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The innocent victims slaughtered as they tried to flee Ukraine

This is the moment the grieving parents of an 18-month-old boy rushed into hospital weeping over their son’s dead body after the toddler was killed by Russian shelling – as Russian forces spent another day shelling Ukrainian civilians yesterday killing at least eight.  

The 18-month-old boy named Kirill was fatally wounded in the the southern city of Mariupol after Russian forces shelled Ukraine’s second city just minutes into an agreed ceasefire on Saturday. 

Kirill’s devastated mother Marina Yatsko and her boyfriend Fedor were later seen grieving as they embraced their son’s lifeless body laid out on a stretcher in the besieged city.  

And yesterday, in some of the most harrowing scenes of the war so far, the bodies of those killed in the mortar attack were seen lying motionless on a road.

Beside them were suitcases packed ahead of what they hoped would be a journey to safety. There was even a pet carrier among the luggage.

Three members of the same family were among those killed in the attack by Vladimir Putin’s forces on Irpin, a town 12 miles from Kyiv.

Horrific images captured the terrifying experience of mothers, fathers, grandparents and children running from Russian artillery fire.

On the 11th day of the conflict, men, women and children were needlessly targeted and their neighbourhoods reduced to ruins.

Across Ukraine, ceasefires brokered by the Red Cross were breached and humanitarian corridors were closed. The UK Government said Russia was targeting ‘populated areas’ to break the resistance of the Ukrainian people.

The use of this heinous tactic was beyond dispute last night despite Putin’s denials and the disinformation emitting from Moscow.

Ukrainians are dying in towns and cities which, before February 24 when the invasion began, hardly anyone in Britain had heard of.

Less than a fortnight later, places such as Mariupol and Irpin are becoming horribly familiar as each day brings further suffering.

There were also scenes of devastation after attacks on residential areas in the city of Ovruch and village of Markhalivka, which are both close to Kyiv.

Almost 1,000 children have already been wounded, according to Ukraine’s government, while 331 civilians, including at least 28 children, have been killed.

The United Nations suggested yesterday that these figures will need to be readjusted upwards as devastated residential areas are thoroughly searched.

The total number of people fleeing Ukraine also passed 1.5million yesterday, making it Europe’s fastest growing refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Irpin

In a shocking video recorded yesterday, families in Irpin were seen dragging suitcases along a woodland path.

They looked cold and tired, their neighbourhood having been bombed repeatedly by the Russians over recent days and nights.

Bent over beneath the weight of their belongings they made steady progress on the long journeys to safety. Suddenly, the dull thud of a bomb dropping nearby shatters the silence.

Instinctively, the men, women and children of all ages fall to the ground. Ukrainian soldiers shout instructions, hurrying them along.

As a fallen tree blocks their progress, the troops carry children over the trunk. Behind them a building where the Russian ordnance landed is ablaze. They are urged to run as the soldiers fear another shell will land any second.

But they struggle with their heavy loads, their bodies bent double by rucksacks and bulging carrier bags, their treasured belongings stuffed inside.

One father protectively clutches his young daughter against his shoulder, another carries a baby in his arms as they speed up. The troops’ instincts prove correct and there is another thud as the ground shakes beneath their feet.

Older members of the fleeing group are gasping for breath and must be lifted by the soldiers over a roadside barrier. But finally they make it to a bus and clamber inside as snow gently falls.

They look utterly exhausted – spent of physical and emotional energy. They were among the lucky ones as at least eight people were killed while attempting to leave Irpin yesterday. 

Devastating images show the father of an 18-month-old boy named Kirill running into a hospital in Ukraine with his dying son

Residents  frantically look for cover as they escape from the town of Irpin in Ukraine after heavy shelling hit the region

Residents  frantically look for cover as they escape from the town of Irpin in Ukraine after heavy shelling hit the region

A man and a child escape from the town of Irpin, after heavy shelling on the only escape route used by locals

A man and a child escape from the town of Irpin, after heavy shelling on the only escape route used by locals

Local residents run for cover as they escape from the town of Irpin, after heavy shelling by Russian forces

Local residents run for cover as they escape from the town of Irpin, after heavy shelling by Russian forces

Groups of people flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, after the region faced heavy bombardment from Kremlin forces

Groups of people flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, after the region faced heavy bombardment from Kremlin forces

