Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urgently called for ‘meaningful and fair’ peace talks over invading Russia amid fresh attacks, including a claim by Moscow that it used a hypersonic missile to the first time, hitting a depot in the west of the country.
In a video address early Saturday, Zelenskiy said, “It’s time to meet. It’s time to talk. It is time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be so huge that several generations will not be enough to bounce back.
“The war must end,” he added. “Ukraine’s proposals are on the table.
Hours later, Russia said it had used a hypersonic weapon for the first time to destroy an underground military depot in western Ukraine. Hypersonic missiles are fast weapons that can evade detection by missile defense systems.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday it had destroyed a major underground depot of missiles and aircraft ammunition in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, state media reported.
Earlier, Vladimir Putin had claimed in a call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that kyiv was “trying to block the peace talks”, but Moscow was still keen to continue negotiations.
In the south, at least 40 Ukrainian soldiers were reportedly killed following a Russian airstrike on an army barracks in the city of Mykolaiv, according to local media.
Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said on Facebook on Friday that several villages in the area had been occupied and the town had come under heavy fire, calling it a “difficult day”.
Fighting continues in the key port city of Mariupol, with Ukraine’s Defense Ministry saying on Friday night that it had “temporarily” lost access to the Sea of Azov, which connects to the Black Sea and would be a major loss for Ukraine.
Zelenskiy accused Russian forces of having created a “humanitarian catastrophe” there by deliberately blocking supplies to the town in an attempt to force residents to obey their attackers. Calling the move a war crime, the president said Russian soldiers would face a “compulsory one-way trip to The Hague”, where the International Criminal Court sits.
More than 350,000 civilians were stranded with little food or water in Mariupol, which was under constant shelling on Friday. Russia said its forces were “tightening the noose” around the city, where around 80% of the city’s homes had been damaged.
Some 9,000 people have managed to flee Mariupol, while work continues to reach the hundreds of civilians believed to be trapped in a shelter under the city’s theater, which was destroyed by Russian shelling on Wednesday. About 130 people were rescued from the rubble, some seriously injured. There is no word yet on the death toll.
Across the country, Zelenskiy said the advance of Russian forces had stalled, a view echoed by Western intelligence agencies. The British military said the continued targeting of civilians in Mariupol was a sign of Russia’s failures in the first three weeks of the war.
Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull, head of defense intelligence, said: “The Kremlin has so far failed to achieve its original objectives. He was surprised by the scale and ferocity of the Ukrainian resistance and was tormented by problems of his own making.
“Russian operations have changed. Russia is now pursuing a strategy of attrition. It will involve the reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower. This will lead to increased civilian casualties, the destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure and an intensification of the humanitarian crisis.
“Putin has tightened his control over Russian national media. The Kremlin is trying to control the narrative, hide operational issues, and conceal the high Russian casualty toll from the Russian people. »
In other developments:
Zelenskiy said he would continue to appeal to world leaders to call for peace in Ukraine, with plans to reach out to Switzerland, Italy, Israel and Japan. He spoke with Ukrainian ambassadors around the world “to intensify the supply of humanitarian goods” for the displaced people in Ukraine.
Joe Biden, in a two-hour call with China’s Xi Jinping “outlined the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it carries out brutal attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilians” , the White House said, without giving further details. The Chinese account of the conversation in the state news agency, Xinhua, said it was “frank and thorough”.
The UN reported 816 confirmed civilian deaths. Kyiv officials said 222 people were killed in the capital, including 60 civilians and four children. More than 3.2 million people fled, including 2 million internally displaced.
Putin praised national “unity” in a rare public speech at a rally at a Moscow stadium to mark the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “The country has not seen such unity for a long time,” Putin said, addressing a large flag-waving crowd on Friday from a stage adorned with slogans such as “For a world without Nazism” and “For our president “. . Moscow police said more than 200,000 people were in and around Luzhniki Stadium. Zelenskiy referred to the rally in his own speech, urging viewers to imagine the stadium filled with 14,000 Russian war dead and tens of thousands more injured.