A British satellite firm cancels launches using Russian rockets, further isolating Russia’s space agency.
The Ukrainian Navy purposely sank the flagship of its Black Sea fleet on Thursday to prevent the warship from being seized by the Russian military, according to Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov.
The frigate, Hetman Sahaidachny, had been in port undergoing repairs when the war started. But it was not possible to finish the repairs quickly enough to send the ship to sea to fight.
So its captain, according to Mr. Reznikov, “carried out the order to sink the ship.”
“It is difficult to imagine a more difficult decision for a courageous man and his crew,” Mr. Reznikov added. “But we will build a new fleet.”
The billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk said the satellite internet terminals he had sent to Ukraine at the government’s request were now the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of the country. As a result, the “probability of being targeted is high,” Mr. Musk wrote on Twitter. “Please use with caution.” The terminals were designed by one of Mr. Musk’s companies, SpaceX, to work with satellites orbiting in space to provide online access.
Russia’s lower house of Parliament unanimously passed a law punishing any actions aimed at “discrediting” Russia’s armed forces during the war in Ukraine with 15 years in prison. The law could take effect as soon as Saturday. The government has said that even referring to what it calls a “special military operation” as a “war” or “invasion” amounts to disinformation. The threat of the law has already pushed Russian independent news media outlets to shut down in recent days.
After a night of raging firefights around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant near Enerhodar, the company in charge of the facility urged caution in accepting any statements from managers at the plant or local officials because they might be made under duress. “There is a high probability that the recent speech of the mayor of Enerhodar was recorded under the barrel of a machine gun,” the company, Energoatom, said, although it was unclear what statement it was referring to. The mayor had described the fighting earlier in the evening, and the company appeared to be warning of a video not yet widely shared. “Similar videos may appear” from leaders of the plant as Russians occupy the facility, the company said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.
Fighting near the nuclear power complex was so ferocious that Dmitry Orlov, the mayor of the nearest town, Enerhodar, said that he had been unable to move wounded people from the site to a hospital. Mr. Orlov said in a post on Telegram that a column of Russian armored vehicles had passed through the town on Thursday afternoon and had driven toward the plant, opening fire along the way. Oleksandr Starukh, the head of the regional government in the district where the plant is located, told the news outlet Ukraina 24 that he had prepared a plan to evacuate the town if necessary because of the danger posed by the plant.
Argentina will not impose sanctions on Russia for its war on Ukraine, Argentina’s foreign minister, Santiago Cafiero, said. “Argentina does not consider unilateral sanctions a mechanism to generate peace, harmony or frank dialogue that serves to save lives,” he said on Thursday. He added that Argentina would not be able to make as much of an impact as Russia’s larger trading partners because “Argentina does not really have such a powerful economic interdependence with Russia.” The foreign minister said, however, that Argentina would accept refugees from Ukraine.
Two Russian nationals flying in a private jet that had taken off from Geneva landed in northern Canada this week and were prevented from traveling farther, according to Canadian officials.
Canada had announced on Sunday that it would ban Russian aircraft from entering Canadian airspace in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The United States and the European Union have put similar policies in place.
The plane, which can seat about 20 people, landed at the Yellowknife Airport in the Northwest Territories on Tuesday night, according to Robert Collinson, a ministerial special adviser to the local government there. Mr. Collinson said the Russian citizens were let off the plane and were now dealing with officials at the Canada Border Services Agency.
Patrick Mahaffy, a spokesman for the agency, declined to answer specific questions about the flight, citing national privacy laws.
The Canadian transport minister, Omar Alghabra, wrote on Twitter that the plane “has been held” at the airport and that “we will continue to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine.”
After several days of Russian bombardment of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, videos verified by The New York Times’s Visual Investigations team reveal the devastation of residential areas and business districts.
Footage of the city center posted on Thursday shows large buildings and storefronts with severe structural damage and windows blown out. Other videos filmed this week show damage to residential buildings and schools on the outskirts of the city.
Michael Sheldon, a researcher at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, has been tracking attacks across the entire city. The data captures the scale of the damage to civilian infrastructure, including to shopping malls, government buildings and a local factory.