A local resident stands near a house on fire after heavy shelling by Russian forces on the region

A local resident stands near a house on fire after heavy shelling by Russian forces on the region 

A mother and two children were killed and the father was wounded by a mortar shell in Irpin near Kyiv on Sunday as hundreds of civilians sought safety

A mother and two children were killed and the father was wounded by a mortar shell in Irpin near Kyiv on Sunday as hundreds of civilians sought safety

A person who was trying to flee with his family, lies on the ground after the shelling of the Russian army at the evacuation point of Irpin

A person who was trying to flee with his family, lies on the ground after the shelling of the Russian army at the evacuation point of Irpin 

Plumes of smoke rise into the air after a factory and a store are left burning after being bombarded in Irpin

Plumes of smoke rise into the air after a factory and a store are left burning after being bombarded in Irpin

The grieving parents embraced their son's lifeless body laid out on a stretcher in the besieged city after the region came under shelling from Russian forces

The grieving parents embraced their son’s lifeless body laid out on a stretcher in the besieged city after the region came under shelling from Russian forces

Images have laid bare the barbarity and horror of Russia's invasion of Ukraine as the parents of 18-month-old Kirill were seen grieving for their son after the toddler was killed by Russian shelling

Images have laid bare the barbarity and horror of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the parents of 18-month-old Kirill were seen grieving for their son after the toddler was killed by Russian shelling 

According to reports, some of those who died belonged to the same family. Disturbing pictures showed victims lying in the middle of a road, their bodies wrapped up against the winter chill.

The town, to the north-west of Kyiv, is in Russia’s firing line because of its proximity to Hostomel airfield – the scene of intense fighting since the first day of the campaign.

Yesterday, Russian mortar rounds targeted a damaged bridge being used as a makeshift shelter by residents of the town.

Last night, Ukrainian military sources insisted none of their soldiers were near the civilians as they sought to escape the shelling. Thousands of people have been seeking to leave Irpin and the nearby towns of Hostomel and Bucha because of the fighting.

Following yesterday’s attacks, Kyiv’s military commander Oleksiy Kuleba said: ‘Unfortunately because there is not a ceasefire people cannot get out.’

Mariupol

Meanwhile, a fresh attempt to evacuate civilians from the southern city of Mariupol began at 10am UK time yesterday.

Ukraine war latest: at a glance 

  • Boris Johnson has drawn up a six-point plan to defeat Vladimir Putin as he moves to assume leadership of global efforts to end the horror of war in Ukraine. 
  • A second attempt to evacuate Mariupol failed today after Ukraine accused the Russians of shelling the city as citizens attempted to flee through a ‘humanitarian corridor’.
  • More than 1.5million refugees have now fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries since Vladimir Putin invaded, United Nations figures have shown. 
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says missiles have struck and completely destroyed Vinnytsia regional airport, and urges NATO to close the airspace and make a no-fly zone. 
  • The Pope deplored ‘rivers of blood’ in Ukraine as he demanded humanitarian corridors. 
  • Elon Musk held a video call with Volodymyr Zelensky as he promised to bolster his Starlink satellite support for the war-torn country, as he tweeted: ‘Hold strong Ukraine.’ 
  • A Ukrainian peace negotiator is reported to have been shot dead amid claims he might have been a spy for the Russians. The reports are unconfirmed.  
  • French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday held new telephone talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Elysee said. 
  • More than 1,700 people in cities across Russia have been detained while taking part in anti-war protests against the country’s invasion of Ukraine, a monitor said, more than a week after the assault began.
  • Russian pilots have been filmed saying they were ‘following orders’ after their aircraft was shot down over Ukraine.  
  • The deputy minister of defence for Belarus has submitted his resignation and claimed he cannot support the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • BBC World News has been taken OFF AIR in Russia – two days after Putin approved law that could lock up journalists for 15 years for spreading ‘fake information’.

Under an agreement brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), refugees had five hours to flee westwards along humanitarian corridors.

But soon after the proposed start time, the city council said the attempt was not possible due to ‘Russian shelling’. Later, the ICRC revealed the two sides had failed to agree on who could be evacuated, whether aid could be brought in and what routes could be used.

It stopped short of confirming Ukrainian reports the Russians breached the evacuation agreement. Instead, the ICRC presented a more neutral assessment, indicating ‘hostilities resumed’ on the Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia road.

