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Russia Presses Offensive as Ukrainians Try to Evacuate


KYIV, Ukraine—Ukraine redoubled efforts to evacuate thousands of civilians from besieged cities Wednesday, as Russia resumed its broad offensive to encircle Kyiv.

In the northern besieged city of Sumy, officials said they managed to move about 5,000 residents overnight, although officials reported more shelling in the past 24 hours. One bomb killed 22 people, officials said.

Russia and Ukraine agreed to open evacuation routes at a half dozen Ukrainian cities Wednesday morning. Ukrainian officials said that several towns west of Kyiv had begun moving civilians, mostly women and children, toward the capital.

The cease-fire between Russian and Ukrainian forces appeared to be successful after efforts in recent days to establish such corridors failed repeatedly. Civilians were able to flee for a few hours.

Some escapees from Kyiv’s outskirts were directed toward the capital’s train station, where people were clamoring to board trains.

In Kyiv, the primary target of the Russian offensive, the streets are now mostly empty of residents, with just soldiers and some elderly left behind. A concert in the city’s Independence Square to mark the birthday of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko was sparsely attended except for a scrum of foreign television journalists.

Bogged down by poor logistics and stiff resistance, Russia so far has failed to take any major Ukrainian city. Ukraine is bracing for a renewed push, with Russian President

Vladimir Putin

seemingly undeterred by global condemnation of the invasion that he ordered two weeks ago.

People searched through debris near houses destroyed by shelling in Sumy, Ukraine.



Photo:

ANDREY MOZGOVOY/Andrey Mozgovoy via REUTERS

A soldier received treatment in a hospital in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.



Photo:

bulent kilic/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Overnight, Ukraine’s military reported renewed Russian offensives at all major targets, from Ukraine’s second-most-populous city, Kharkiv, near the Russian border, to Mariupol, on Ukraine’s southern coast.

Russian forces inched forward in an effort to encircle Kyiv, reaching the outskirts of another suburban town west of the city, and bombing Ukrainian positions southwest, near some of the last open roads into the capital.

Russia said it would allow civilians to leave some besieged cities starting Wednesday; residents in Mariupol have gone without power and water for more than a week; satellite images show extensive damage around a bridge leading to Kyiv. Photo: Maxar Technologies/AFP

The number of people forced to escape Ukraine has passed two million, as the civilian toll of the war mounted along with international efforts to press Mr. Putin to halt the Russian offensive. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said an additional one million people have been displaced inside Ukraine after fleeing their homes.

Civilian casualties, which have been reported sporadically from local officials around the country, are expected to climb sharply as Russian troops who have been encircling cities now try to storm them, Ukrainian officials said.

People settled in a bomb shelter in Mariupol.



Photo:

Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated Press

An apartment building was hit by shelling in Mariupol.



Photo:

Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated Press

In the eastern city of Severodonetsk, officials said Wednesday that 10 people were killed and eight wounded in shelling the day before. Residents of the eastern city of Izyum said much of the downtown has been flattened by artillery strikes and fierce street fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces inside the city.

Among those killed in a bombardment in Sumy was a 16-year-old former Ukrainian champion of sambo wrestling, who died along with his parents, grandmother and two younger brothers, according to a Facebook post by his coach.

Ukrainian officials on Wednesday also warned that the Chernobyl nuclear facility had lost power, threatening the cooling of radioactive material stored there and risking radioactive leakage. Foreign Minister

Dmytro Kuleba

said on Twitter that the Chernobyl site has reserve diesel generators that have a 48-hour capacity to power the cooling systems.

A senior official at the U.N. atomic agency said the International Atomic Energy Agency would provide an update on the situation soon but saw no reason for undue concern. The organization late Tuesday said that it was no longer receiving data transmission from its systems at the Chernobyl nuclear facility for monitoring activities there.

Congress, meanwhile, agreed on a massive spending package for the current fiscal year that includes $13.6 billion in support for Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Poland said it would immediately give its fleet of MiG-29 jet fighters to the U.S. at Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany after days of public speculation over donating the planes to Ukraine and raising the possibility of wider U.S. commitment.

