Russia launches attacks on key Ukrainian cities. Biden warns Putin that he will be punished.

There was much fighting over Kherson and disagreements about who was in charge. Kharkiv was attacked by paratroopers and faced new shelling to the north.

Russia launches attacks on key Ukrainian cities. Biden warns Putin that he will be punished.

VINNYTSIA (Ukraine) -- Russia intensified its attack on key Ukrainian towns for a seventh consecutive day on Wednesday. The fatal fallout for Ukrainian civilians, and the economic repercussions for Russian citizens, continued to grow.

Russia increased its attack on four strategic cities: Kharkiv (Mariupol), Kherson, and Kyiv. A miles-long military convoy continues to threaten Ukraine's capital but appears to have stalled, according to a senior U.S. defense officer.

Mayor of Kherson Ihor Kolykhaev said Wednesday that his city was in a circle and asked for an open corridor to allow supplies such as food, medicine, and water. He stated that an open route was necessary to transport the dead and wounded.

The mayor stated, "Without all of that, the city will not last."

In a Wednesday Facebook post, Kolykhaev stated that Kherson was in "a difficult situation" and "waiting to see a miracle" amid reports of Russian control over the city. He said that City Hall was under attack and residents should remain inside. Officials were also working to rebuild critical infrastructure.

Kherson is one of four cities where Russia has intensified their offensive. On the seventh day of Moscow’s invasion, the assault on these cities -- which includes Kharkiv and Mariupol as well as the capital Kyiv - continued. A milelong military convoy threatened to cause more violence and destruction to civilian areas throughout the country.

During his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Joe Biden warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be punished for his actions. He declared that the Russian leader is "now isolated more than ever."

After threatening Ukraine's borders for several months in a conflict with Washington and Europe, Putin initially aimed to overthrow the Western-leaning Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. However, the Ukrainian resistance has led to Russian troops being unable to move around key cities raising fears that Moscow could resort to even more violence and intensifying what is already one of the most intense military conflicts in Europe since World War II.

A top U.S. defense official stated Wednesday that Russia had moved 82 percent its force along the Ukrainian border. He also said that more than 450 Russian missile launch were recorded since the conflict started.

Official said that it wasn't always clear whether Russians intentionally targeted civilian targets. However, they stated that the missile and artillery strikes have become more aggressive which could lead to them becoming less precise.

The official stated that "Clearly they are targeting civilian targets." "They continue to cause civilian damage," the official stated.

Additional sanctions imposed by the U.S.

Wednesday's sanctions by Russia were intensified by the Biden administration. The White House announced it would restrict technology exports to Russia that support Russia's refine capacity. This is a first step towards securing the country's energy production, which is a significant financial support.

The Department of Justice announced that it would create a task force to enforce sanctions. The task force, called "Task Force KleptoCapture", includes the FBI, Marshals Services, Secret Service, IRS and Homeland Security Investigations.

The Justice Department stated that it "will investigate into and prosecute current as well as future sanctions resulting in the Ukraine invasion."

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. had sanctioned 22 Russian defense-related entities. "Including companies that make combat planes, infantry fighting vehicle, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicule electronic warfare systems, which is the same system being used to attack the Ukrainian people."

He stressed that the U.S. was open for dialogue and that individual Russians should understand that they are not to blame for the war.

Blinken stated that this path could be hard, but "if Russia pulls back, pursues diplomacy...we stand ready to do it the same way."

These announcements were made after Biden's first State of the Union address. He described the strong global backlash against Putin to prove that the United States, along with its allies, could face Russia's challenge of the post-Cold War system.

"He believed that NATO and the West wouldn't respond. Biden stated that he believed he could split us at home. "Putin was wrong. We were ready."

Biden said, "While he may gain on the battlefield -- but he will continue to pay a high price over time."

Since the U.S. and its allies placed crippling sanctions on Russia, Russia's economy has been spiraling. To further isolate Russia, the Moscow Stock Exchange was closed Wednesday for the third time. Apple also stopped all Russian product sales.

International condemnation of Russia continues after the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution decrying Russia's invasion of Ukraine and calling for an end to hostilities in that country. It was opposed by five countries, including Russia.

"The message from the General Assembly is loud, clear," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated. "End hostilities against Ukraine -- immediately. Now, silence the guns Now is the time to open the doors for dialogue and diplomacy.

There are also signs of dissent in Russia. However, Putin's government as well as the country's security service appear to be trying to suppress it. Two independent media outlets were shut down Tuesday by authorities after they claimed that they had reported "false information".

The Kremlin does not allow the fighting to be called an "invasion", or "war." However, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced its losses for the first time on Wednesday. The Ministry of Defense reported that 498 Russian soldiers had been killed and another 1,597 were wounded in the conflict.

Zelenskyy claims that up to 6,000 Russians were killed.

Two Western officials confirmed that approximately 5,800 Russians had been killed, according to the estimates of the Ukrainian president. However, one U.S. official cautioned that it is difficult to determine the exact numbers in the fog of war. They range from 500 to over 5,000.

A senior Western intelligence official said that "the numbers are difficult to really get a handle on."

