(NewsNation Now) — Fighting intensified in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, as Russia’s invasion entered its sixth day Tuesday, with a reportedly 40-mile-long convoy of Russian tanks and armored vehicles on a road to the capital, Kyiv.
“Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget. After the strike on the Freedom Square in Kharkiv, Russia is a terrorist state,” Ukrainian President Voldoymyr Zelenskyy said in a televised address after Kharkiv’s central Freedom Square was struck by a missile.
Zelenskyy tweeted that he spoke with President Joe Biden hours before his first State of the Union address.
“The American leadership on anti-Russian sanctions and defense assistance to Ukraine was discussed,” Zelenskyy tweeted. “We must stop the aggressor as soon as possible. Thank you for your support!”
Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova will be attending tonight’s State of the Union address as a guest of first lady Jill Biden, seated in her viewing box, according to reports.
Biden tweeted on Tuesday that he spoke with Zelenskyy to discuss continued U.S. support for Ukraine, saying: “We will hold Russia accountable, and our sanctions are already having a devastating impact.”
Biden vowed in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night to check Russian aggression in Ukraine, tame soaring U.S. inflation at home and deal with the fading but still dangerous coronavirus.
The shift follows similar actions made by Canada and the European Union.
Timing is unclear, but is expected within the next 24 hours, sources told Reuters.
On the ground Tuesday, two rockets struck a TV tower in the capital, killing five people who were walking nearby, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.
Ukraine’s parliament posted a photo of clouds of smoke around it. Local media reported that there were several explosions and that Ukrainian TV channels stopped broadcasting shortly afterward.
Ukraine accused Russia of carrying out a “barbaric” rocket attack on the tower which is near Babyn Yar, a memorial site to one of the biggest single massacres of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.
“What is the point of saying never again for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating,” Zelenskyy tweeted.
So far, Russia primarily controls land in the south and east of Ukraine. Now, the country is targeting airfields in western Ukraine to stop the west from sending weapons.
Russia’s goals in hitting central Kharkiv were not immediately clear. Western officials speculated that it is trying to pull in Ukrainian forces to defend Kharkiv while a larger Russian force encircles Kyiv. They believe Russian President Vladimir Putin’s overall goal is to overthrow the Ukrainian government and install one friendly to Moscow.
Early Wednesday, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported that Russian paratroopers had landed in Kharkiv to join the battle there. And in the south of the country, Russian troops apparently have overrun the city of Kherson.
“This is a guy … over the last two years, he’s been very COVID-phobic,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said to NewsNation discussing Putin’s state of mind. “He has been spending not most of his time in the Kremlin. He’s been spending most of his time down in Sochi in the south or one of his houses outside of Moscow. He has less and less inputs. And you know, you’ve got an authoritarian leader who’s been there for 20 years. At some point, you start believing that you’re right all the time. And if you only have a few limited people, giving you input, and those people, at the end of the day don’t want to make the boss mad, that can lead to making bad decisions. You know, this is not unique to Vladimir Putin. This has happened with authoritarian leaders, you know, all over the world, literally for most of the 20th century.”
“This is still a very dangerous guy” Warner continued. “And he has got a major military power and nuclear weapons, and enormous amounts of cyber capability. So we should not underestimate him. But we should also realize that much to his surprise, not only are the Ukrainians stepping up, the West is stepping up in an organized way. And you’re starting to see even the Russian people start to push back.”
The 193-member United Nations General Assembly will vote Wednesday to isolate Russia by deploring its “aggression against Ukraine” and demanding Russian troops stop fighting and withdraw.
While General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they carry political weight. The United States and allies see action at the United Nations as a chance to show that Russia has isolated itself due to its actions.
France, Germany and Poland on Tuesday said they backed Ukraine building closer political and economic ties with the European Union.
Zelenskyy urged the EU to side with Ukraine, calling the assault on residential areas in Kharkiv “a war crime.”
“The European Union is going to be much stronger with us, that’s for sure. Without you, Ukraine is going to be lonesome,” Zelenskyy told the European Parliament on Tuesday.
Though Russia has denied targeting civilian buildings, videos and photos from Kyiv and Kharkiv show they’ve taken a beating. Authorities in Kharkiv said at least seven people had been killed and dozens injured.
Overnight, global support for Ukraine grew after Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces to be on high alert.
Russian nuclear submarines were tracked Tuesday sailing off for drills in the Barents Sea near the Arctic and mobile missile launchers were also reported roaming Siberia.
“Have no illusions. If Ukraine does not survive, we cannot be surprised if democracy fails next,” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya warned.
Canada’s top diplomat said Tuesday her country will refer Russia to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes over its invasion of Ukraine, a move that will speed up an investigation by the court’s top prosecutor.
Meanwhile, sanctions on Russia continue taking a toll on that nation’s economy. CNBC reported Tuesday that the plunging Russian ruble had fallen an additional 6.73% to a low of 114.29 per dollar.