European leaders meet in Kyiv as besieged capital faces fresh attacks

The heads of three governments in the European Union traveled Tuesday to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in an extraordinary attempt to demonstrate support for Ukraine as Russian attacks raged across the country and targeted the besieged capital.

The dramatic visit from top officials in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia to a city that was shaken Tuesday morning by new blasts came amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis and a new push to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin. As many as 3 million people have fled the war-torn country in the three weeks since the Russian invasion began, according to new estimates.

The White House announced Tuesday that President Joe Biden will travel to Brussels next week to meet with European leaders for a NATO summit, a trip meant to reinforce the U.S. commitment to the alliance as worries grow about Russian aggression creeping up to Ukraine’s boundaries.

The scene Tuesday was eerily familiar: widespread death and destruction, coupled with scant signs that the conflict would soon abate.

A suspected Russian missile attack on an apartment building Tuesday killed at least four people in Kyiv, where the mayor announced a curfew, citing a “difficult and dangerous moment.” Officials were once again struggling to get humanitarian aid to the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, which is surrounded by Russian troops. Videos captured blasts in at least three locations in the heart of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Monday night.

A Fox News cameraman, Pierre Zakrzewski, was killed in an attack Monday alongside a Ukrainian colleague, Oleksandra Kuvshynova, the news network announced Tuesday. Zakrzewski and Kuvshynova were traveling with Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall when their vehicle was struck by incoming fire. Hall has been hospitalized, Fox News said Monday, but no further update has been given on his condition.

Talks between Ukraine and Russia resumed Tuesday, but they resulted in little progress.


Zelensky on Wednesday is planning to give a virtual joint address to the U.S. Congress, which could increase pressure on Biden to provide military planes to Ukraine or impose a no-fly zone. Zelensky has previously requested such assistance, but so far Biden has resisted amid concerns that the aid could draw the United States into direct combat with Russia, a fellow nuclear power.

The remarks from Zelensky - who has earned a reputation for harnessing social media and offering stirring words to mobilize an international response - will be carried live at 9 a.m., giving him an opportunity to speak directly to an American audience. During an address Tuesday to the Canadian Parliament, which was greeted with thunderous applause and chants of “Glory to Ukraine” from a packed House of Commons, Zelensky asked Canadian lawmakers to imagine what it would be like if bombs fell on cities such as Vancouver and landmarks such as the CN Tower. How would they explain the din of air raid sirens to their children, Zelensky asked.

“Of course, I don’t wish this on anyone. But this is our reality,” Zelensky said, urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian lawmakers to support a no-fly zone.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki continued to argue against the United States imposing that measure.

“A no-fly zone is escalatory and could prompt a war with Russia, a major nuclear power,” she said at a briefing.

The group of European leaders who came to Kyiv - Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa - traveled by train. Their arrival marked the first time foreign leaders have entered the Ukrainian capital since Russia’s attack began 20 days earlier. The visit was meant to “confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” Fiala wrote in a Facebook post, which added that he and his counterparts were coming as representatives of the European Council.

John Spencer, a retired U.S. Army officer and chair of urban warfare studies at the Madison Policy Forum, called the visit “extremely risky,” not just for the safety of the visiting heads of government, but also because of possible reprisal from Putin, who “may see leaders of NATO countries entering Ukraine as crossing one of his lines.”

The presence in Ukraine of Central European leaders was especially notable two days after Russian missiles struck a military training base near Ukraine’s border with Poland, bringing the war closer to NATO and E.U. territory.

Though Russian forces approaching Kyiv appear to have stalled, they have made progress elsewhere. Russian military officials claimed its forces have taken full control of the Kherson region in the south of the country. British defense officials said Tuesday in an intelligence update that Russia is ramping up efforts to “subvert Ukrainian democracy” by installing its own mayors and seeking to stage a referendum in Kherson in a bid to establish the Russian-occupied area as a “breakaway republic.” That would make it similar to separatist areas in Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine.

A United Nations human rights office, which has been tracking civilian casualties, confirmed the deaths of at least 691 civilians, including dozens of women and children. The office said at least 1,143 others have been injured since Russia began its invasion - although it acknowledged that the tolls are incomplete.

James Elder, a spokesperson for UNICEF, the U.N.’s child protection agency, said Tuesday that 1.5 million Ukrainian children have become refugees since the start of the conflict, accounting for half of the total refugee population. That means 55 children become refugees every minute, Elder said, or nearly one per second.

Ukrainian officials have reported progress in opening “humanitarian corridors” from besieged cities. Officials in the Sumy province said Tuesday that evacuation routes would be opened from several cities in the region, in northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border. And in Mariupol, authorities said, 2,000 cars had left the city as of 2 p.m. local time, with another 2,000 waiting to go.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Tuesday that nine humanitarian corridors “have been agreed on” - without clarifying whether the agreement involves Russian troops, whom Ukrainian officials have accused of impairing evacuation efforts by continuously shelling cities in recent days.

As violence continued on the ground, Western governments and Russia continued to escalate economic punishments against each other.

The European Union on Tuesday approved additional sanctions on Russia and confirmed that it will stop treating Russia as a most-favored nation within the World Trade Organization framework.

The new package, the fourth since late February, adds people and companies to the E.U. sanctions list, including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, who had previously been sanctioned by the British government. The measures take aim at Russia’s energy sector, block the export of luxury goods costing more than 300 euros and ban the import of Russian iron and steel.

Russia, meanwhile, announced sanctions on Biden and several senior administration officials Tuesday, including Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Psaki and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.


The Russian government also imposed sanctions on Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee; Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo; national security adviser Jake Sullivan; and Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement the sanctions were the inevitable result of the “extremely Russophobic” actions taken by the Biden administration. The statement said similar measures are expected in the future.

The sanctions are expected to bar travel to Russia and freeze assets held there, but are largely symbolic since there is little indication that the American officials have large assets in Russia or a desire to soon travel there.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that he will meet Wednesday with the organization’s defense ministers, and the 30-member alliance will discuss longer-term plans to bolster the alliance’s eastern flank in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This new posture could include substantially more forces on land, as well as a strengthening of air and missile defense and “more and larger” military exercises.

Dissent also continued to spread over Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

A television producer, Marina Ovsyannikova, burst onto a live news broadcast on Russian state television holding a sign denouncing the war in Ukraine. She was found guilty of organizing an illegal protest and fined 30,000 rubles - about $280 - although it’s not clear whether she could face additional charges.

During a news briefing Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed Ovsyannikova’s actions as “hooliganism” and said the television channel, not the Kremlin, was “dealing with this.”


The leaders of a Russian Orthodox church in Amsterdam, meanwhile, said they plan to defect from the Moscow-based Church as a show of protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - the latest evidence of a split within the Orthodox Christian community over the invasion.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has called those who oppose Russia “evil forces” and cast the invasion as a struggle of “metaphysical significance” against the “values” promoted by “those who claim world power.”

But the council of the Russian Orthodox Parish of Saint Nicholas of Myra in Amsterdam said in a statement that its clergy “unanimously announced” at a meeting “that it is no longer possible for them to function within the Moscow Patriarchate and provide a spiritually safe environment for our faithful.”

“This decision is extremely painful and difficult for all concerned,” the parish council said.

Stanley-Becker reported from Berlin. Timsit reported from London. Rauhala reported from Brussels. The Washington Post’s Amanda Coletta in Toronto, Jennifer Hassan in London and Jeff Stein and Jeremy Barr in Washington contributed to this report.