be a member of the UN Security Council,” Zelensky said in a video message.
Zelensky said this in a plea for Moscow to be excluded from the UN council where it is a permanent veto-holding member.
“This is Ukraine here. This is Europe. This is the year 2022.
“The evil armed with missiles, bombs, and artillery must be stopped immediately. Economically destroyed. To show that humanity can defend itself,” he said.
He urged the international community to consider completely blocking airspace for Russian missiles, planes and helicopters.
The U.S. government, however, rejected calls to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying it would be a step towards a direct conflict between the U.S. and Russia.
Zelensky also said Ukraine had not yet achieved the desired result at peace talks between a Ukrainian and a Russian delegation on Monday.
“Russia has presented its positions, counter-arguments have been made by us to end the war,” Zelensky explained.
As soon as the delegation was back in Kiev, officials would analyse the positions and decide how to proceed in the second round of negotiations, he said.
Both sides had identified a number of main issues on which certain decisions had to be made, Ukrainian presidential advisor, Mykhailo Podolyak, told reporters after the meeting, which lasted about six hours.
The president also characterised the shelling of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv as a war crime.
“There will definitely be a tribunal for this crime. It’s a violation of all conventions,” he said.
Kharkiv Mayor, Ihor Terekhov, earlier on Monday said nine people were killed and 37 injured after Russian forces shelled the eastern Ukrainian city.
Other reports said at least 11 people were killed in the attacks.
The Russian military was blowing up substations on Monday night, news agency, Ukrinform, quoted Terekhov as saying.
The attacks were reportedly causing problems with electricity and water supplies.
Meanwhile, a 64-kilometer-long convoy of Russian military vehicles was headed for Kiev, Ukrainian news agency, UNIAN, reported early Tuesday citing satellite imagery.
The southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol was again under Ukrainian control, the country’s state information service said in the early hours of Tuesday.
The situation remains tense, the Ukrainian military General Staff wrote on Facebook.
The General Staff said it believed that troops from Belarus were also moving towards Ukraine.
“Several units from the Belarusian armed forces in the most combat-ready formations have started to move towards the Ukrainian border in the direction of Volhynia,” it wrote.
Volhynia is in Ukraine’s northwest, close to the border with Belarus.
The Ukrainian state information service also said an attack on the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson had begun.
Zelensky said Russia had carried out 56 rocket attacks on Ukraine since the invasion began five days ago, and fired a total of 113 cruise missiles.
Russia, on the other hand, said Ukrainian “nationalists” were shelling the cities.
Both the Ukrainian and Russian armed forces reportedly suffered losses as Moscow attacked the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine.
The Ukrainian anti-corruption website, Antikor, reported a possible 70 deaths on the Ukrainian side and a large number of deaths on the Russian side.
Details of the military developments could not be independently verified.
Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, meanwhile said the U.S. government believed Russia was behind schedule in its invasion after encountering resistance they did not expect.
Earlier on Monday, Ukraine’s military had said the loss of Russian personnel stood at around 4,500 soldiers, and that Russian helicopters, tanks, and other military vehicles had been destroyed.
While Russia conceded that there had been deaths among its ranks during the fighting in Ukraine, it has not given a death toll.
On Sunday, Putin already raised the prospect of a nuclear escalation with the West over Ukraine when he ordered the country’s deterrent weapons be put on special alert, which Kirby deemed as “unnecessary as it is escalatory.”
“I would only just tell you that as we continue to review and analyse and monitor that Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, is comfortable with the strategic deterrent posture of the United States and our ability to defend the homeland, our allies, and our partners,” he told journalists.
EU countries and other Western states announced numerous sanctions on Moscow, including the exclusion of multiple Russian banks from the SWIFT financial transfer system.
Sanctions imposed on Russia effectively blocked most of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, worth 630 billion dollars, meaning Moscow cannot use them to counter the economic consequences of the war, according to the White House.
The U.S. government also requested a 6.4 billion dollar aid package for Ukraine from Congress.
It should include humanitarian, economic, and military aid for Ukraine’s defence, Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said Monday.
It is separate from the latest emergency U.S. military aid for Ukraine worth 350 million dollars.