Its teams remained in Mariupol last night to secure a third attempt to help around 200,000 civilians flee. A separate ceasefire also failed yesterday in the nearby city of Volnovakha, which has also been under bombardment.

The ICRC hoped 15,000 residents would be able to escape. But only an estimated 400 refugees managed to flee before Ukrainian reports suggested the Russians had breached the ceasefire. Commenting on the breached ceasefire, UK’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘Russian generals have sunk to a new low. The world can see them for what they are. Shelling civilians is not a mark of a real soldier but a coward.’

In temperatures of -2C (28F), Mariupol has been without heating and electricity since Thursday. The Russians cut off internet and mobile telephone communications on the same day.

There were reports over the weekend of food and fresh water supplies running low inside the city. The aid agency Doctors Without Borders described the situation as ‘catastrophic’ and urged both sides to reach an agreement.

Local mayor Vadym Boychenko has likened the encirclement of Mariupol to the deadly Nazi siege of Volgograd – then Stalingrad – during the Second World War.

Last night, he said: ‘They’re destroying us. They will not even give us the opportunity to count the wounded and the dead because the shelling does not stop.’

Mariupol is strategically significant due to its port. Capturing the city would allow Russia’s Black Sea fleet to bring ashore much needed supplies. 

Today US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said there are ‘very credible reports’ that Russia had committed war crimes during its invasion of Ukraine – particularly in attacking civilians. 

It came as a second attempt to evacuate refugees from Mariupol was scuppered again after the city was shelled just minutes into an agreed ceasefire.

Some 400,000 residents were hoped to be evacuated from 12pm today, with an initial agreement in place until 9pm, but residents are now having to take cover in bomb shelters without electricity and water.

It followed similar attempts on Saturday when plans to evacuate refugees were halted when shelling recommenced 45 minutes into a ceasefire.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said: ‘Amid devastating scenes of human suffering in Mariupol, a second attempt today to start evacuating an estimated 200,000 people out of the city came to a halt.

‘The failed attempts yesterday and today underscore the absence of a detailed and functioning agreement between the parties to the conflict.’

However, in a telephone call with French President Emmanual Macron, Putin blamed Kyiv for the failed evacuations.

Putin instead claimed ‘Ukrainian nationalists’ prevented civilians and foreign citizens from leaving the port city and neighbouring Volnovakha.

But Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky today warned that Russian forces are preparing to shell Odessa – a historic port city on the Black Sea coast.

In a video address, the Ukrainian leader said: ‘They are preparing to bomb Odessa.

‘Russians have always come to Odessa. They have always felt only warmth in Odessa. Only sincerity. And now what? Bombs against Odessa? Artillery against Odessa? Missiles against Odessa?

‘It will be a war crime. It will be a historical crime.’ 

Almost a million people live in Odessa, a cosmopolitan harbour on Ukraine’s southern coast with both Ukrainian and Russian speakers and Bulgarian and Jewish minorities. 

Analysts have previously said that taking Odessa would be a huge strategic victory and would give Russia a chokehold on Ukraine’s economy. 

Russia has made progress in southern Ukraine since its invasion 11 days ago, overrunning the city of Kherson and shelling the port of Mariupol, but Odessa has so far been largely spared. 

Separately, on Sunday, the head of Kyiv-controlled Lugansk regional administration, said a train would be organised to evacuate women, children and the elderly from Lysychansk.

Lysychansk is near the frontline between Ukrainian forces and Moscow-backed separatists, who are fighting to link up with the Russian forces and control the entire southeast.  

If Russian forces succeed in capturing Mariupol which held out against rebel forces in the previous 2014 conflict, they will control Ukraine’s entire Azov Sea coast.

Russia has launched 600 missiles since start of invasion and deployed 95% of combat forces it has amassed on the border, US defence official says

The United States does not believe a Russian amphibious assault in or near the Ukrainian city of Odessa is imminent, a senior U.S. defense official said on Sunday, amid growing concern about a potential attack on the city.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, estimated Russia had launched about 600 missiles since the start of the invasion and deployed into Ukraine about 95% of combat forces it had pre-staged outside of the country.

Russian forces continued to try to advance and isolate Kyiv, Kharkhiv and Chernihiv and are meeting ‘strong Ukrainian resistance,’ the official said

 

This would give them a land bridge from Russia to Russian-annexed Crimea and an important supply route and port if they decide to push north in a bid to take all of eastern Ukraine.  

