(CNN) — Russian Forces bombed a residential area of Ukraine’s second largest city with rockets on Monday, killing at least one person, and several large explosions were heard in the center of the capital Kiev, as talks between delegates from the two sides in Belarus drew to a close.
The attack and explosions were launched as Russia is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the world, especially Western countries, which have imposed a series of sanctions on the country since it launched its invasion of Ukraine last week.
The shelling of the city of Kharkiv on Monday killed one civilian and injured 31 others, bringing the death toll in that city to seven in the past few days, the city council said. CNN is reaching out to Russian authorities to comment on the attack.
According to geotagged social media videos by CNN, multiple rockets were seen exploding closely together in a residential part of the Saltivka neighborhood, near a supermarket in the northeast of the city, which the Russian military has frequently mistaken for target.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova described the situation in Kharkiv as “hellish” and shared video on Facebook of a missile hitting a kitchen window and ripping off the leg of a woman, who she said she later died in hospital.
As talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials wrapped up early Monday evening, CNN reporters in Kyiv heard several loud bangs, followed by sirens blaring across the city.
The two sides discussed a potential “ceasefire and an end to combat actions on the territory of Ukraine,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhaylo Podolyak told reporters.
Without going into details, Podolyak said the two sides would return to their capitals for consultations on whether to implement a number of “decisions”.
“The parties discussed holding another round of negotiations where these decisions could develop,” he said.
Ukraine had previously demanded an “immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops”, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said on Monday.
Zelensky has previously downplayed the talks, which he is not attending in person.
“I don’t really believe in the result of this meeting, but let them try, so that no Ukrainian citizen doubts that I, as president, did not try to stop the war when there is even had a small chance,” he said on Sunday.
Russians face determined resistance
While Ukrainians place little hope in the talks paving the way to peace, the possibilities of defusing the conflict appear to be rapidly diminishing.
Fighting has intensified in Ukraine over the past day in a number of strategic towns. A senior US defense official told reporters on Monday that capturing Kharkiv “remains an objective” for the Russians, and “they continue to try to advance” towards Mariupol in southern Ukraine. But the Russians have yet to take either town, the official said.
The official explained that if Russia captured the two cities “you can see that it would allow them to separate the eastern part of Ukraine,” the official said.
On Monday, CNN reporters saw at least three “Uragan” multiple rocket launchers on the Russian side of the border south of Belgorod heading towards the Kharkiv front line. They saw three launchers and a loader vehicle with missiles on it.
The larger and much better equipped Russian army, however, has faced determined resistance across the country, as ordinary Ukrainians and reservists band together to defend their families and homes, thwarting Moscow’s attempts to Quickly take control of key cities.
Western allies have increased their aid to Ukraine through funds and weapons to help its defense.
Ukraine said its air force shot down a cruise missile launched at the city from Belarus on Sunday, and claimed a successful drone attack against a Russian BUK surface-to-air missile system near the capital.
But Western military assessments warn that Ukrainian forces cannot hold out indefinitely.
On Monday, it emerged that the bulk of Russian ground forces were more than 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) north of Kiev, according to an intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defense. The advance of these troops was slowed by heavy Ukrainian resistance at nearby Hostomel airfield, “a key Russian objective for the first day of the conflict”, the ministry said.
The Russian military on Monday announced what it described as an ‘open and safe’ corridor for civilians to leave the capital, while repeating an unsubstantiated claim that the Ukrainian government was using residents as a ‘human shield’ .
And while Ukrainian troops appear to be holding their ground in the north of the country, Russian forces have made some advances south. Sunday Russian troops took control of Berdyansk — a port city of 100,000 people on the southern coast of Ukraine and the site of a small naval base.
The ongoing Russian assault has inflicted considerable suffering and loss on the Ukrainian population. More than half a million refugees have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, according to the UN refugee agency. The number of known civilians killed in Ukraine stands at 352, including 14 children, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry announced on Sunday.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff accused Russia of striking civilian areas. “In violation of the norms of international humanitarian law, the occupiers insidiously inflicted missile fire on residential buildings in Zhytomir and Chernyhiv,” a statement said on Monday.
CNN is unable to independently verify these claims.
Concerns over nuclear confrontation
Pressure is mounting on the Kremlin as Ukraine’s western allies attempt to support the country with weapons and Russia faces financial turmoil, with the ruble in freefall.
Russian President Vladimir Putin upped the ante on Sunday by ordering his country’s nuclear forces to be placed on high alert.
Later on Sunday, Belarus gave up its non-nuclear status in a referendum, after the former Soviet nation became a launching pad for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week. The vote in favor of a new constitution could theoretically allow Russia to hand over nuclear weapons to Belarus for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, when Belarus gave up its stockpile and became a nuclear-free zone. ‘nuclear weapons.
Speaking to reporters at a polling station in Minsk, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he could ask Putin to ‘return the nuclear weapons’ that Belarus has donated if the West transfers nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania.
Ukrainian intelligence services have also indicated that Belarus may be preparing to “participate directly” in the invasion of Ukraine, according to two sources close to the Ukrainian government. Lukashenko said last week that Belarusian troops could join the invasion “if it becomes necessary”.
Meanwhile, the UK has said it will provide an additional $53 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and UK leaders plan to introduce legislation in Parliament aimed at cracking down on Russian money laundering and fraud.
And Australia’s travel bans and targeted financial sanctions against Putin and senior government officials came into force on Monday, the country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed in a statement.
South Korea and Singapore also announced new sanctions against Russia on Monday.
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