Russian forces are pounding Ukrainian cities and edging closer to the capital, Kyiv, in a relentless bombardment that keeps deepening the humanitarian crisis in this war, now in its third week.
Still, a narrow diplomatic channel remains open, with more talks between the two sides planned on Tuesday despite the failures of diplomacy so far. From the besieged port city of Mariupol, a convoy of around 2,000 civilian vehicles left along the so-called humanitarian corridor on Tuesday, the city council said.
The war’s human toll has been devastating — the number of Ukrainians forced to flee their country since the invasion started has now surpassed 3 million, the vast majority of them women and children. Thousands of soldiers and civilians are dead.
Before dawn, a projectile slammed into a 15-story apartment building in Kyiv, killing at least one person. “Ukraine is on fire,” the U.N. chief, Antonio Guterres, warned. “The impact on civilians is reaching terrifying proportions.”
In a show of support for Ukraine, the leaders of three European Union countries — Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia — said they are traveling to Kyiv on a surprise visit.
Here are some key things to know about the conflict:
WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE GROUND?
Fighting for Kyiv has intensified, with artillery fire echoing through the city and Russia launching a flurry of strikes that early Tuesday blew out windows and ignited a huge fire in an apartment in western Kyiv. At least one person was killed as rescue efforts continued.
Explosions around the city caused significant structural damage, with shockwaves from a blast tearing through the entrance of a downtown subway station that has been used as a bomb shelter and another igniting a fire in Kyiv’s northern Podilsky district.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a new curfew for the city Tuesday, saying it would run for 35 hours.
The day before, Russian rockets destroyed a television tower in the western city of Rivne, where authorities said the death toll had risen to 19. At least four people were killed and more wounded when Russian strikes on Kyiv slammed into Ukraine’s largest aircraft factory and a nine-story apartment building.
Russian forces also unleashed scores of new artillery strikes on downtown Kharkiv in the country’s east. Thousands were trying to flee on evacuation trains amid the chaos and destruction.
After days of relentless Russian shelling of encircled Mariupol, 2,000 civilian vehicles left the port city along a so-called humanitarian corridor — a route that runs west for more than 260 kilometers (160 miles) to the Ukraine-held city of Zaporizhzhia. City officials advised drivers to spend the night along the route unless they were close to Zaporizhzhia by evening.
Aid groups have warned that large numbers of people could face starvation. Bodies are now being buried in mass graves.
Mariupol had a population of 430,000 before the war. The strategically located port city has been under fire for more than two weeks. Local officials estimate the lethal siege has killed more than 2,300 people and said it had left residents desperate for food, water, heat and medicine.
WHAT HAS THE AP DIRECTLY WITNESSED OR CONFIRMED?
Flames gutted an apartment building in the Svyatoshynskyi district of western Kyiv as emergency workers rushed to rescue people from ladders and douse the blaze.
Thick, dark smoke choked the air. A firefighter at the scene confirmed one person had died and that several have been rescued alive — but more remained trapped inside. A young woman sobbed outside the charred building, where shocked residents assessed the damage.
“People are dying, and the worst thing is that children are dying,” said Andriy, a firefighter at the scene who would only give his first name, before heading back into the burning building.
The war’s burden has continued to fall heaviest on the most vulnerable. Over one million children have fled the country, and many more have been internally displaced.
Pasha Bychkov, 10, said his family escaped the nation’s second-largest city of Kharkiv after a bomb struck their apartment building.
“We don’t want to go back there,” Pasha said from the city of Lviv, where he resumed school on Monday.
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF DIPLOMACY?
Although Russian and Ukrainian officials have struck a positive note about ongoing talks, there have been no breakthroughs at the negotiating table.
Ukrainian negotiators were set to meet their Russian counterparts again on Tuesday after a brief pause. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the previous round as “good,” without offering details.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman later described negotiations as “difficult.”
A flurry of diplomatic activity drew in leaders around the world. The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia were traveling Tuesday by train to Kyiv on an EU mission of solidarity.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett continued his mediation efforts in calls with both Putin and Zelenskyy on Monday.
The U.S. said Russia would have to show signs of de-escalation to demonstrate good faith. Putin’s invasion has sparked talk in the American security establishment of building up U.S. military power in Europe on a scale not seen since the Cold War.
WHAT ABOUT SANCTIONS?
World powers have continued their efforts to punish Moscow.
Britain said it would ban the export of luxury goods to Russia, including high-end fashion and works of art, while hitting Russian products like vodka with boosted tariffs in its latest round of sanctions designed to hamper Moscow’s war effort.
Japan’s government said it is freezing the assets of 17 more Russian politicians, tycoons and their relatives to pressure Moscow to end its invasion, bringing the total number of Japan’s asset freezes to 61.
The European Union announced that the 27-nation bloc has approved a fourth set of sanctions to further isolate Russia and drain its resources.
France said the EU also approved a declaration to the World Trade Organization to suspend the most-favored-nation clause for Russia that would withdraw its special treatment throughout the bloc.
—The Associated Press