JURAS KARMANOV, JIM HEINZ, VLADIMIR ISACHANKOV and DASHA LITVINOVA

KIU, UKRAINE (AP) – Russian forces shelled Ukraine’s second-largest city on Monday, hitting a residential area, and approached the capital Kiev in a 40-mile column with hundreds of tanks and other vehicles, as talks aimed at ending fighting only agreed. keep talking.

The country’s armed president said the intensified shelling was aimed at forcing him to make concessions.

“I believe that Russia is trying to put pressure (on Ukraine) with this simple method,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message late Monday. He did not give details of hours of talks that had taken place earlier, but said Kyiv was not ready to make concessions “if one side beats each other with missile artillery”.

Against the backdrop of growing international condemnation, Russia found itself increasingly isolated five days after its invasion, while facing unexpectedly fierce resistance in Ukraine and economic chaos inside the country.

For the second day in a row, the Kremlin has raised the specter of nuclear war, announcing that its intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and long-range nuclear-capable bombers have been put on high alert on President Vladimir Putin’s orders over the weekend.

Reinforcing his rhetoric, Putin denounced the United States and its allies as an “empire of lies.”

Meanwhile, hostile Ukraine has moved to strengthen its ties with the West by applying to join the European Union – a symbolic move at the moment, but it is unlikely to suit Putin, who has long accused the United States of trying to pull Ukraine out. from the Moscow orbit.

Putin’s top aide and head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said that the first talks between the two sides after the invasion lasted almost five hours and that the envoys “found certain points on which to predict common positions.” He said they agreed to continue talks in the coming days.

When negotiations along the Belarusian border ended, several explosions took place in Kyiv, and Russian troops attacked a city of almost 3 million. A large column of armored vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles was located 17 miles (25 kilometers) from the city center and stretched for about 40 miles, according to satellite images from Maxar Technologies.

The Maxar photos also show the deployment of ground forces and attack helicopter units in the south of Belarus.

People in Kiev lined up for food after the curfew over the weekend, standing under a building with a hole punched in the side. Kyiv remained a “key target” for the Russians, Zelensky said, noting that it had been hit by three missiles on Monday and that hundreds of saboteurs were roaming the city.

“They want to break our nationality, so the capital is constantly under threat,” – said Zelensky.

Notices aimed at advancing Russian soldiers appeared on billboards, bus stops and electronic signs throughout the capital. Some used obscene language to encourage Russians to leave. Others appealed to their humanity.

“Russian soldier – Stop! Remember your family. Go home with a clear conscience, ”one read.

A video from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city with a population of about 1.5 million, shows that residential areas are being shelled and apartment buildings are being held back by repeated powerful explosions. Flashes of fire and gray clouds of smoke were visible.

The footage, published by the government in Kharkiv, shows a house in which water gushed from a broken ceiling. On the floor lay what looked like an unexploded ordnance.

Kharkiv authorities said at least seven people were killed and dozens injured. They warned that the casualties could be much greater.

“They wanted to hold a blitzkrieg, but failed, so they act,” said 83-year-old Valiantsin Petrovich, who watched the shelling from his apartment in the city center and said only his name and patronymic, derived patronymic. on behalf of the father, for fear of his own safety.

The Russian military denies shelling residential areas, despite ample evidence of shelling of homes, schools and hospitals.

Fighting broke out in other cities of the country. The strategic port city of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov “holds”, said Zelensky’s adviser Alexei Orastovich. The bombing of an oil depot in the eastern city of Sumy is reported.

Despite great military power, Russia still did not control Ukrainian airspace, which may help explain how Ukraine has so far prevented defeat.

In the seaside resort town of Berdyansk, dozens of demonstrators angrily chanted in the main square against the Russian occupiers, shouting for them to go home and singing the Ukrainian national anthem. They described the soldiers as exhausted young recruits.

“Frightened children, frightened looks. They want to eat, ”Kanstantsin Malaletka, who runs a small shop, said by phone. According to him, the soldiers went to the supermarket and grabbed canned meat, vodka and cigarettes.

“They ate right in the store,” he said. “It looked like they hadn’t been fed in the last few days.”

All over Ukraine, frightened families huddled at night in shelters, basements or corridors.

“I am sitting and praying that these talks will end successfully, that they will agree to stop the slaughter,” said Alexandra Mikhailova, crying, squeezing her cat in a shelter in Mariupol. Around her parents tried to comfort the children and warm them.

Many have declared Russia’s nuclear readiness concerns that the West could be embroiled in a direct conflict with Russia. But a senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had not yet seen any significant change in Russia’s nuclear position.

As far-reaching Western sanctions were imposed on Russian banks and other institutions, the ruble fell sharply, and the Central Bank of Russia stepped up to strengthen it, as did Putin by signing a decree restricting foreign currency.

But this did little to calm Russian fears. In Moscow, people are queuing up to withdraw cash, as sanctions have threatened to raise prices and lower the living standards of millions of ordinary Russians.

Another blow to Russia’s economy has oil giant Shell said it is leaving the country because of the invasion. He announced that he would leave his joint ventures with the state gas company Gazprom and other organizations and complete his participation in the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Europe.

Economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other allies were only one factor contributing to Russia’s growing status as a rogue state.

Russian airliners are banned from entering European airspace, Russian media are restricted in some countries, and some high-tech products can no longer be exported to the country. On Monday, Russian teams were disqualified from all international football, a severe blow to a nation that has gone mad with football.

In other events:

– The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has stated that he will soon begin an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

– Cyberattacks have affected Ukrainian embassies around the world and Russian media.

– The United States has announced that it is expelling 12 members of the Russian UN mission, accusing them of espionage.

– The UN General Assembly of 193 countries opened its first emergency session in decades, at which the President of the Assembly Abdullah Shahid called for an immediate ceasefire and a “full return to diplomacy and dialogue.”

The UN chief for human rights said at least 102 civilians had been killed and hundreds injured – warning that the figure was probably significantly underestimated – and the Ukrainian president said at least 16 children were among the dead.

More than half a million people fled the country after the invasion, another UN spokesman said, many leaving for Poland, Romania and Hungary.

Among the refugees in Hungary was 24-year-old Maria Paulushko, an information technology project manager from a town west of Kyiv. She said her father stayed to fight the Russians.

“I’m proud of them,” she said, adding that many of her friends also planned to fight.

The negotiators met on Monday at a long table with the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine on the one hand and the Russian tricolor on the other.

But while Ukraine sent its defense minister and other senior officials, the Russian delegation was led by Putin’s cultural adviser, an unlikely envoy to end the war and perhaps a testament to Moscow’s seriousness about the talks.

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Isachenkov and Litvinov reported from Moscow. Robert Burns and Eric Tucker in Washington; Francesca Ebel, Joseph Federman and Andrew Drake in Kiev; Lorne Cook in Brussels; and other AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow the coverage of the crisis in Ukraine in the AP at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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