But although the Russian bombardment of Ukraine thus far has resulted in widespread destruction and considerable civilian casualties, Ukraine’s armed forces and territorial defence units have also inflicted major losses on Russia’s air force.    

Today footage showed the moment an alleged Russian jet was shot down over Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv earlier today. 

Oleg Synegubov, the regional governor of Kharkiv, claimed that the Russian Su-25 fighter was destroyed by Kharkiv’s Air Defence Forces, which was later confirmed by the Kyiv Independent. 

Kharkiv is one of the cities worst-hit by Russian bombing campaigns in recent days, after Putin ordered his forces to engage in sustained shelling of several locations across the country.  

Kyiv reported late last night that they have downed a total of 44 Russian planes and 44 helicopters in the past eleven days, providing further evidence of Russia’s failure to gain air superiority – a tactical advantage that Putin thought would be achieved on the first day of the war.

The Armed Forces Air Command reported early this morning that one Su-25 fighter, two Su-34 fighter-bombers, two Su-30 SM planes, and three helicopters were shot down yesterday alone.

On Saturday, Kyiv cancelled a planned evacuation of more than 200,000 civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha on Saturday after Moscow ignored a promised ceasefire and continued pounding the strategic port city.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said that talks were underway to establish a ceasefire and ensure the humanitarian corridor originally agreed for five hours between 12pm and 5pm Moscow time after local authorities told people to shelter.

Mariupol’s deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC: ‘The Russians are continuing to bomb us and use artillery. It is crazy. There is no ceasefire in Mariupol and there is no ceasefire all along the route. Our civilians are ready to escape but they cannot escape under shelling.’

An official told NPR: ‘When the people organised in evacuation points, they [Russians] started attack on evacuation points. Not all the city. Just evacuation points.’

But Russia’s defence ministry claimed that the firing came from inside both communities against Kremlin positions, that no one was using the two humanitarian corridors provided, and that Ukraine’s ‘nationalists’ had prevented civilians from leaving, RIA news agency reported.

In a defiant address on Saturday morning, Zelensky urged Ukrainians to continue fighting Putin’s forces. 

Ukraine’s comic-turned-wartime president then thundered ‘what more is needed’ to convince Joe Biden to enforce a no-fly zone – an action which could widen the war and suck in NATO.

Ukraine’s military claims that it has killed around 10,000 Russian troops since the invasion on February 24 – far beyond the 498 claimed by Moscow. And Kyiv estimates that Russian losses also include 269 tanks, 105 artillery systems, 39 aircraft, 40 helicopters and 409 vehicles.

The Russian defence ministry said on Saturday that its units had opened humanitarian corridors near the two cities encircled by its troops for five hours between 12pm and 5pm Moscow time, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.

In Mariupol, citizens would be allowed to leave during a five-hour window, it quoted the city’s officials as saying. The Russian defence ministry said a broad offensive would then continue in Ukraine, RIA said.

The Ukrainian government said the plan was to evacuate around 200,000 people from Mariupol and 15,000 from Volnovakha, and the Red Cross would be the ceasefire’s guarantor.

The evacuation would have been seen as a prelude to a final assault that, if successful, would see the Russian army push north from occupied Crimea and link up with their forces from the east and take control of Ukraine’s coast on the Sea of Azov.

Civilians spoke on Saturday of how the corridor collapsed as the evacuates went nowhere thanks to – according to Ukrainian officials – Russian forces breaking the ceasefire.

‘I’m right now in Mariupol, I’m on the street, I can hear shelling every three to five minutes,’ Alexander, a 44-year-old engineer and local, told the BBC. 

‘I can see cars of people who tried to flee and they are coming back. It is chaos.’ The evacuation was postponed just three hours before it was due to begin.

Since Russia invaded on February 24, Moscow has pummelled Ukrainian cities, with officials reporting hundreds of civilians killed.  

