As first negotiations fail to produce results, a Russian rocket onslaught kills civilians.
Valerie Hopkins, Steven Erlanger, and Michael Schwirtz wrote the script.
The first discussions between Ukraine and Russia to stop the Russian invasion were overshadowed Monday by a deadly Russian rocket attack on Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, which sparked new concerns about the Kremlin's willingness to go to any length to subdue its smaller neighbor.
At least nine civilians were killed and others were injured in a Kharkiv residential area bombing that may have involved internationally banned cluster munitions.
The bombardment came as the Ukrainian-Russian talks ended with little more than an agreement to meet again, signaling a possible turning point in Europe's largest military mobilisation since World War II, in which Russia has met unexpectedly stiff resistance from Ukrainians and widespread condemnation from the rest of the world.
In a video broadcast on Facebook, Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov said, "Today revealed that this is not only a war, but it is also the murder of us, the Ukrainian people." "This is the first time in Kharkiv's long history that something like this has happened: shells hitting residential dwellings, killing and maiming innocent residents."
Since commencing an invasion last week, Russian forces have begun bombing the suburbs of Kharkiv, a 1.5 million-person metropolis in eastern Ukraine. However, they appeared to avoid densely inhabited areas.
That changed on Monday, the fifth day of the Russian invasion.
According to Terekhov, four people were killed as they emerged from bomb shelters in search of water. He also claimed that a shell hit their automobile, killing a family of five – two parents and three children. According to him, another 37 persons were injured.
In an email, Stephen Goose, a munitions specialist at Human Rights Watch, said, "We are certain that this was a cluster munition attack."
The indiscriminate nature of the Kharkiv assault, as seen in videos verified by The New York Times, could indicate President Vladimir Putin's dissatisfaction with his military's progress in what many outside analysts — and some Ukrainian commanders — had predicted would be a quick Russian victory over an outgunned and outmanned foe.
Putin's resentful decision to invade Ukraine, announced last week, has sparked strong opposition in the former Soviet republic and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are fleeing their homes, but many others are remaining put and using whatever weapons they can to fight back against the invaders.
Moscow is also facing strong international criticism, and it is becoming increasingly isolated as the US and its allies ratchet up economic sanctions against Russia and Putin's friends. Following BP on Sunday, Royal Dutch Shell became the second major oil corporation in two days to abandon agreements in Russia, a key energy producer.
On Monday, international sports, culture, and entertainment organizations joined forces to ban or suspend Russian athletes.
Even Switzerland, a favorite shelter for Russian oligarch money, abandoned its usual neutrality and froze assets held by Putin and his associates, limiting their access to financial resources already restricted by sanctions imposed by President Joe Biden and European Union members. Russian currency plummeted by about 25%, forcing Russian financial authorities to increase interest rates and close the stock market, and driving hordes of frightened bank customers to ATMs to withdraw cash.
And, just a day after much of Europe's airspace was barred to its aircraft, Russia retaliated by prohibiting several international carriers.
Face-to-face communication The fact that Russian-Ukrainian discussions were held in Belarus, a strong ally of Moscow's, signaled that the Kremlin was under pressure to at least look sympathetic to negotiation, but the sessions ended with little obvious progress.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, who has rebuffed Russian demands for capitulation, had already stated that he did not expect any diplomatic advances before the talks began. On Monday, he signed a decree urging Ukraine's quick admission to the European Union, as if to emphasize his contempt for Putin. Officials in Brussels greeted the request with enthusiasm but cautioned that it was unachievable.
Meanwhile, Russian soldiers continued their incursion amid warnings that they would attempt to overrun or encircle Kyiv, Zelenskyy's base, in order to isolate, capture, or possibly kill the Ukrainian leader whose defiance of the Kremlin has made him a national hero.
A big convoy of Russian armed forces, roughly 17 miles long, was around 20 miles north of Antonov Airport, on the outskirts of Kyiv, the capital, according to satellite images. Vitali Klitschko, the city's mayor, released a statement recommending citizens to spend Monday and Tuesday nights in basements or bomb shelters, if possible. "Tonight will be difficult once more," he wrote.
Negotiators are seeking a cease-fire and an end to hostilities, according to Mihailo Podolyak, a member of the Ukrainian delegation to the negotiations. Both sides had "selected a number of priority topics in which specific answers were given," he said later.
According to French sources, Putin stated the Kremlin wanted its security demands taken into account "unconditionally" in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has repeatedly tried to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Guarantees that Ukraine would never join NATO, as well as recognition of Russia's sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Belarus has attempted to portray itself as a neutral host for the discussions, which were initially announced on Sunday, but the country's autocratic president, Alexander Lukashenko, has not only allied himself with Putin but has also permitted Putin to launch part of the invasion from Belarus' border.
"The Western countries have built a bubble that will eventually burst," Nebenzya explained.
In a throwback to Cold War intrigue, Nebenzya told journalists later Monday that US officials had ordered the expulsion of 12 Russian diplomats from the UN Mission in New York. "They merely went to Russia's mission and handed us a message," he explained.
Nebenzya branded the decision a "gross infringement" of the US's duty as host of the United Nations' 193 members.
In a Twitter post, Olivia Dalton, a spokesperson for the US Mission, confirmed the expulsion order, calling the Russian diplomats "intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission who have abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are detrimental to our national security."
Since the Russian invasion, the influx of Ukrainian refugees to their neighbors has caused backlogs at border crossings with Poland and Moldova. According to the UN refugee agency, 500,000 Ukrainians have gone thus far, with up to 4 million more expected to follow.
"This is extraordinary, completely unprecedented," said Dumitru Alaiba, a politician who was hosting an Odessa refugee. "What we see in terms of solidarity is wonderful."