A woman carried by Ukrainian soldiers after she got injured while fleeing Irpin, Ukraine on Sunday. (AP/PTI)
By Yuras Karmanau :
RUSSIAN forces intensified shelling of cities in Ukraine’s centre, north and south, a Ukrainian official said, as a second attempt to evacuate besieged civilians collapsed. With the Ukrainian leader urging his people to take to the streets to fight, Russian President Vladimir Putin shifted blame for the invasion, saying, Moscow’s attacks could be halted “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities.” The outskirts of Kyiv, Chernihiv in the north, Mykolaiv in the south, and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, faced stepped-up shelling late on Sunday, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said. Heavy artillery hit residential areas in Kharkiv and shelling damaged a television tower, according to local officials.
The attacks dashed hopes that more people could escape the fighting in Ukraine, where Russia’s plan to quickly overrun the country has been stymied by fierce resistance. Russia has made significant advances in southern Ukraine and along the coast, but many of its efforts have become stalled, including an immense military convoy that has been almost motionless for days north of Kyiv. Food, water, medicine and almost all other supplies were in desperately short supply in the southern port city of Mariupol, where Russian and Ukrainian forces had agreed to an 11-hour cease-fire that would allow civilians and the wounded to be evacuated. But Russian attacks quickly closed the humanitarian corridor, Ukrainian officials 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. A third round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian leaders is planned for Monday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rallied his people to remain defiant, especially those in cities occupied by Russians. “You should take to the streets! You should fight!” he said Saturday on Ukrainian television.
“It is necessary to go out and drive this evil out of our cities, from our land.” Zelenskyy also asked the United States and NATO countries to send more warplanes to Ukraine, though that idea is complicated by logistical questions about how to provide aircraft to Ukrainian pilots. He later urged the West to tighten its sanctions on Russia, saying that “the audacity of the aggressor is a clear signal” that existing sanctions are not enough. The war, now in its 12th day, has caused 1.5 million people to flee the country. The head of the UN refugee agency called the exodus “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.” A senior US defence official said Sunday that the US assesses that about 95 per cent of the Russian forces that had been arrayed around Ukraine are now inside the country. The official said Russian forces continue to advance in an attempt to isolate Kyiv, Kharkhiv and Chernihiv, but are being met with strong Ukrainian resistance.