Russian forces have stepped up shelling of cities in central, northern and southern Ukraine, a Ukrainian official said, ending attempts to evacuate besieged civilians. With Ukraine’s leader urging his people to fight in the streets, Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed responsibility for the invasion, saying Moscow’s attacks could only be stopped “if Kiev ceases hostilities”.
Kyiv’s outskirts, Chernihiv in the north, Mykolaiv in the south and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, faced increased shelling late on Sunday, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said. Heavy artillery hit residential areas in Kharkiv and shelling damaged a TV tower, local officials said.
“It will probably represent an effort to break Ukrainian morale,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said of Russian tactics as the war entered its 12th day on Monday. The fighting has driven 1.5 million people to flee the country, which the head of the UN refugee agency has called Europe’s “fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II”. .
The most recent attacks have dashed hopes that more people could escape the fighting in Ukraine, where Russia’s plan to quickly invade the country has been thwarted by fierce resistance. Russia has made significant progress in southern Ukraine and along the coast, but many of its efforts have stalled, including a huge military convoy that stood almost motionless for days north of Kiev .
Food, water, medicine and nearly all other supplies were desperately short in the southern port city of Mariupol, where Russian and Ukrainian forces had agreed to an 11 a.m. ceasefire that would allow civilians and injured to be evacuated. But the Russian attacks quickly shut down the humanitarian corridor, Ukrainian officials said.
“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the diseased Russian brain decides when to start shooting and at whom,” Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Telegram.
A third round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian leaders is scheduled for Monday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rallied his people to remain defiant, especially those in Russian-occupied cities.
“You should take to the streets!” You should fight! he told Ukrainian television on Saturday. “We must get out and chase this evil from our cities, from our land.”
Zelenskyy also asked the United States and NATO countries to send more fighter jets to Ukraine. But this idea is complicated by questions about how to provide planes to Ukrainian pilots.
He then urged the West to toughen its sanctions on Russia, saying the “boldness of the aggressor is a clear signal” that existing sanctions are not enough.
A senior US defense official said on Sunday that the United States estimates that about 95% of Russian forces that had been deployed around Ukraine are now inside the country. The official said Russian forces continued to advance in an attempt to isolate Kiev, Kharkiv and Chernihiv, but were encountering strong Ukrainian resistance.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said the convoy outside Kiev continues to be blocked.
As he has often done, Putin blamed Ukraine for the war, telling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that Kiev must end all hostilities and meet “Russia’s well-known demands”.
Putin launched his invasion with a series of false accusations against Kiev, including that it is led by neo-Nazis bent on undermining Russia with the development of nuclear weapons.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that its forces intended to strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex with what it said were precision weapons. A ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement by the state-run Tass news agency that Ukrainian personnel were being forced to repair damaged military equipment so that it could be returned to service.
Zelenskyy criticized Western leaders for failing to respond to Russia’s latest threat.
“I haven’t even heard a single world leader react to this,” Zelenskyy said on Sunday evening.
The Russian Defense Ministry also alleged, without providing evidence, that Ukrainian forces were plotting to blow up an experimental nuclear reactor in Kharkiv and blame it on a Russian missile strike.
Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on Sunday about the nuclear situation in Ukraine, which has 15 nuclear reactors at four power plants and was the scene of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
The men agreed on the principle of a “dialogue” involving Russia, Ukraine and the UN’s atomic watchdog, according to a French official who spoke on condition of anonymity, in accordance with the practices of the presidency. Potential talks on the issue are to be held in the coming days, he said.
Putin also blamed last week’s fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which Ukrainian officials said was caused by Russian attackers, on an “organized provocation by Ukrainian radicals”.
International leaders, as well as Pope Francis, have called on Putin to negotiate.
In a highly unusual move, the pope said he had sent two cardinals to Ukraine to try to end the conflict.
“In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears flow,” said the pontiff in his traditional Sunday blessing.
The death toll remains uncertain. The UN says it has only confirmed a few hundred civilians killed, but also warned the number was grossly underestimated.
About eight civilians were killed by Russian shelling in the town of Irpin, on the northwestern outskirts of Kyiv, according to Mayor Oleksander Markyshin. The dead included a family.
Video footage showed a shell crashing into a city street, not far from a bridge used by people fleeing the fighting. You could see a group of fighters trying to help the family.
The handful of residents who managed to flee Mariupol before the closure of the humanitarian corridor said the city of 430,000 was devastated.
“We saw it all: burning houses, all people sitting in basements,” said Yelena Zamay, who fled to one of the self-declared republics in eastern Ukraine held by pro-separatists. -Russians. “No communication, no water, no gas, no light, no water. There was nothing.”
British military officials have compared Russia’s tactics to those used by Moscow in Chechnya and Syria, where encircled towns have been pulverized by airstrikes and artillery.
Zelenskyy reiterated a demand for foreign protectors to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which NATO has so far ruled out due to fears such action could lead to war much wider.
“The world is strong enough to close the sky to us,” Zelenskyy said Sunday in a video address.
Ukraine’s army is vastly outmatched by Russia’s, but its professional and volunteer forces have fought back with fierce tenacity. In Kiev, volunteers lined up on Saturday to join the army.
The West has largely backed Ukraine, offering aid and arms shipments and hitting Russia with sweeping sanctions. But no NATO troops have been sent to Ukraine.
Ukraine plans to create an international legion of volunteer fighters from dozens of countries. More than 20,000 people volunteered, according to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, although it is unclear how many were in Ukraine.
“The whole world is on Ukraine’s side today, not only in words but in deeds,” he told Ukrainian television on Sunday evening.
Russia has made significant progress in southern Ukraine as it seeks to block access to the Sea of Azov. Capturing Mariupol could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in a move most other countries considered illegal.
Russia has grown increasingly isolated since the invasion began, closing itself off to outside sources of information as sanctions bite deep into its economy. The ruble plunged in value and dozens of multinational corporations ended or drastically reduced their work in the country.
On Sunday, American Express announced that it would suspend operations in Russia, as well as in Russia-allied Belarus. In addition, two of the so-called big accounting firms, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, said on Sunday they would end relationships with their Russia-based member firms.
TikTok announced on Sunday that Russian users will not be able to post new videos or view videos shared elsewhere in the world. The company blamed Moscow’s new “fake news” law, which, among other things, prohibits portraying the fighting as an invasion. Netflix also cut its service to Russia but did not provide any details.
Facebook and Twitter have already been blocked in Russia, as well as access to the websites of a number of major international media. TikTok is part of Chinese technology company ByteDance.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress is considering ways to further isolate Russia from the global economy, including banning the import of its petroleum and energy products into the United States. United. Pelosi said on Sunday the legislation under consideration would also abrogate normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus and begin the process of denying Russia access to the World Trade Organization.