Russia Pounds Ukraine Despite Claims of De-escalation

The secretary of Ukraine’s national security council, Oleksiy Danilov, said Wednesday that at least part of the Russian military’s assertions appeared to be accurate. Some Russian units were relocating to eastern Ukraine and “the enemy is intensifying its formations there,” he said.

But Mr. Danilov cautioned that it would be premature to conclude that Russia had abandoned a push toward the capital, even if it was relocating some troops.

In the Donetsk part of Donbas, fighting escalated on Wednesday, the Ukrainian military said in a statement, as Russian forces “intensified fire and assault operations” with air and missile strikes. Ukraine’s military also reported Russian shelling and bomb strikes in the eastern city of Kharkiv, one of the invasion’s early targets.

Casualties in the war are difficult to confirm. The United Nations, which keeps a daily tally, said Wednesday that at least 1,189 people had been killed so far, although that is almost certainly an undercount.

The possible legal consequences for Russia over its targeting of civilian structures in Ukraine — a potential war crime — moved forward on Wednesday with the formation of a United Nations panel of inquiry. The three-person panel, named by the U.N. Human Rights Council, will “establish the facts, circumstances and root causes” of any crimes arising from the invasion, the council said.

Amid the litany of negative news, there was one potential bright spot: A NASA astronaut returned to Earth on Wednesday with two Russian colleagues, suggesting that despite their antipathy over the crisis in Ukraine, the United States and Russia could still collaborate in space.

Anton Troianovski reported from Istanbul, Megan Specia from Krakow, Poland, and Julian E. Barnes from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Andrew E. Kramer from Kyiv; Valerie Hopkins from Lviv, Ukraine; Melissa Eddy from Berlin; Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul; Shashank Bengali from London; Kenneth Chang from New York; Lara Jakes from Algiers and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva.

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