A  medical worker was also seen sitting on the hospital floor looking shocked and bereft after being unable to save the 18-month-old's life

A  medical worker was also seen sitting on the hospital floor looking shocked and bereft after being unable to save the 18-month-old’s life

People who just evacuated from Irpin rush through the checkpoint on Sunday. It is understood three civilians were killed and others were wounded as Russian mortar rounds landed between Irpin and Kyiv this morning

People who just evacuated from Irpin rush through the checkpoint on Sunday. It is understood three civilians were killed and others were wounded as Russian mortar rounds landed between Irpin and Kyiv this morning

Former heavy weight boxing champion Vladimir Klitschko visits a blockpost near Kyiv, Ukraine, earlier today

Former heavy weight boxing champion Vladimir Klitschko visits a blockpost near Kyiv, Ukraine, earlier today 

People cross on an improvised path under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike, while fleeing the town of Irpin, Ukraine, on Saturday

People cross on an improvised path under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike, while fleeing the town of Irpin, Ukraine, on Saturday

People who were just evacuated from Irpin rush through the checkpoint on Sunday. It is understood three civilians were killed and others were wounded as Russian mortar rounds landed between Irpin and Kyiv this morning

People who were just evacuated from Irpin rush through the checkpoint on Sunday. It is understood three civilians were killed and others were wounded as Russian mortar rounds landed between Irpin and Kyiv this morning

A woman who has just been safely evacuated from Irpin prays for those people who have stayed in the city as it is targeted by Russian shells

A woman who has just been safely evacuated from Irpin prays for those people who have stayed in the city as it is targeted by Russian shells

People cross on an improvised path under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike, while fleeing the town of Irpin, Ukraine, on Saturday

People cross on an improvised path under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike, while fleeing the town of Irpin, Ukraine, on Saturday

People lie on the floor of a hospital during shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, March 4, 2022

People lie on the floor of a hospital during shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, March 4, 2022

A medical worker treats a man who is wounded by shelling in a hospital in Mariupol, March 4, 2022

A medical worker treats a man who is wounded by shelling in a hospital in Mariupol, March 4, 2022

People place a man in a wheelchair in the back of an SUV after crossing on an improvised path under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike, as people flee the town of Irpin,  Ukraine, on Saturday

People place a man in a wheelchair in the back of an SUV after crossing on an improvised path under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike, as people flee the town of Irpin,  Ukraine, on Saturday

Russia today launched simultaneous attacks from the south, east and north, by land and by air, killing at least 40 civilians by midday including a young boy in an apartment block in Chuhuiv in Kharkiv, Ukrainian authorities said

Heartbreaking images from Ukraine have emerged showing bloodied civilians (pictured in Chuhuiv, eastern Ukraine) staggering through the streets despite Russian President Vladimir Putin claiming he declared war to ‘protect civilians’ after ordering an all out invasion this morning

Images on social media show a long queue of civilians evacuating Mariupol as they head west during a planned ceasefire

Images on social media show a long queue of civilians evacuating Mariupol as they head west during a planned ceasefire

Plumes of smoke rise after shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 4, 2022,

Plumes of smoke rise after shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 4, 2022,

As residents continue to evacuate across cities in Ukraine, heartbreaking footage shows that civilians are being attacked with heavy gunfire and missiles in Irpin, 20 kilometres north-west of Kyiv

As residents continue to evacuate across cities in Ukraine, heartbreaking footage shows that civilians are being attacked with heavy gunfire and missiles in Irpin, 20 kilometres north-west of Kyiv

Europe’s largest atomic power plant has even come under attack sparking fears of a catastrophic nuclear accident. But Russia has so far only seized two key cities, Berdiansk and Kherson on Ukraine’s southern Black Sea coast.

Capturing Mariupol represents a bigger prize for Russian forces as it would deal a severe blow to Ukraine’s maritime access and connect with troops coming from annexed Crimea and the Donbas.

Zelensky said on Saturday: ‘We managed to get an agreement to provide assistance to those cities in Ukraine that are in the dire and worst situation, Mariupol and Volnovakha, to save children and women and older people. To provide medication and food to those who stay there in those places.

Raab rules out no-fly zone in Ukraine 

Dominic Raab again ruled out imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying this would lead to a ‘massive escalation’ and would feed into the Russian president’s narrative.

He told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme: ‘We’re not going to get ourselves into a direct military conflict with Putin because that would be a massive escalation, but also that feeds Putin’s narrative.

‘Putin wants to say that he’s actually in a struggle with the west – he’s not’.

