Russia-Ukraine War: Russia bombs plant supplying 30% of Zhytomyr's heat - mayor

Siege of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv continues * Russia and Ukraine struggle over skies as debate about transferring jets goes on

 A view shows cars and a building of a hospital destroyed by an aviation strike amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 9, 2022.  (photo credit: Press service of the National Police of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)
A view shows cars and a building of a hospital destroyed by an aviation strike amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 9, 2022.
(photo credit: Press service of the National Police of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)

Russian forces carried out an airstrike on the city of Zhytomyr on Wednesday, injuring one woman and damaging several buildings, including the thermal power plant, the city's Mayor Sergey Sukhomlin said on Facebook.

The damage could cause the thermal power plant to be turned off, which would be a problem, as it provides heat to around 30% of the city.

The city's street lights will now be turned off at night, Sukhomlin said.

All according to plan?

"The special military operation of the armed forces continues to be carried out ... it is proceeding strictly according to the plan," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday according to Russian state media outlet RIA.

However, in a Tuesday Pentagon news brief, a defense official assessed that "the Russian troops invading Ukraine are afflicted by poor morale, and logistics and sustainment problems," and that "Russians did not expect the ferocious defense by the Ukrainian military and Ukrainian civilians. Ten days into the invasion, the Russian forces appear to be behind their timetable for conquest."

Zakharova said, according to RIA, that the objective of Russia's plan was not the occupation of Ukraine, its destruction, or the overthrow of its government. The Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted that the objective was to return Ukraine to a state of neutrality and cooperation with Russia. It added that diplomacy was preferred to achieve that result. 

Continued combat

Fighting continued on Wednesday as the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Sumy suffered siege from Russian forces, the Ukrainian Military said on Wednesday. The UK Defense Ministry assessed on Wednesday that these cities were suffering heavy shelling. While battle lines near Kyiv reportedly remained at a standstill according to the Pentagon's Tuesday assessment, the Ukrainian military said that according to its intelligence Russia was going to be making a major military push against the Ukrainian capital soon.

"Near Kyiv, we still observe that Russian forces have not moved closer to the city center," a US defense official said. "The closest they've been able to get is the airport."

Combat also continued in the north and northwest of Ukraine, and in population centers near the border such as Nizhyn, Ivanytsia, Trostyanets,  and the city of Chernihiv, said the Ukrainian military. The Wednesday UK Defense Ministry intelligence update that Russian forces were "failing to make any significant breakthroughs."

At sea, a US defense official said in a Pentagon news brief on Tuesday that the Russians were likely preparing for an attack on the port city of Odessa. "This could be joined by an amphibious attack as the Russians have 11 amphibious ships in the region," the statement said. This is in line with warnings made throughout the week by the Ukrainian military. 

Russian forces appear to be regrouping near the eastern city of Kharkiv, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Wednesday, describing the situation as very tense.

Speaking on live television, Terekhov said Russian shelling on the city was ongoing.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia on Wednesday of carrying out an airstrike that severely damaged a children's hospital in the southern port city of Mariupol.

Children were among people "under the wreckage," he said, without giving details of casualties.

Mariupol's city council said the hospital had been destroyed. It said it did not know any casualty figures but added: "The destruction is colossal."

The reports could not immediately be verified by Reuters. Russia has denied targeting civilians in its assault on Ukraine.

"Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. People, children are under the wreckage," Zelensky said on Twitter.

"Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity."

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry carried video footage on Twitter of what appeared to be the badly damaged hospital under the headline: "Today, Russia shelled a Childrenʼs hospital and a Maternity hospital in Mariupol."

The footage showed holes where windows should have been in what appeared to be a badly damaged three-story building at the hospital, and huge piles of rubble, some of it smoldering.

Struggle over the skies

Russia and Ukraine were still struggling over control of the skies two weeks after the war began. "Ukrainian air defenses appear to have enjoyed considerable success against Russia’s modern combat aircraft, probably preventing them from achieving any degree of control of the air," said the UK Defense Ministry. The Pentagon echoed this assessment on Tuesday.

