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Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky vows to hold fast as 2,000 civilian deaths blamed on Russia’s invasion

Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky said Wednesday that almost 6,000 members of Russia’s invading force had been killed as Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war against Ukraine hit the one-week mark. Zelensky vowed that Russia would not topple his government by pummeling Ukraine’s cities and civilians with missiles, but with pressure from unprecedented international sanctions against Moscow swelling by the day, that appeared to be Putin’s strategy.

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said Wednesday that more than 2,000 civilians had been killed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, and a government official said there were at least 21 children among the dead. Putin’s forces continued pushing slowly into Ukrainian territory, claiming “full control” on Wednesday of the city of Kherson on the southern coast, about 100 miles east of the key port of Odesa. An advisor to Zelensky denied Russia’s claim, however, saying “the city has not fallen, our side continues to defend.”

U.S. officials say a mammoth column of Russian troops and weapons currently about 20 miles north of Kyiv could move to encircle the capital city within a week, and then seize it within a month.

But Russia’s war from a distance — an increasingly merciless barrage of heavy artillery hitting major population centers — is already exacting a devastating toll on Ukrainian civilians. More than 660,000 have fled their homes to neighboring countries. Tens of thousands more continue to wait in long lines at the borders, freezing with children and pets in tow. The United Nations said Tuesday that at least 136 Ukrainian civilians had been killed, but as the Russian shelling continued, that toll was certain to rise on Wednesday.

The mayor of the southeastern city of Mariupol said there was intense shelling overnight, leaving emergency services unable to evacuate casualties, and in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv, there were reports that Russian paratroopers had landed amid an ongoing artillery barrage.

In his first State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, President Biden voiced solidarity with the Ukrainian people and lambasted Putin, whom he vowed would “pay a continuing high price over the long run” for his decision to unleash “violence and chaos” on his neighbors.

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