He called no-fly zones ‘very difficult, very challenging’ and said ‘we will do everything short of that to support Ukrainians’.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said his party supports the Government but he wants to see them going ‘further and faster’.

Sir Keir told ITV News: ‘Everybody understands why we can’t have a no-fly zone, why direct military assistance is not possible. That means sanctions have to be the strongest we have ever seen, the most effective we’ve ever seen. And in order for sanctions to work, you need to know what property the oligarchs have got here in the United Kingdom.

‘Those people willing to leave these places should be able to do so now using the humanitarian corridor, but those who can should continue fighting.

‘We do everything we can on our side to make sure this agreement works, regarding the humanitarian corridors and we will see if we can move even further about our negotiations with Russia.’ 

Aid agencies have warned of an unfolding humanitarian disaster as food, water and medical supplies run short and refugees stream into western Ukraine and neighbouring European countries.

In the southeastern port city of Mariupol – whose capture would be a key prize for Russia – there is no water, heat or electricity and food is running out, according to Mayor Vadym Boychenko. ‘We are simply being destroyed,’ he said. 

The siege of Mariupol came as more Russian forces inched closer to Kyiv, encountering stiff resistance and shelling the western suburbs and the northern town of Chernihiv, where there have been heavy civilian casualties in recent days.

In a bitter and emotional speech late on Friday, Zelensky lashed out at NATO powers for refusing to impose a no-fly zone over his country, warning that ‘all the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you’. He claimed the West’s hesitancy will fully untie Russia’s hands as it escalates its air attack.

NATO says a no-fly zone could provoke widespread war in Europe with nuclear-armed Russia. But as the United States and other NATO members send weapons for Kyiv and more than 1million refugees spill through the continent, the conflict is already drawing in countries far beyond Ukraine’s borders.

And Putin has warned that Moscow would consider any third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine as ‘participation in the armed conflict’. 

Speaking at a meeting with female pilots on Saturday, Putin said Russia would view ‘any move in this direction’ as an intervention that ‘will pose a threat to our service members’.

‘That very second, we will view them as participants of the military conflict, and it would not matter what members they are,’ he said.

In an address, Zelensky said NATO ‘has given the green light to the bombing of Ukrainian cities and villages’, warning that ‘the history of Europe will remember this forever’. In a separate video message to anti-war protesters in several European cities, he said: ‘If we fall, you will fall’.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had earlier ruled out the possibility of a no-fly zone, saying Western planes would have to shoot down Russian aircraft.

In a warning of a hunger crisis yet to come, the UN World Food Programme says millions of people inside Ukraine, a major global wheat supplier, will need food aid ‘immediately’. The UN Security Council will hold an open meeting Monday on the worsening humanitarian situation.  

More than 840 children have been wounded in the war, and 28 have been killed, according to Ukraine’s government. A total of 331 civilians had been confirmed killed but the true number is probably much higher, the UN human rights office said.

Biden has dismissed the notion of no-fly zones because of the risk of open conflict between NATO and Russian forces, despite opinion polling showing that a growing number of Americans want the US to take more aggressive action against the Kremlin.

Russia has faced an unprecedented Western diplomatic, economic and cultural boycott since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

It comes as Germany said it would build a liquefied natural gas terminal on its North Sea coast, as it seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian gas imports. 

Local resident walks through the rubble as a result of shelling in Markhalivka, March 5, 2022

Local resident walks through the rubble as a result of shelling in Markhalivka, March 5, 2022

Debris are scattered around the hole in a road at the site where several houses have been damaged by an explosion, following an air strike in Bila Tserkva, Kyiv Oblast, March 5, 2022

Debris are scattered around the hole in a road at the site where several houses have been damaged by an explosion, following an air strike in Bila Tserkva, Kyiv Oblast, March 5, 2022

Police and State Emergency Service (SES) officers work at the scene where several houses have been damaged by an explosion, following an air strike in Bila Tserkva, Kyiv Oblast, March 5, 2022

Police and State Emergency Service (SES) officers work at the scene where several houses have been damaged by an explosion, following an air strike in Bila Tserkva, Kyiv Oblast, March 5, 2022

Ukrainians crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee crossing the Irpin river in the outskirts of Kyiv, March 5, 2022

Ukrainians crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee crossing the Irpin river in the outskirts of Kyiv, March 5, 2022

People crowd as they try to get on a train to Lviv at Kyiv station, Ukraine, March 4, 2022

