KIEV (Dispatches) -- Russian forces said they had captured a port on the Black Sea on Wednesday as Russian and Ukrainian troops battled for another city.
The Russian army said it had taken control of Kherson, as its troops advanced and pounded cities across southern and eastern Ukraine, defying sanctions and isolation.
Russian paratroopers also landed in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-biggest city, triggering clashes in the streets, Ukrainian forces said.
The emergency services said four people were killed in the city on Wednesday and there was now “mass shelling and bombing” in the centre.
In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces wanted to “erase our country, erase us all”.
Zelensky said Tuesday’s strike on a television mast in the capital Kyiv demonstrated Russia’s threat to Ukrainian identity.
Ukraine says more than 350 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed in the conflict. The UN said 836,000 people have fled since the conflict began seven days ago, including many students and migrant workers from Africa and the Middle East who had been living in Ukraine.
In his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden warned the sanctions campaign to cripple Russia’s economy would escalate and its oligarchs were being targeted.
Biden promised “robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at Russia’s economy.”
Russian troops rolled into Ukraine last week to achieve Putin’s mission of overthrowing Zelensky’s government and “denazifying” the pro-Western country.
But Ukrainian troops have fought back hard and prevented Russia from capturing any the country’s biggest cities.
On Wednesday, however, Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces were in now “full control”
of Kherson, a city with a population of 290,000 people.
He said talks were under way between the Russian army and local authorities on maintaining order, protecting the population and keeping public services functioning.
Ukraine’s army said there was a battle in the country’s second city Kharkiv, in northeast Ukraine near the Russian border with a population of 1.4 million.
Western countries have imposed crippling sanctions on Russia’s economy and there have been bans and boycotts against Russia in everything from finance to tech, from sports to the arts.
In the latest development, the EU banned broadcasts of Russian state media RT and Sputnik and excluded seven Russian banks from the global SWIFT bank messaging system.
The list did not name two major Russian banks, Sberbank and Gazprombank, which were left connected to SWIFT to allow EU countries to pay for Russian gas and oil deliveries.
Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender, said Wednesday it was leaving the European market after coming under pressure from Western sanctions.
The EU and NATO members have also sent arms and ammunition to Ukraine, although they have made clear that they will not send troops and the EU has dampened Zelensky’s hopes of membership of the bloc.
Apple, Boeing, Disney, ExxonMobil and Mastercard announced Tuesday in rapid succession steps to withdraw or freeze business in Russia.
German logistics giant DHL joined them on Wednesday, saying it would stop deliveries to Russia and Belarus, which has allowed the passage of Russian troops to attack Ukraine.
Initial talks between Russia and Ukraine on Monday failed to yield any breakthrough.
Since then, strikes have been reported in Konstantinovka in eastern Ukraine, Bordodyanka near Kiev and Zhytomyr in central Ukraine.
In an important strategic victory, Russian troops attacking from the Crimean peninsula said they had linked up along the Azov Sea coast with pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. The city of Mariupol was reportedly encircled.
The separatists have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014 in a conflict that has killed more than 14,000 people.
U.S. satellite images show that Russia has massed artillery and armored cars near Kiev. “The enemy is drawing up forces closer to the capital,” Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a video address.