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Ukrainian president outraged at Kharkiv bombing as talks begin and Russian convoy nears Kyiv

The Washington Post's Whitney Leaming describes what it was like to travel from Kharkiv to Dnipro on Feb. 28 on roads now marked by checkpoints and armed men. (Video: Zoeann Murphy, Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post, Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
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Even as Russian and Ukrainian officials held their first talks on Monday, Russia’s assault on Ukraine intensified, devastating its second-largest city in what President Volodymyr Zelensky described as a war crime and a “deliberate destruction of people.”

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Delegations from the two nations met near Ukraine’s border with Belarus and spoke for five hours without coming to a resolution, but agreed to continue talks in the coming days. Zelensky said he would meet with advisers before deciding how to proceed in the second round of discussions, and he expressed outrage at the timing of the bombardment in Kharkiv, which came as talks began.

“It was clear how the shelling was synchronized with the negotiation process,” the Ukrainian president said in a video address late Monday. “We do not accept such tactics. Fair negotiations are when one side does not hit the other side with rocket artillery at the very moment of negotiations.”

At least 11 people were killed and dozens hospitalized in the shelling, according to local government officials. But both Kharkiv and Kyiv, the capital, remained in Ukrainian hands as Russia faced more resistance than it was expecting, the Pentagon reported.

On Google Maps, tracking the invasion of Ukraine

Here’s what to know

5:07 p.m.
Headshot of Isabelle Khurshudyan
Foreign correspondent based in Kyiv
KHARKIV, Ukraine — As we were about to pull out of our hotel, an eruption sounded so close that we all sprinted back inside the lobby. It seemed that our opportunity to drive out of the city had closed. But after a minute of calm, we got back into the car and headed southwest. Russian troops on Sunday breached Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine and 25 miles from the Russian border. And then the Ukrainian military successfully repelled them. A second, more forceful Russian push seemed likely. Few foreign journalists remained.Though we had been deeply invested in Kharkiv’s story, as we had been based in the city since before the start of Russia’s invasion, we decided there was safety in numbers and linked up with another group of journalists to drive together in two cars to Dnipro, about 140 miles to the southwest. Google Maps said it would be about a three-hour drive.Read my full dispatch