FLASHBACK – Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 25, 2019. Nicolas Maduro is on a working visit to Moscow. (Sergei Chirikov/Pool Photo via AP)

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro yesterday expressed his firm support for Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine in a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, according to the Kremlin.

“Nicolás Maduro expressed his strong support for Russia’s decisive actions and condemned the destabilising activities of the United States and NATO,” the official statement said.

The Venezuelan president also emphasized “the importance of countering the campaign of lies and disinformation launched by Western countries.”

During the conversation, which took place at the initiative of the Venezuelan side, Putin shared with Maduro his vision of the development of events around Ukraine and emphasized that the Russian objective is to protect the civilian population of Donbas and achieve recognition of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk on the part of Kiev, adds the note.

Putin also mentioned among Russia’s objectives Ukraine’s recognition of Russian sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula, annexed in 2014, the demilitarisation and denazification of the neighbouring country, as well as guarantees of its non-nuclear and neutral status with respect to NATO.

Both presidents also addressed issues of bilateral strategic association and the implementation of joint projects.

It was agreed to continue contacts at different levels, the statement concludes.

Meanwhile, Russian forces escalated their attacks on crowded urban areas Tuesday, bombarding the central square in Ukraine’s second-biggest city and Kyiv’s main TV tower in what the country’s president called a blatant campaign of terror.

“Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed after the bloodshed on the square in Kharkiv.

Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed in the attack on the TV tower, which is a couple of miles from central Kyiv and a short walk from numerous apartment buildings. A TV control room and power substation were hit, and at least some Ukrainian channels briefly stopped broadcasting, officials said.

Zelenskyy’s office also reported a powerful missile attack on the site of the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial, near the tower. A spokesman for the memorial said a Jewish cemetery at the site, where Nazi occupiers killed more than 33,000 Jews over two days in 1941, was damaged, but the extent would not be clear until daylight.

At the same time, a 40-mile (64-kilometre) convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles advanced slowly on Kyiv, the capital city of nearly 3 million people, in what the West feared was a bid by Russian President Vladimir Putin to topple the government and install a Kremlin-friendly regime.

The invading forces also pressed their assault on other towns and cities, including the strategic ports of Odesa and Mariupol in the south.