Google said on Thursday night that it had suspended all advertising in Russia after the country’s internet regulator demanded that the company stop showing what it considered ads displaying false information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Google said it took the rare step of pausing its advertising business in the country, including search, YouTube and display marketing. The move came a few days after the company suspended advertising of content produced by Russian state media. Google said it had already blocked ads related to the conflict because it did not want people to take advantage of the crisis for financial gain.
“In light of the extraordinary circumstances, we’re pausing Google ads in Russia. The situation is evolving quickly, and we will continue to share updates when appropriate,” the company said in a written statement.
Earlier on Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor had demanded that Google stop showing online video ads with what it called false political information about Ukraine. It accused YouTube, a unit of Google, of running advertising campaigns to misinform Russians about current events.
Google has taken a cautious approach with the Russian government throughout the crisis, because it has more than 100 employees on the ground in the country. In the past, the Russian government has threatened to prosecute individual employees of companies that run afoul of the country’s rules.
The Russian demands to Google are the latest example of how the internet platforms of the world’s largest technology companies are becoming battlegrounds for how information is shared during the conflict.
In addition to the suspension of advertising in Russia, Google banned RT, Sputnik and other Russian state-sponsored media from YouTube in Europe. It also said it would no longer permit content from Russian state media from appearing on Google News.
At the request of the Ukrainian government, Google said it would also restrict access to RT and other Russian YouTube channels in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain said he would seek an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex, according to a statement from his office. He urged Russia to “immediately cease its attack on the power station” and allow emergency services to have access to it.
A fire broke out early Friday at a complex in southern Ukraine housing Europe’s largest nuclear power plant after Russian troops fired on the area, and the Russian military later took control of the site, Ukrainian officials said.
Security camera footage verified by The New York Times showed a building ablaze inside the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex near a line of military vehicles. The videos appeared to show people in the vehicles firing at buildings in the power plant. Ukraine’s state emergency service later said the blaze went out after 6 a.m.
The fire did not affect essential equipment at the plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Twitter, citing its communication with the Ukrainian government.
About an hour after dawn, Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory inspectorate said in a statement that Russian military forces were now occupying the complex. It said that all of the site’s power units remained intact and that no changes in radiation levels had been observed.
The fire broke out after a Russian attack on a training building outside the perimeter of the plant, according to a statement by Ukraine’s state emergency service. A spokesman for the nuclear plant, Andriy Tuz, was quoted by The Associated Press as telling Ukrainian television that shells had set fire to one of the plant’s six reactors that was under renovation and not operating.
Ukraine’s nuclear inspectorate later said in its statement that one unit of the six units was operating, another was in “outage,” two were being cooled down, and two others had been disconnected from the grid.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine had accused the Russian military of deliberately attacking the complex and said an explosion there would have been “the end for everybody, the end of Europe.”
“Only immediate actions by Europe could stop the Russian army,” he added.
President Biden spoke with Mr. Zelensky about the fire and joined him in urging Russia to “cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site,” the White House said. Local reports later said that emergency crews had gained access.
Mr. Biden’s energy secretary, Jennifer M. Granholm, said on Twitter that the United States had not detected elevated radiation readings in the area, echoing an earlier assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency. “The plant’s reactors are protected by robust containment structures and reactors are being safely shut down,” she said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain said he would seek an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council about the blaze at the complex, according to his office.
Before the fire was reported by Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, the director general for the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement that “a large number of Russian tanks and infantry” had entered Enerhodar, a town next to the plant. The director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said that troops were “moving directly” toward the reactor site.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex, on the Dnieper River roughly a hundred miles north of Crimea, is the largest in Europe. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, its six reactors produce a total of 6,000 megawatts of electric power.
In comparison, the Chernobyl plant in northern Ukraine produced 3,800 megawatts — about a third less. (A megawatt, one million watts, is enough power to light 10,000 hundred-watt bulbs.) The four reactors of the Chernobyl complex were shut down after one suffered a catastrophic fire and meltdown in 1986.
The reactors’ cores are full of highly radioactive fuel. But an additional danger at the Zaporizhzhia site is the many acres of open pools of water behind the complex where spent fuel rods have been cooled for years. Experts fear that errant shells or missiles that hit such sites could set off radiological disasters.
