Russian-Ukrainian War News: Live Updates

A large explosion hit the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Tuesday, just outside the city’s administrative building, the country’s interior ministry said. The explosion created a massive fireball that appeared in video to engulf several cars passing through an area called Freedom Square.

The cause of the blast and the number of casualties were not immediately clear, although the town’s mayor said there were deaths and injuries. Video of the aftermath showed a large crater in the middle of the city’s cobbled central square.

“Barbaric Russian missile strikes on the central Freedom Square and residential areas of Kharkiv,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “Putin is incapable of breaking up Ukraine. He is committing more war crimes out of fury, murdering innocent civilians.

The blast happened around 8 a.m., about two hours after the city’s curfew was lifted, according to Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister. It appears to have damaged the administration building as well as the opera house, philharmonic theater and part of a large building, Ukraine’s emergency services agency said in a Facebook post.

“There will come a time when all war criminals, all mad dictators, will have to appear in court,” the agency wrote. “And then Satan cursed you for every drop of blood of Ukrainian citizens that you spilled. Burn in hell for eternity.

The blast came a day after Russian forces shelled a residential area of ​​Kharkiv, killing at least nine people, including a family of five who were burned to death in their car, according to the city’s mayor, Igor Terekhov.

After the capital, Kiev, no Ukrainian city has suffered as many attacks from the Russian army as Kharkiv since the invasion. But in Kharkiv, the feeling of betrayal is perhaps more acute. The city of 1.5 million people is not far from the Russian border and most residents prefer to speak Russian. When Mr. Terekhov posts daily video updates on the destruction, he addresses his audience in Russian and sometimes seems on the verge of tears.

“It’s not just a war, it’s the killing of us, the Ukrainian people,” he said in a video on Monday after the residential area was shelled.

Military analysts are divided on whether Russian forces hope to occupy Kharkiv or merely encircle it. The objective appears to be to cut off the bulk of the Ukrainian forces, which are mainly deployed in the east, from Kharkiv as well as areas around the Sea of ​​Azov to the south and in the Donbass region to the east, where the Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists for eight years.

Until this week, Russian troops had shelled outlying areas with artillery but had largely avoided attacking the city center. A seemingly random effort by what appeared to be Russian special forces to enter central Kharkiv over the weekend was easily repelled by the Ukrainian military, which captured several Russian soldiers and their vehicles.

“They were acting like idiots,” said Robert Lee, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Ph.D. candidate at King’s College London who is a Russian military expert. “They were Spetsnaz,” he said, referring to Russian special forces. “They were elite forces, not random dudes. It was just a little incomprehensible.

Since the start of the war, Kharkiv residents have been living in bomb shelters, many of them in the city’s metro stations, where trains have been parked to serve as makeshift hostels. If Russian forces expected to be greeted as liberators, as Kremlin officials insisted they would, they were gravely mistaken.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin ‘is not just stupid, he’s a criminal,’ says a woman named Svetlana who took refuge in the University metro station over the weekend with her family and her yellow Labrador , Richard.

“Look how people are suffering,” she said. “The children, they should be at school or institute, and I should be at work. And here we are, living in fear.

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