Russian convoy outside Kyiv breaks up as more Ukrainian cities targeted

  • As the war in Ukraine enters its third week, it burns with greater intensity as Russian forces step up their attack, ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports

A large Russian convoy headed for Kyiv has apparently dispersed and fanned out into towns and forests, according to fresh satellite imagery, as officials warned Moscow's troops have begun to attack new targets in Ukraine.

Russia's fresh round of attacks were launched in western cities far from Moscow's main targets and could indicate a new direction of the war, while a US official said troops have edged closer to the capital in the past 24 hours with some just nine miles away.

Russia has also been accused of attacking a psychiatric hospital near the city of Kharkiv, a Ukrainian official said.

Oleg Sinegubov, head of the government administration of Kharkiv, said the enemy "again carried out a brutal attack on civilians" which he described as a war crime.

He announced the hospital, which cares for 330 disabled people and people with psychiatric illnesses, was struck. He said the number of casualties is not yet known.

Ukraine’s State Emergencies Service said in a statement. "All 30 staff and 330 patients were in a bomb shelter at the time of the strike."

Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko tweeted an image of what appeared to be the aftermath of the bombing and urged the UK, EU and US to "stop this madness" by repeating calls to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

She wrote: "Are mental health patients also Nazis in Putin’s eyes?

"Russia targets the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. Ukraine struggles to protect all."

Early Friday morning, the mayor of the western city of Ivano-Frankiivsk ordered residents in the neighbouring areas to head to shelters after an air raid alert rang out, while the mayor of the north-western city of Lutsk also announced an airstrike near the airport.

Three Russian airstrikes also hit the eastern industrial city of Dnipro on Friday, killing at least one person, according to Interior Ministry adviser Anton Heraschenko. It is the first time the city has come under attack during the invasion.

'This is the first time that Dnipro city itself has been targeted in this war, and now everyone is very concerned that this is the beginning of a new front,' reports ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers

The Russian strikes hit near a kindergarten and apartment buildings, while one sparked a fire at a shoe factory.

Mr Heraschenko released video showing flashes over residential areas of the city, home to nearly one million people.

The UN human rights office says it has so far documented 549 civilian deaths and 957 injuries following the Russian invasion but warned that number is likely much higher and "general human suffering" is rising.

"Civilians are being killed and maimed in what appear to be indiscriminate attacks, with Russian forces using explosive weapons with wide area effects in or near populated areas,” spokeswoman Liz Throssell told a UN briefing.

The World Health Organization said on Friday it had verified 29 attacks on health care facilities, workers and ambulances in the war, including a high-profile one on a maternity hospital in southeastern Mariupol on Wednesday.

In those, 12 people have been killed and 34 injured.

The western cities hit on Friday are between 80-90 miles from Lviv - the city that has become a refuge for Ukrainians from across the rest of the country and a hub for global humanitarian aid and other support for Ukraine.

ITV News Foreign Affairs News Editor Lutfi Abu Aun, in Lviv, reported how air raid sirens sounded as hundreds gathered in a cemetery to pay their respects to Ukrainian soldiers killed in battles near Kherson.

Meanwhile, Russian forces were pushing toward Kyiv from the northwest and east but were repelled from Chernihiv as Ukrainian fighters regained control of Baklanova Muraviika, the general staff of Ukraine's armed forces said in a statement.

A convoy seen in satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed a 40-mile line of vehicles, tanks and artillery had been broken up and redeployed, the company said.

Photos indicated that its troops, long stalled in a convoy outside the capital Kyiv, were manoeuvring in an attempt to encircle the city.

Satellite imagery shows troops and military vehicles deployed in Ozera, northeast of Antonov Airport, north of Kyiv. Credit: Maxar Technologies via AP

Armoured units were seen in towns near Antonov Airport - about 35 miles north-west of Kyiv, with some of the vehicles reportedly having moved into forests.

The convoy had massed outside the city early last week, but its advance appeared to stall as reports of food and fuel shortages circulated.

US officials said Ukrainian troops also targeted the convoy with anti-tank missiles- but the immediacy of the threat to Kyiv remained unclear.

A US defence official speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russian forces moving towards Kyiv had advanced about three miles in the past 24 hours, with some elements as close as nine miles from the city.

However, the official gave no indication that the convoy had dispersed or otherwise repositioned in a significant way, saying some vehicles were seen moving off the road into the tree line in recent days.

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) warned Russia's offensive on the capital is likely to begin within "days".

Western and Ukrainian officials said Russian forces are seeing heavier losses and stiffer Ukrainian resistance than Moscow apparently anticipated. But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have used air power and artillery to pummel Ukraine’s cities.

The new satellite photos emerged amid more international efforts to isolate and sanction Russia, ramped up after an airstrike on a maternity hospital in the port city of Mariupol killed three people, including a child, that Western and Ukrainian officials decried as a war crime.

In the latest response to the Kremlin's escalating war in Ukraine, the US said it plans to revoke Russia’s “most favoured nation” trade status, which US President Joe Biden said would make it harder for Russia to do business with America.

The move - taking in step with the EU and other advanced economies - means the US and its allies could impose higher tariffs on some Russian imports.

Joe Biden announces that the US will move to revoke "most favoured nation" trade status for Russia. Credit: AP

Mr Biden also announced a ban on imports of Russian diamonds, seafood and vodka, as he warned that Putin must pay a price for his invasion of Ukraine.

“The free world is coming together to confront Putin,” he said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Friday.

Unbowed by the sanctions, however, Russia kept up its bombardment of Mariupol while Kyiv braced for an onslaught, its mayor boasting that the capital had become practically a fortress protected by armed civilians.

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More than 1,300 people have died in the 10-day siege of the southern seaport city of Mariupol, according to deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Mariupol's deputy mayor Sergei Orlov told ITV News on Thursday the death toll count is "just the bodies on the streets," adding: "I think the numbers are much more - three or four times more."

Bodies are being buried in mass graves amid a worsening humanitarian situation in which civilians are trapped inside the city, desperately searching for scarce food, water and fuel.

Repeated attempts to send in food and medicine and evacuate civilians have been thwarted by Russian shelling, Ukrainian authorities said.

'Mariupol's siege is now a city wide atrocity,' ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports on the horrific developments from Ukraine

The number of refugees fleeing the country has topped 2.5 million, and some 100,000 people have been evacuated during the past two days from seven cities under Russian blockade in the north and centre of the country, including the Kyiv suburbs, Mr Zelenskyy said.

In addition to those who have fled the country, millions have been driven from their homes inside Ukraine.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said about two million people - half the population of the metropolitan area - have left the capital.

The Ukrainian President has told Russian leaders that the invasion will backfire on them as their economy is strangled.