For days, social media reports have detailed how the residents of Enerhodar set up a giant barrier of tires, vehicles and metal barricades to try to block a Russian advance into the city and the reactor site. Christoph Koettl, a visual investigator for The New York Times, noted on Twitter that the barricades were so large that they could be seen from outer space by orbiting satellites.
Starting this past Sunday, three days into the invasion, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator began reporting an unusual rate of disconnection: Six of the nation’s 15 reactors were offline. On Tuesday, the Zaporizhzhia facility was the site with the most reactors offline.
John Yoon, Marc Santora and Nathan Willis contributed reporting.
Videos posted on Thursday and verified by The New York Times reveal the various ways residents of Melitopol, a city under Russian occupation for at least three days, are coping with the presence of foreign troops in their city.
Civilians have responded with a mix of anger, scorn and acceptance, with some locals protesting Russian troops on multiple occasions and others lining up for aid from them in a central square.
In one video filmed a few blocks from the square and posted on Tuesday, a crowd confronted Russian military trucks trying to make a turn on a wet road and cheered when one ran into the back of another. Gunfire could be heard as the crowd scattered.
In multiple videos filmed in the square on Thursday, long lines of civilians waited to receive food and basic necessities from Russian troops, who handed them out from the back of large trucks.
But another video at the same location, also posted on Thursday, shows the military taking a less benevolent approach, telling a crowd via loudspeaker that meetings and demonstrations were temporarily prohibited “in order to prevent lawlessness and establish public order.” Crowd members give the middle finger to the vehicles and chant, “Go home!”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that the U.S., in addition to allocating $54 million for humanitarian aid to Ukraine, has deployed experts to bolster the international humanitarian response. She said the U.S. was also planning to support countries at Ukraine’s border, including Poland, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia, hosting people fleeing Ukraine. “The human toll of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustifiable attack against its sovereign neighbor is growing exponentially each day,” she said in a statement.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is offering humanitarian relief to Ukrainians who have been living in the country without legal documentation since March 1 or earlier, signaling additional support for citizens of Ukraine as Russia’s military advanced in the south of the country.
Lawmakers and advocacy groups who have been calling for the relief, known as temporary protected status, have estimated that between 28,000 and 30,000 Ukrainians could be eligible for it; the designation gives them permission to stay and work in the United States for 18 months. It will not apply to any Ukrainians who entered the country after March 1.
Canada announced similar relief on Thursday. Some European countries have also been taking in Ukrainian refugees. The United Nations predicted that there could ultimately be four million such refugees.
“Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in an ongoing war, senseless violence, and Ukrainians forced to seek refuge in other countries,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, said in a statement.
The Biden administration moved quickly on the designation, even as advocates have been pleading with the government for months to offer similar relief to people from Cameroon, who have faced violence and persecution when they were not granted asylum in the United States and deported. Often, the temporary status is extended.
“Protecting Ukrainian families from deportation is the least we can do amid a Russian onslaught that has targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the head of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said in a statement on Thursday. More than 1,000 Ukrainians were caught crossing the southwest border of the United States between October and January, a significant increase compared with previous years, according to government data.
There are currently more than 400,000 people living in the United States under temporary protected status, including immigrants from Myanmar, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
Proponents of limiting immigration have been critical of the program, which they say ultimately lets people who receive the designation stay in the United States permanently.
The federal agency that handles applications for the temporary benefit reports about a six-month wait period. Ukrainian immigrants who qualify for the program can also apply for authorization to work in the United States.
On Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada announced a new program for fleeing Ukrainians to be granted quick, temporary immigration status in the country, which has a large Ukrainian population.
His government also announced a special program, through which Ukrainian-Canadians can sponsor family members fleeing Ukraine to settle permanently in Canada.
“Ukrainian immigrants have helped build this country, and we stand with the courageous people of Ukraine in upholding the values that our countries share,” the Canadian government’s news release said.
Catherine Porter contributed reporting from Toronto, Canada.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said late Thursday that “a large number of Russian tanks and infantry” had entered the town next to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex and that infantry troops were “moving directly towards” the reactor site, largest in not only Ukraine but Europe.