The Pentagon said it wasn’t clear that there was a “substantive rationale” for having Polish jets intended for Ukraine at an American air base, saying such a proposal raised concerns for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we don’t believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

Ukrainian Defense Minister

Oleksiy Reznikov

on Wednesday called for people to be more circumspect in discussing arms supplies, at least domestically. “Please do not spread the word that certain countries provide weapons to our country. Refrain from commenting on this.”

President Biden announced Tuesday a ban on Russian oil imports into the U.S., amid growing calls from bipartisan lawmakers to take action. The U.S. will also ban imports of Russian natural gas and other energy sources, Biden said. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

As Russia pressed in on Kyiv, Washington and its allies also looked to inflict further economic pain on Mr. Putin, who has shown no indication he would bow to global condemnation of the war that he started. The Biden administration is banning imports of Russian oil, the lifeblood of Moscow’s economy, as well as Russian natural gas and other energy sources, President Biden said Tuesday at the White House.

“Americans have rallied to support the Ukrainian people and made it clear we will not be part of subsidizing Putin’s war,” Mr. Biden said.

The European Union said it planned to cut its imports of Russian natural gas by two-thirds by the end of this year, and the U.K. said it would phase out the import of Russian oil.

Fitch Ratings cut its credit ratings on Russia further into junk territory and warned that Moscow was likely to default on its debts shortly, less than a week after downgrading the country from investment-grade status.

The announcements came as U.S. intelligence agency chiefs said Russia is facing serious military shortcomings in its invasion of Ukraine, including morale and logistical problems, and will be hard-pressed to control territory and install a pro-Moscow regime in the face of what U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines called a persistent and significant Ukrainian insurgency.

Areas seized as of Saturday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Chernobyl

Not in operation

Controlled by

separatists

Areas seized as of Saturday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Primary refugee crossing locations

Chernobyl

Not in operation

Controlled by

separatists

Areas seized as of Saturday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Chernobyl

Not in operation

Controlled by

separatists

Areas seized as of Saturday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Areas seized as of Saturday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Ms. Haines and Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns told the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that Mr. Putin is likely to double down on his efforts to subdue Ukraine, with increasing disregard for civilian casualties. It will be “an ugly next few weeks,” Mr. Burns said.

In Mariupol, residents have gone without power, cellphone service or water supply for over a week. Russian forces pounded its residential neighborhoods Tuesday as the city’s defenders refused to surrender. Mayor Vadim Boychenko said that children in the city of 400,000 have started to die from dehydration.

“My heart is full of pain and hatred of the fascists who have blockaded our beloved Mariupol,” he said. “Something that we thought was impossible in the 21st century is happening today. It’s frightening news for Europe, and a frightening reality for Ukraine.”

Around the strategic town of Izyum, eastern Ukraine, Russian forces advanced as they attempted to encircle some of the country’s most hardened forces in the Donbas region. Izyum has been without power for five days, and thousands of civilians have taken shelter at a tourist base near a monastery in the nearby town of Sviatohirsk.

Displaced people with bags who arrived in Lviv from central Ukraine crossed railroad trucks to avoid crowded passages of the station.



Photo:

Justyna Mielnikiewicz/MAPS for The Wall Street Journal

A Ukrainian civilian escaping from Irpin.



Photo:

Manu Brabo for The Wall Street Journal

Ukraine continued to repel Russian attempts to break into the southeastern port city of Mykolaiv, the gateway to the Black Sea port of Odessa. Some 3,000 civilians managed to flee from the contested suburb of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv.

A third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine on how to end the war, held in Belarus on Monday, failed to achieve much progress as Kyiv refused to accept Russian demands that it recognize the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia and the independence of the Russian-created statelets in the Donbas region. Despite the Russian offensive, Ukrainian forces continued to hold most of the population areas in Donbas that they controlled before the invasion began.

The Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are tentatively scheduled to meet on the sidelines of an international conference in Antalya, Turkey, on Thursday.

Write to Alan Cullison at alan.cullison@wsj.com

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