Ukraine continued to seek air assets to use in their fight against Russia, and while they have received several shipments of surface-to-air missiles, a resupply of fighter aircraft seemed far off. 

Any supply of fighter jets to Ukraine must be done through NATO, top Polish officials said on Wednesday, after Washington rejected Poland's offer to fly all its MIG-29 jets to a U.S. airbase with a view to them being supplied to Kyiv.

On Tuesday, Poland said it was ready to deploy all its MIG-29 jets to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and put them at the disposal of the United States, urging other NATO members to do the same. The Pentagon later dismissed the offer as not "tenable."

"The USA does not want these planes to come to Ukraine from American bases," Jakub Kumoch, the Polish president's foreign affairs advisor, told public broadcaster TVP Info. "Poland is ready to act, but only within the framework of the alliance, within the framework of NATO."

The MIG-29 is a fighter jet that was developed in the Soviet Union and as Ukraine's military already flies Russian-made aircraft it is the best choice for Ukrainian pilots who already know how to operate them, experts say. Combat pilot training on US-made aircraft can take years and requires a different pipeline for maintenance.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also repeatedly asked the West to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but the US and its NATO allies have rebuffed those calls fearing a direct confrontation with Moscow.


The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine claimed on Wednesday morning that Russian combat losses passed 12,000 soldiers killed. Ukraine's military also claimed that they had destroyed 317 tanks, 1070 armored fighting vehicles, 120 artillery pieces, 56 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), 28 anti-aircraft systems, 49 warplanes, 81 helicopters, 482 other ground vehicles, 3 ships, 60 fuel tankers, and 7 UAVs. 

The US still does not have an estimate for military and civilian deaths, but a US defense official said in a Pentagon news report on Tuesday that "the Russians have a lot of combat power in Ukraine." Despite the losses, the Defense official said that "it does not appear that Putin is ordering in troops or capabilities from other parts of Russia for the invasion."

The Ukrainian military claimed that Russia was actively recruiting soldiers in the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

Ukraine's top security official Oleksiy Danilov said on Wednesday 67 children had been killed since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, and he urged Kyiv's allies to enforce a no-fly zone over the country.

Separately, Zelensky said he had talked to European Council President Charles Michel about pressuring Russia to keep civilians safe and increasing sanctions against Russia.

Russia's Defense Ministry said that Russia had destroyed 974 Ukrainian tanks and other armoed vehicles along with 97 drones since the invasion began, according to TASS.

Humanitairain conditions

Russia was accused of dressing soldiers in civilian clothes near the town of Kerson, the Ukrainian military said on Wednesday morning. This would be considered an act of perfidy. Ukraine also claimed that in the Chernihiv region, Russian forces used civilian structures to hide their equipment, and said this was a breach of international humanitarian law.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that about two million people from Ukraine have applied for evaluation requests, and 140,000 have already been evacuated, according to RIA.

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that nearly 180,000 people had been evacuated from Ukraine to Russia since the start of the conflict on Feb. 24, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.

The ministry added that the operation to open up humanitarian corridors to remove Ukrainian civilians and foreigners from combat zones "did not bring the desired results, through Kyiv's fault" and the situation faced by civilians in the city of Mariupol had reached a "catastrophic scale."

Ukraine evacuated more than 40,000 people in one day on Wednesday but struggled to get civilians away from conflict zones around the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol, one of the negotiators in the Russia talks David Arakhamia said.

"Over 40,000 women and children were evacuated from all over Ukraine in one day. Tried 100,000, but failed," he said in a post on social media. Ukraine has accused Russia of shelling civilian areas and preventing the evacuations. Russia in turn blamed Ukraine.

Both sides have accused each other of violating ceasefires that would allow the evacuation of civilians from combat zones.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said Russia's proposals to create humanitarian corridors from Ukraine to Russia are "absurd" as he called for Russia to allow civilians in Ukraine to leave safely.

"It's offensive to suggest the Ukrainian people should seek refuge from the very government that has demonstrated such disregard for their lives," Blinken told reporters following his meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in Washington.