BRUSSELS — Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country will be offered temporary protection in the European Union, its ministers decided on Thursday, as the exodus from Ukraine surpassed a million people.
The decision to grant temporary protection to the refugees is the first time the bloc has used a mechanism created after the Bosnian War to immediately offer legal status to people fleeing war zones. Ukrainians will be able to live and work in the European Union for up to three years.
Ukrainians could already travel to the European Union visa-free but could only legally stay for up to three months. Thursday’s decision puts in place a structure that will allow people to temporarily settle in the bloc.
The decision reached Thursday did not make it mandatory for E.U. countries to extend the same protections to non-Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, many of them students or migrant workers from Africa and Asia.
Under the decision, E.U. countries will have the option to grant people who have legal resident status in Ukraine the same kind of protection as Ukrainian nationals receive. If the countries decide against that, they are supposed to make efforts to repatriate those people to their home countries. It was not immediately clear which E.U. nations would opt to offer all people fleeing Ukraine, irrespective of nationality, that higher level of protection.
Credit…Photos by Lynsey Addario and Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which seemed unimaginable to many Ukrainians, Russians and others in the post-Cold War era, began last week when Russian forces advanced from the north, east and south, seeming to threaten nearly every corner of the country.
Photographers with The New York Times and other news organizations are on the ground, providing a firsthand look at Ukraine’s fight against its far larger adversary, at the flight of hundreds of thousands of people, and at the toll of the invasion in Ukraine.
As Russia is trying to cut off the flow of information in Ukraine by attacking its communications infrastructure, the British news outlet BBC is revisiting a broadcasting tactic popularized during World War II: shortwave radio.
The BBC said this week that it would use radio frequencies that can travel for long distances and be accessible on portable radios to broadcast its World Service news in English for four hours a day in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and in parts of Russia.
“It’s often said truth is the first casualty of war,” Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, said in a statement. “In a conflict where disinformation and propaganda is rife, there is a clear need for factual and independent news people can trust.”
On Tuesday, Russian projectiles struck the main radio and television tower in Kyiv. Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, wrote on Twitter that Russia’s goal was “to break the resistance of the Ukrainian people and army,” starting with “a breakdown of connection” and “the spread of massive FAKE messages that the Ukrainian country leadership has agreed to give up.”
Shortwave radio has been a go-to vehicle to reach listeners in conflict zones for decades, used to deliver crackling dispatches to soldiers in the Persian Gulf war, send codes to spies in North Korea and pontificate through the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. But more modern forms of radio along with the internet eventually pushed shortwave out of favor; the BBC retired its shortwave transmissions in Europe 14 years ago.
Over the last week of February, viewership of BBC’s Ukrainian language site more than doubled from a year earlier to 3.9 million visitors, the broadcaster said on Wednesday. The BBC also provides news coverage in the country via its website, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, Viber and Espreso TV.
Millions of Russians are also turning to the BBC, the broadcaster said. The audience for the BBC’s Russian language news website reached a record 10.7 million in the past week, more than tripling its weekly average so far in 2022, the company said. Visitors to BBC’s English language website from within Russia surged 252 percent to 423,000.
Within the country, BBC also posts updates on Telegram, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Other Western news outlets have also experienced a surge in viewership. Visits to The Guardian’s digital platforms from Russian and Ukrainian audiences were up 180 percent from January.
The BBC’s coverage has led to complaints from Russian officials. Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said during a briefing broadcast by RT, the Kremlin-backed Russian media outlet, that Russia was the victim of “unprecedented information terrorism” that was “devoted to discrediting Russian actions” and “creating hysteria around Ukrainian events.”
The BBC “plays a determined role in undermining the Russian stability and security,” Ms. Zakharova said, without providing evidence.
Early Friday, BBC’s Russian service reported problems accessing its site in Russia.
Ikea and TJX, the owner of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, became the latest retailers to halt business operations in Russia, joining the growing number of Western companies condemning the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ikea said on Thursday that it would pause all exports and imports to and from Russia and Belarus and would halt production and retail operations in Russia, affecting 15,000 of its employees.
