KHARKIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says the advance of Russian troops in Kharkiv has been stopped, but that Russians have responded by shelling the city with heavy rocket launchers and air attacks.
"Kharkiv today is the Stalingrad of the 21st century," said Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said that over the past 24 hours, 21 people were killed and at least 112 were injured by Russians.
Explosions on Wednesday thundered on Constitution Square, near the buildings of the City Council and the Palace of Labor. A missile attack also destroyed the building of the regional police department in Kharkiv and the university building, which is located across the street.
Arestovich said that several Russian planes were shot down over Kharkiv.
Kharkiv has been a sister city to Cincinnati since 1989. It is home to 1.4 million people, multiple industrial manufacturing plants, a university and a nearby airbase.
The Russians used Iskander missile systems to bombard Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Kharkiv and Chernihiv. Arestovich said Iskander missile systems can deviate from their target, making them "a danger to civilian objects."
Wednesday marked the second straight day of Russia's heavy assaults on Kharkiv. On Tuesday, a video showed a large explosion outside of a local government building located on the city's Freedom Square.
Ukrainian UNIAN news agency also says that two Russian cruise missiles hit a hospital in the northern city of Chernihiv on Wednesday. Officials in Chernihiv are still working to determine the casualty toll there.
The bombings come as a miles-long convoy of Russian tanks and other vehicles continues to advance slowly toward the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry also says it has evidence that Belarus, a Russian ally, is preparing to send troops into Ukraine.
The attacks on Wednesday came even as both sides said they were ready to resume talks aimed at stopping the new devastating war in Europe.
Ukraine's president earlier said Russia must stop bombing before another meeting. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has decried Russia's bombardment as a blatant terror campaign.
The attacks come hours after President Joe Biden, in his State of the Union speech to Americans on Tuesday night, warned that if Russian President Vladimir Putin didn't "pay a price" for the invasion, the aggression wouldn't stop with one country.
Members of Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership worry for friends living near Russian border