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‘This horror must be seen’: Ukraine says Russian rocket attacks hit second-largest city

In Chechnya it flattened the city of Grozny and killed thousands of residents; in Syria it has been accused by international watchdogs of deliberately and indiscriminately targeting civilians after coming to the aid of President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s bloody civil war.

Russia has always denied targeting civilians in Syria and said its strikes have only been against “terrorist groups,” although there has been a wealth of evidence to the contrary from activists, international human rights groups, independent analysts using open-source intelligence and Western officials.

At an emergency meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said that the attacks in Kharkiv had been carried out with “grad multiple rocket launcher systems.”

Michael Kofman, the research program director in the Russia Studies Program at CNA, a Washington-area think tank, posted a video Monday of what he identified as a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber jet flying over Kharkiv.

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This was a bad “sign about the trajectory of the war,” he tweeted, because it “suggests the Russian military has begun to use tactical aviation for bombing.”

The apparent escalation came as cease-fire talks between Russia and Ukraine took place on the Belarusian border Monday. But there appeared little hope for an immediate end to the conflict.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Putin on Monday and asked the Russian president to stop all strikes against civilians and residential buildings. Putin “confirmed his willingness to commit” to these points, according to a summary of the call from Macron’s office.

According to his version of the call, Putin said that Russian forces “do not threaten civilians and do not strike civilian targets,” and he accused Ukrainian nationalists of using “the civilian population as a human shield” and “deliberately” placing “weapons systems in residential areas, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Reuters and Miyasha Nulimaimaiti contributed.