TJX said in a Thursday regulatory filing that it would divest its equity ownership in Familia, an off-price retailer with more than 400 stores in Russia, potentially taking an investment loss when the stake is sold. TJX paid $225 million in 2019 for its 25 percent stake in Familia, which is based in Luxembourg.
“The devastating war in Ukraine is a human tragedy, and our deepest empathy and concerns are with the millions of people impacted,” Ikea said in a statement. “The war has had a huge human impact already. It is also resulting in serious disruptions to supply chain and trading conditions.”
More European and American businesses have been ceasing sales and other operations in Russia and expressing their support for the Ukrainian people as the attacks on the country have worsened. Many, including Ikea, are making donations to provide assistance to people displaced by the escalating conflict and calling for peace. Retailers’ responses have ranged from halting online sales to shuttering a vast number of stores, and some have escalated their measures.
This week, Apple and H&M Group said they were pausing all sales in Russia. H&M, which is based in Stockholm, said in an email that it had about 170 stores in Russia, where it first opened a location in 2009.
Canada Goose, which is based in Toronto, said on Wednesday that it would cease wholesale and e-commerce sales to Russia “in light of the challenged operating environment and evolving sanctions against Russian interests.”
Separately, Nike said on Thursday that it would temporarily close its roughly 116 stores in Russia, according to The Wall Street Journal. Nike had already paused online sales. Adidas did not address its Russian sales in an email to The New York Times on Thursday, but it said it had suspended its partnership with the Russian Football Union and “will continue to follow the situation closely and take future business decisions and action as needed, prioritizing our employees’ safety and support.”
Ikea said it would continue to operate its major chain of shopping centers, Mega, in Russia to ensure that customers had access to essentials like food and medication. It also said it had “secured employment and income stability for the immediate future” for affected employees.
TJX, one of the biggest apparel sellers in the United States, said on Thursday that the carrying value of its Familia investment was $186 million as of Jan. 29, based on the valuation of Russian rubles to U.S. dollars, according to its filing. The company also said two of its employees had resigned from positions on Familia’s board of directors as part of its divestment.
In the city of Sumy, in northeastern Ukraine, more than 800 medical students are stranded at their university, officials said, after Russian forces hindered access to roads and trains. Explosions close to the university have made power outages and bomb shelter visits a daily occurrence.
The students, who are mostly from African countries and India, make up a large population of people stuck in Sumy, which is about 40 miles from the Russian border.
“We don’t know when help is going to come, we don’t know how we are going to get out of the city,” said Michael, a third-year medical student from Ghana who asked that his last name not be used because he feared for his safety. “We don’t really have proper food. I’m basically eating biscuits.”
“Almost everybody in this city is stuck here,” said Wireko Andrew Awuah, a fifth-year medical student at Sumy State University who is also from Ghana. He added that some embassies have tried to get students out of the city since the invasion began, but without success. “It’s always one answer,” Mr. Awuah said. “The roads are blocked and they are not safe.”
Andrii Loboda, the director of the academic and research Medical Institute of Sumy State University, said he appealed to international aid groups for a humanitarian corridor to let students pass. In the meantime, Mr. Loboda has urged all students to shelter in place.
The United States leveled an array of new sanctions on Russian elites and oligarchs on Thursday, ratcheting up the economic pressure on allies of President Vladimir V. Putin as his invasion of Ukraine intensifies.
The sanctions, which include travel bans and seizures of assets, target some of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in Russia, including Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov. They are an expansion of the Biden administration’s effort to use financial leverage to compel Mr. Putin to reverse course in Ukraine.
President Biden said at the White House on Thursday that the sanctions were already having a “profound impact” on Russia’s economy and that the United States would continue to do more to support Ukraine.
The new sanctions apply to eight members of Russia’s elite and place visa restrictions on 19 oligarchs and their family members. The administration said in a statement that the United States and its allies will identify and seize their assets, including yachts, luxury apartments, money and other “ill-gotten gains.”
Among those now facing sanctions is Alisher Burkhanovich Usmanov, a Russian billionaire, whose superyacht was seized this week by Germany, according to the White House.
The Biden administration also announced that it is imposing sanctions on several Russian organizations, such as Odna Rodyna and Rhythm of Eurasia, that it said enable Russia’s government to spread disinformation.