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, said Wednesday afternoon that Russia is ready to hold a second round with Ukrainian officials.

Mykhailo podolyak, a Zelenskyy adviser, stated Wednesday that Ukraine sent a delegation in western Belarus to discuss the matter. The talks are scheduled for Thursday.

Later, Zelenskyy's head in parliament, David Arakhamia, pulled back the details of the talks but he said they would continue.

Supplies running low, casualties rise

According to Britain's defense ministry, despite increasing strikes on civilian areas in Ukraine, Russian troops targeting Ukraine’s two largest cities have made little progress over this last day because of both "logistical problems" and strong Ukrainian resistance.

The ministry stated that Russian artillery and airstrikes had aimed to "built up areas" within its target cities. Ukrainian officials accuse Russia of war crimes, including targeting civilians and striking residential areas. Moscow has repeatedly denied these claims.

In a Facebook post, Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukrainian Defense Minister, stated that many of Ukraine's cities and villages are suffering from Russian terror. However, Kharkiv and Mariupol are the most affected.

According to Ukraine's state communication service, paratroopers from Russia landed in Kharkiv (a key northeastern city of 1.5 million people), according to its security service. According to the statement, Russian and Ukrainian forces engaged in battles and Russian troops attacked a military hospital.

According to the Ukrainian emergency services, fresh Russian strikes also struck the Kharkiv National University's intelligence headquarters and the regional police. At least four people were killed and nine others were injured.

Photos and videos released by emergency services showed flames on a roof. There were also piles of rubble littering streets, while firefighters saw charred debris falling several stories from the ground. NBC News confirmed the video, but did not confirm the number of people who were killed.

Local officials claim that windows from the city council and buildings near it were destroyed by a cruise missile. NBC News has not confirmed the claim.

According to Denys Pavlenko (33), who spends most of his time in his basement office with his family, food is scarce in the city. He decided it was time to move and plans to travel to Lviv, the country's western region.

He said that the first day was frightening but that it became easier over time. "You become used to the shock waves and blasts, when your teacups shake, you know that car sirens will be going off outside."

According to Oleh Syniehubov (head of the Kharkiv region council), the city was under increasing pressure from both the air and ground. There were around 21 deaths and 112 injuries during Tuesday's attack.

According to Oleksiy Arestovych, the Ukrainian presidential adviser, Mariupol seemed calmer Wednesday after being subject to intense shelling one day before.

According to Reuters, Russia claimed that it had the entire area surrounded by its forces and was occupying the whole coast of the Sea of Azov.

Ukrainian officials stated that they would focus their efforts to ensure Kyiv does not fall.

Vitali Klitschko, Mayor of Moscow, warned that the enemy is moving closer to the capital. He said that overnight Russian and Ukrainian forces had fought to the northwest of the city.

In a Telegram video, he stated that "We are preparing to defend Kyiv".

Two Congressional officials briefed about the delivery said that the U.S. sent hundreds of anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine to help in this defense. More than 200 arrived Monday.

This shipment is part of the $350 million non-lethal and lethal aid package that the White House announced Friday night. However, the Biden administration had not previously shared the fact that the packages contained stinger missiles.

This relatively simple weapon can easily be used to down helicopters or aircraft. It has also been used in conflicts past. It is well-known that the U.S. supplied them to Afghanistan's resistance to Russia during the 1980s.

Last weekend, Germany said that 500 stinger missiles would be sent to Ukraine.

The stinger missiles were not discussed by the Department of Defense or National Security Council. Senior defense officials confirmed that the U.S. provided weapons and assistance to Ukraine throughout the week, but did not say whether these shipments contained stinger missiles.

Javelin anti-tank weapons and ammunition were also included in the package, according to Congressional officials. Both of these are essential for the Zelenskyy government's fight against the advancing Russian military.

Zelenskyy, who accused Russia of trying to wipe his country out after intensifying airstrikes in urban areas such as Kyiv, received additional military assistance.

He said that while they don't know anything about our capital or our history, they do have an order: To erase our history and erase our country, to erase us all." This speech was posted on social media Wednesday morning.

Zelenskyy, a Jewish man, invoked the barbarisms of the Holocaust after Russian forces struck a TV tower near Babyn Yar. This is a Kyiv ravine, where Nazi Germany committed atrocities in World War II. He said that five people died in the strike.

Ukraine officials and leaders around the world have accused Russia of attacking residential areas, but Russia has repeatedly denied that it did so.

Nearly 874,000 people have fled to neighboring countries since Russian invasion began.

According to U.N. Commissioner of Human Rights, the war claimed at least 142 civilians killed in its first four days (Feb. 24-28). As more deaths have been reported, the true numbers are likely to be higher.

"Most of these casualties were caused due to the use of explosive weapons that have a large impact area, including shelling by heavy artillery and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (as well as air strikes")," U.N. human rights officer said in a statement.

However, the state emergency services of Ukraine stated Wednesday that around 2,000 civilians had died since the conflict began. Later, the agency retracted that number and called it "approximate", as it is not known how many civilians are being killed by fire or debris.

NBC News has not confirmed any deaths.

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