1 of 6 | A member of the National Guard checks a car on a road, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE
March 1 (UPI) -- A 40-mile-long convoy of Russian military vehicles slowed as it neared Ukraine's capital of Kyiv on Tuesday, U.S. military officials said.
A U.S. defense official told The Washington Post it's possible the convoy stopped to regroup before entering the city of nearly 3 million people.
The convoy came to within 15 miles of Kyiv's city center, USA Today reported. A defense official told the newspaper the troops may be running out of gas and food.
For days, Russian forces have made slow progress toward the Ukrainian capital while shelling cities and firing missiles into strategic areas populated by thousands of civilians.
Russia's army heightened its shelling of major Ukrainian cities early Tuesday despite crippling sanctions from the United States and Western allies that have brought tumult to the Russian economy.
One video confirmed by The New York Times shows a projectile hitting Ukraine's main radio and television tower in Kyiv. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said five people were killed in shelling in the area.
He also accused Russia of bombing the Babyn Yan Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv. Andriy Yermak, who heads Zelensky's office, confirmed the attack, The Hill reported.
"To the world: what is the point of saying «never again» for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating," Zelensky tweeted.
Natan Sharansky, chairman of the center's advisory board, condemned the attack.
"Putin seeks to distory and manipulate the Holocaust to justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign democratic country is utterly abhorrent," Sharanksy said. "It is symbolic that he starts attacking Kyiv by bombing the site of the Babyn War, the biggest Nazi massacre."
U.S. military officials are concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could escalate the assault after he and his country were met with Ukrainian resistance that was perhaps stronger than they anticipated. The Ukrainian resistance, which includes armed citizens, has slowed Russia's takeover efforts.
In Kharkiv, Russian forces set off a massive explosion that hit the Regional State Administration building. Officials said that although Russia has the city surrounded, it remains under Ukrainian control.
Kharkiv is strategically important to Russia, experts say, and troops kept up a sustained attack on the city, which is located about 250 miles east of Kyiv.
The Post reported Russia has occupied the cities of Berdyansk and Melitopol, and are fighting with Ukrainian forces in Kherson. Russian troops have also set up outside the city of Mariupol with long-range weapons.
Zelensky told the European Parliament during a virtual meeting Tuesday that his country will continue to vigorously defend itself -- and accused Russia of war crimes and "state terrorism."
"We are giving away our best people. Our strongest ones," Zelensky said. "The most value-based ones. Ukrainians are incredible.
"Nobody is going to enter and intervene with our freedom and country. Nobody is going to break us. We are strong. We are Ukrainians."
Zelensky's remarks came one day after he formally applied to become a member of the European Union. If approved, Ukraine would be the bloc's 28th member and would come under an additional layer of security.
One of the primary reasons for the Russian invasion has been Putin's concerns about Ukraine joining NATO and the defensive alliance's expansion eastward toward Russian borders.
Moscow has continued to reject the use of the word "war" to describe its actions in Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called the invasion a "special operation" in the Kremlin's approved terminology and Putin described initial movements as "peacekeeping" efforts.
Peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials began near the Belarusian border on Monday, but ended with no major progress. The Kremlin said on Tuesday that a second round of talks will occur on Wednesday.
During the first round of talks, Russian negotiators demanded that Ukraine drop its claim to Crimea -- which Moscow forcibly annexed in 2014 -- and officially recognize the pro-Russian, separatist-held Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian negotiators demanded a ceasefire and that all Russian troops leave the country, according to the Russian state-run TASS news agency.
The invasion of Ukraine will be a chief issue on Tuesday night when U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his first official State of the Union address. Biden has condemned Russia's incursions into Ukraine and leveled severe sanctions against various Russian entities.
European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo