Meanwhile, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed an application for Ukraine to join the European Union, in a bid to solidify his country’s bond with the West. The paperwork is on its way to Brussels, where the 27-nation EU is headquartered. But EU officials stressed the adherence procedure takes years, dampening Ukraine’s hopes of an early membership.
RUSSIA’S UNLIKELY ENVOY
Earlier, Russian and Ukrainian officials met for talks amid high hopes but low expectations for any diplomatic breakthrough.
While Ukraine sent its defence minister and other top officials, the Russian delegation was led by Putin‘s adviser on culture – an unlikely envoy for ending the war and perhaps a sign of how seriously Moscow views the talks.
ADVANCE SLOWED DOWN
Outgunned Ukrainian forces managed to slow the Russian advance, and Western sanctions began to squeeze the Russian economy, but the Kremlin again raised the specter of nuclear war, reporting that its land, air and sea nuclear forces were on high alert following President Vladimir Putin’s weekend order. Stepping up his rhetoric, Putin denounced the US and its allies as an “empire of lies”.
A tense calm reigned in Kyiv, where people lined up to buy food, water and pet food after two nights trapped inside by a strict curfew.
The US expects Russian forces to try to encircle Kyiv in the coming days and could become more aggressive out of frustration with their slow advance, a senior US defence official said on Monday.
A US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US had yet to see any appreciable change in Russia’s nuclear posture.
16 CHILDREN KILLED
The UN human rights chief said at least 102 civilians have been killed and hundreds wounded. Ukraine’s president said at least 16 children were among the dead.
More than a half-million people have fled the country since the invasion, another UN official said, with many of them going to Poland, Romania and Hungary. And millions have left their homes.
BELARUS ENTERS PICTURE
In another potential escalation, Belarus could send troops to help Russia as soon as Monday, according to a senior American intelligence official.
In a war being waged both on the ground and online, cyberattacks hit Ukrainian embassies around the world, and Russian media.
Meta Platforms said a hacking group used Facebook to target a handful of public figures in Ukraine, including prominent military officials, politicians and a journalist, as the social media company announced its actions against covert influence and hacking operations amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of the country. Agencies