Russian attacks halt Ukrainian evacuations as Putin urges Kyiv to ‘cease hostilities’

‘A town where it’s not safe to stay and its not safe to go’: ITV News Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports from Ukraine

People remain trapped in besieged towns and cities across Ukraine as Russian shelling continued on the invasion’s eleventh day – even in Mariupol where an agreed cease-fire was broken.

Food, water and medicine were in desperately short supply in the port city on Sunday, after Russian attacks quickly closed the humanitarian corridor by breaking what would have been an 11-hour cease-fire, a Ukraine official said.

“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom,“ Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Telegram.

And around eight civilians were killed by Russian shelling in the town of Irpin, on the northwest outskirts of Kyiv, according to Mayor Oleksander Markyshin.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko said the Russian military personnel who conducted the attack were “animals”.

He said such action goes against not only laws but international norms as “human lives (have) been shelled by the Russians as they (Ukrainians) tried to escape”.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin told Turkish President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that the invasion could be halted “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities and fulfills the well-known demands of Russia.”

Lucrezia Millarini looks at the progress of Russia’s invasion:

Putin has listed “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine, recognition of Russian-annexed Crimea as part of Russia and separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent states as the Kremlin’s main demands.

On Sunday the UN human rights office confirmed the deaths of 364 civilians in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24 – it warned the real death toll is likely to be considerably higher. Indeed, Ukrainian officials have presented far higher numbers.

A similar ceasefire planned for Mariupol and the nearby city of Volnovakha collapsed on Saturday too, trapping residents under more shelling and aerial bombardment.

Sunday’s evacuations were announced along with a third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine to take place on Monday.

Evacuation of Mariupol was already aborted on Saturday, with Ukrainian officials saying the city remained under attack.

By Saturday night, Russian forces had intensified their shelling of Mariupol, while dropping powerful bombs on residential areas of Chernihiv, a city north of Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said.

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In the now encircled city, pharmacies have run bare, hundreds of thousands face food and water shortages, and the injured have been succumbing to their wounds.

In an intelligence update posted on Twitter on Sunday afternoon, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said: “For the second day in a row, a ceasefire agreement to enable the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol failed.

“The ceasefire was scheduled between 10:00 and 21:00 local time, but the agreement was violated within hours of its planned implementation.”

The update said that Russian artillery strikes on the port city “have likely remained at the high level seen in recent days”.

It added: “As with yesterday, Russia has accused Ukraine of breaking the ceasefire agreement. This is probably an additional attempt to diminish responsibility for civilian casualties caused by continued Russian strikes on the city.”

The Deputy Mayor of Mariupol, Sergei Orlov, told ITV News the city is under constant attack and that he doesn’t know how or when they can safely evacuate residents.

He added that they’re seeing dead people on the street, but such is the danger from rocket fire that they “cannot even collect them.”

‘There is no safe place in this city’ warns Mariupol’s deputy mayor

The latest attempt at bringing civilians to safety comes against the backdrop of a chilling warning from Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

He warned the country’s ongoing resistance since Russia invaded is putting the country’s future as a nation in jeopardy.

“If they continue to do what they are doing, they are calling into question the future of Ukrainian statehood,” the Russian leader said Saturday. “And if this happens, it will be entirely on their conscience.”

President Putin also hit out at Western sanctions that have crippled Russia’s economy and sent the value of its currency tumbling, likening it to “declaring war.”

With the Kremlin’s rhetoric growing fiercer, Russian troops continued to shell encircled cities and the number of Ukrainians forced from their country grew to 1.5 million.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a video message on Sunday said Russian forces had attacked the city of Vinnytsia.

The leader said eight missiles had hit the area, which he described as “peaceful” and having “never posed a threat to Russia”.

The president said the city’s airport had been destroyed in the strike.

Russian forces also had encircled Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy, as of Saturday, while Ukrainian forces had managed to keep control of key cities in central and southeastern Ukraine, President Zelenskyy said.

He reiterated his call for a no-fly zone, saying “the world is strong enough to close our skies.”

Nato has said a no-fly zone, which would bar all unauthorized aircraft from flying over Ukraine, could provoke widespread war in Europe with nuclear-armed Russia.

President Zelenskyy has also requested aircraft, replenishing Ukraine’s damaged supplies, to help the aerial battle against Russia.

The Ukrainian leader spoke to US President Joe Biden in a phone call early Sunday morning.

Addressing his country on Saturday, president Zelenskyy urged people to protest on the streets against Russian occupation: “It is a special kind of heroism – to protest when your city is occupied.

“Ukrainians in all of our cities that the enemy has entered, go on the offensive! You should take to the streets! You should fight!”

Thousands of Ukrainians accepted the president’s request and demonstrated on Saturday, climbing onto Russian military vehicles and waving Ukrainian flags.

In the southern port city of Kherson, a city of 300,000 where Russian troops took control this week, the soldiers were reported to have fired warning shots to disperse the crowd, but the protesters were unfazed.

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