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Moscow steps up assault on residential areas, Biden closes U.S. airspace to Russian planes

As Russia intensifies its military campaign, some civilians in Kyiv are taking up arms. Others are preparing food. Everyone is doing something to help. (Video: Whitney Shefte, Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post, Photo: Heidi Levine for The Washington Post/The Washington Post)
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DNIPRO, Ukraine — With a massive convoy of Russian troops idling just 20 miles north of central Kyiv and shelling intensifying from the capital to cities across Ukraine, Moscow appeared to escalate its attacks on residential areas Tuesday, with videos and social media posts documenting the devastation and fierce fighting.

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The most visible assault came when a missile strike hit Kyiv’s main TV tower and a nearby Holocaust memorial, killing at least five people, officials said. Footage of the aftermath, obtained by The Washington Post, showed a gruesome scene of blown-out cars and buildings and several bodies on fire. Kyiv was bracing for an all-out assault amid fears that Russian troops would encircle the capital, as they’ve apparently done in the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, its mayor told The Post.

In his State of the Union address, President Biden applauded the bravery of Ukrainians fighting the invasion and called for the United States and its allies to continue to support the resistance to Russian forces. But, Biden acknowledged, “the next few days, weeks and months will be hard” for Ukraine, with Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to continue escalating his offensive. Biden also announced that the United States would close its airspace to Russian airlines, “further isolating Russia and adding additional squeeze on their economy,” he said.

Here’s what to know

  • Nearly 680,000 Ukrainians have left the country since the start of the invasion, the United Nations reported, marking the largest exodus in Europe since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
  • Congressional Democrats and Republicans are rallying around a new push to provide billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine.
  • European Union nations are probably not going to send fighter jets to Ukraine, despite a senior E.U. official’s vow that aircraft would be among the military aid the bloc promised, officials said. Zelensky repeated his plea with the E.U. to admit his country on an emergency basis.
  • The United States and other world powers decided to release 60 million barrels of oil from their reserves, a move intended to reduce gasoline prices that have climbed rapidly in recent weeks, according to the International Energy Agency.
  • Apple said it is pausing product sales in Russia and has limited other services within the country.
9:34 p.m.
Headshot of Karen DeYoung
Karen DeYoung: Moving quickly into the Ukraine crisis at the beginning of his speech, Biden declared, “American diplomacy matters. American resolve matters.” Russian President Vladimir Putin “thought the West wouldn’t respond,” Biden said as he launched into the measures he and the rest of the West have taken to isolate Russia. “He thought he would divide us at home,” Biden said amid frequent interruptions for standing ovations across the aisle. “But Putin was wrong.”
Karen DeYoung, Associate editor and senior national security correspondent
9:32 p.m.
Headshot of Amber Phillips
Amber Phillips: As Biden announced a Justice Department task force to go after Russian oligarchs, he used language quite similar to what one of the most hawkish Republicans in Congress said: “We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets,” Biden said Tuesday. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) last week noted that imposing sanctions on oligarchs is quite bipartisan and said: “I want to see cops go in and take apartments, fine art, and seize yachts from a bunch of thugs and crooks.”
Amber Phillips, Politics Reporter
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