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Russia Escalates Ukraine Attacks Amid Signs Talks May Resume

A building destroyed by a Russian bomb in Ukraine.

Russia escalated attacks on Ukrainian cities Wednesday as the two sides claimed control of a strategic city and expressed a willingness to resume talks aimed at ending the nearly week-old war.

Moscow said it had seized control of Kherson, a port city with a quarter million people on the Black Sea, a claim that was disputed by Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych. "The city has not fallen, our side continues to defend," he said.

The most intensive airstrikes hit the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city and home to 1.5 million people. An attack destroyed a police building in the city’s center, further reducing it to an area of ruined buildings and debris.

Ukrainian authorities said Russian attacks killed 21 people in Kharkiv on Tuesday, and four more Wednesday morning.

Heavy shelling also continued in the southern port city of Mariupol, where the wounded were unable to evacuate, according to the city’s mayor.

Ukraine’s emergency agency said Russia’s attacks have killed more than 2,000 at hospitals, kindergarten facilities and homes. But nearly a week after the invasion started, Russia had not overthrown Ukraine’s government as planned.

Russia’s defense ministry put out its first report on casualties, saying 498 of its troops had been killed in Ukraine, while more than 1,500 others had been wounded.

Biden Says Putin 'Miscalculated' on Ukraine

After hours of talks Monday with Russian officials yielded no resolution on Ukraine’s demands for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of Russian forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy again called for a halt in fighting to give negotiations a chance.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a Russian delegation would be ready to resume talks, while a Ukraine spokesman told reporters that “our delegation will be in place to await Ukrainian negotiators.” Reports said talks could be held Thursday.

"It's necessary to at least stop bombing people, just stop the bombing and then sit down at the negotiating table," Zelenskyy told Reuters and CNN in a joint interview in a heavily guarded government compound in Kyiv.

After a U.S. defense official said Tuesday that the Russian military’s “overarching movement on Kyiv is stalled,” an official told reporters Wednesday that "there hasn't really been a lot of significant change on the ground since yesterday."

The official said U.S. intelligence indicated that Ukrainian resistance has tried to impede the closely watched kilometers-long Russian convoy that has been making its way toward Kyiv and that it remained “stalled” Wednesday.

But the official noted that Russia had intensified missile and artillery attacks on Kyiv and had become more aggressive in targeting infrastructure throughout Ukraine. The official added that Kherson was “still a contested city."

The official said the U.S. assessed that since the invasion began last Thursday, Russia had launched more than 450 missiles, but that Ukraine’s air and missile defense systems remained viable.

International pressure on Russia continued, with Canada announcing Tuesday that it would refer the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court for a probe of suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russia.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday that the Russian shelling of civilian infrastructure on Monday in Kharkiv “violates the laws of war.”

Kremlin spokesman Peskov dismissed allegations of war crimes and told reporters that “Russian troops don’t conduct any strikes against civilian infrastructure and residential areas,” despite extensive, mounting evidence of Kremlin attacks on homes, schools and hospitals documented by reporters.

Economic pressure on Russia is also increasing, and President Joe Biden said “nothing is off the table” when a reporter asked Wednesday outside the White House if the U.S. would ban Russian oil and gas. In addition to sanctions that have directly targeted Russia’s banking system and figures close to Putin, many companies have halted their Russian operations in response to the invasion.

Exxon Mobil said it would exit Russia, joining other oil companies such as Shell and BP. Apple stopped selling iPhones and other products in Russia, while car maker Ford and airplane manufacturer Boeing announced they are suspending Russian operations.

Putin issued a decree Tuesday banning cash exports of foreign currency from the country exceeding $10,000 in value, according to a Kremlin statement. It said the ban would take effect Wednesday.

Ukraine’s parliament said Tuesday that a Russian missile had hit the television tower in Kyiv. Local media reported the attack had caused several explosions, and Ukrainian channels stopped broadcasting shortly thereafter.

Ukrainian officials said five people were killed in the attack. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that it had rekindled memories of the mass killing of Jews by Nazi SS troops and local collaborators during World War II.

The U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday that at least 836,000 people, most of them women and children, had fled Ukraine to neighboring countries since last Thursday. It said it expected 4 million people could eventually flee Ukraine.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and Reuters.