The sanctions, while significant, stop short of targeting Russia’s oil and gas sectors and come as lawmakers in the United States have been calling for restrictions on purchases of Russian energy products.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said on Thursday that the Biden administration remains concerned that targeting Russia’s energy sector would lead to higher gas prices for American consumers. However, the administration is seeking ways to pare back purchases of Russian oil, she said.
“We are continuing to look at other options we could take right now to cut U.S. consumption of Russian energy, but in the context of maintaining a steady global supply of energy,” Ms. Psaki said.
The Biden administration formally asked Congress for $10 billion in emergency humanitarian and defense aid for Ukraine, a sum nearly $4 billion more than White House officials initially floated that reflected how rapidly Kyiv’s need for aid has grown as Russian forces intensify their attack.
The $10 billion request includes $4.8 billion in additional funds for the Pentagon, to cover the deployment of U.S. troops to NATO countries, increased intelligence and cybersecurity support, and to replenish the weapons the Defense Department has already sent to Ukraine, such as stinger missiles.
It also includes $4.25 billion in new funding for economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukrainians, including the one million refugees who have already fled from the bombarded nation in the first week of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion. The request additionally includes money to enforce some of the economic penalties the Biden administration has already imposed, including on Russian oligarchs and on high-tech goods.
“I urge the Congress to act expeditiously in considering this important request,” Shalanda Young, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in the request, which was obtained by The New York Times.
Officials hope to wrap the emergency aid into a sprawling government funding package lawmakers are currently negotiating, which needs to be completed by March 11 to avoid a government shutdown when funding runs out.
Lawmakers in both parties have expressed support for swift approval of additional aid to Ukraine, and had pushed the administration to go beyond the $6.4 billion it had initially proposed.
“This is going to be a multiyear humanitarian nightmare,” said Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. “And we also have to be wise to all of the asymmetric threats Russia is going to levy at us, whether it be cyber attacks or information warfare, so I would argue to go big.”
But the contours of the administration’s request for additional Pentagon funding may sour a number of conservative lawmakers, who have argued that the bulk of that money should be explicitly used to send new lethal aid to Kyiv.
“Zelensky needs more ammo NOW!” Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida, wrote on Twitter, venting his frustration about the request.
Russian forces are advancing on the port city of Mykolaiv, a key point in what appears to be a bid to seize control of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast.
The mayor of Mykolaiv, Oleksandr Senkevych, said in an interview on Thursday that Russian forces that had captured the southern city of Kherson on Wednesday were headed northwest toward his city. The distance is about 36 miles.
Roughly 800 Russian vehicles, including a column of rocket launchers, were advancing on Mykolaiv from the north, east and south. Mr. Senkevych said that there had been no shelling inside the city, but that Ukrainian forces dug in along the city’s perimeter had been fired on by long-range rockets, forcing them to constantly retrench.
“The city is ready for war,” Mr. Senkevych said.
Russia is seeking to enable separatist forces it supports in Crimea, the southern peninsula Russia annexed in 2014, to connect by land with forces it supports in Ukraine’s east, said Orysia Lutsevych, the head of the Ukraine Forum group at Chatham House, a policy institute in London. She said Russia’s invading units are thus also attacking the port city of Mariupol.
“Kherson and Mykolaiv have felt under pressure since the annexation of Crimea in 2014 by the possibility of the land bridge,” she said.
Mykolaiv, an ethnically diverse city of about 475,000, lies on an estuary off the Black Sea and has deep roots in ship building, though recently it has also developed as a center for light industry and agriculture.
Its nicknames include the City of Shipbuilders and the City on the Waves, and its connection to the Black Sea is critical to its identity, according to Rory Finnin, an associate professor of Ukrainian Studies at Cambridge University.
Control of Mykolaiv would enable Russia to land amphibious troops for a further push west toward Odessa, a major port on the Black Sea.
“Mykolaiv is key on the way to Odessa,” Dr. Finnin said. “Ukraine’s Black Sea life is being threatened at the moment and Mykolaiv is a puzzle piece in that.”
Flat geography makes the city’s approaches hard to defend, Dr. Finnin said. Mr. Senkevych has tried to rally the city’s population, using social media to encourage defiance.