People crowd as they try to get on a train to Lviv at Kyiv station, Ukraine, March 4, 2022

People line up to be drafted into the army in Lviv, Ukraine, March 5, 2022

People line up to be drafted into the army in Lviv, Ukraine, March 5, 2022

A Ukrainian serviceman stands near a captured Russian tank, in the north of the Kharkiv region, March 4, 2022

A Ukrainian serviceman stands near a captured Russian tank, in the north of the Kharkiv region, March 4, 2022

Since Russia invaded on February 24, Moscow has pummelled Ukrainian cities, with officials reporting hundreds of civilians killed. Europe¿s largest atomic power plant came under attack sparking fears of a catastrophic nuclear accident. But Russia has so far only seized two key cities, Berdiansk and Kherson. Capturing Mariupol represents a bigger prize for Russia as it would deal a severe blow to Ukraine¿s maritime access and connect with troops coming from annexed Crimea and the Donbas

Since Russia invaded on February 24, Moscow has pummelled Ukrainian cities, with officials reporting hundreds of civilians killed. Europe’s largest atomic power plant came under attack sparking fears of a catastrophic nuclear accident. But Russia has so far only seized two key cities, Berdiansk and Kherson. Capturing Mariupol represents a bigger prize for Russia as it would deal a severe blow to Ukraine’s maritime access and connect with troops coming from annexed Crimea and the Donbas

Ukraine¿s president Volodymyr Zelensky has accused the West of abandoning millions of his people to their deaths

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has accused the West of abandoning millions of his people to their deaths 

The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline UKRAINE REFUGEE APPEAL

Readers of Mail Newspapers and MailOnline have always shown immense generosity at times of crisis.

Calling upon that human spirit, we are now launching an appeal to raise money for refugees from Ukraine.

For, surely, no one can fail to be moved by the heartbreaking images and stories of families – mostly women, children, the infirm and elderly – fleeing from Russia’s invading armed forces.

As this tally of misery increases over the coming days and months, these innocent victims of a tyrant will require accommodation, schools and medical support.

All donations to the Mail Ukraine Appeal will be distributed to charities and aid organisations providing such essential services.

In the name of charity and compassion, we urge all our readers to give swiftly and generously.

TO MAKE A DONATION ONLINE 

Donate at www.mailforcecharity.co.uk/donate 

To add Gift Aid to a donation – even one already made – complete an online form found here: mymail.co.uk/ukraine

Via bank transfer, please use these details:

Account name: Mail Force Charity

Account number: 48867365

Sort code: 60-00-01

TO MAKE A DONATION VIA CHEQUE

Make your cheque payable to ‘Mail Force’ and post it to: Mail Newspapers Ukraine Appeal, GFM, 42 Phoenix Court, Hawkins Road, Colchester, Essex CO2 8JY

TO MAKE A DONATION FROM THE US

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The roads on Kyiv’s western edge bear witness to a human tragedy whose scale grows ever greater as Russia’s assault on the Ukrainian capital becomes more determined and indiscriminate.

The Russian forces’ initial assault on Kyiv – launched with missile strikes and an airborne assault on an airbase – stalled at the end of last week.

The two sides have since been locked in a long-range shelling war along Kyiv’s outskirts that has put working class towns such as Bucha and Irpin in the line of fire.

But people fleeing the two towns said their resolve to stay broke down when Russian warplanes started circling overhead and dropping bombs on Friday.

‘Warplanes. They are bombing residential areas – schools, churches, big buildings, everything,’ accountant Natalia Dydenko said after a quick glance back at the destruction she left behind.

The 58-year-old was one of thousands of people walking with their children and whatever belongings they could carry down a road leading toward central Kyiv and away from the front.

The metric booms of Russia bombs dropped from warplanes circling over Bucha and Irpin provided a morbid backdrop for their desperate march.

‘It began two days ago. It wasn’t as heavy before, but two days ago it started getting really heavy,’ she said.

People were trying to get to the remains of a bridge leading to Kyiv over the Irpin River which Ukrainian forces blew up last week to stall the Russian advance.

Ukrainian soldiers with assault rifles swinging off their shoulders helped wheelchair-bound pensioners and mothers with prams cross a few wooden planks tossed over the river on Saturday.

Thousands of people massed in stony silence under the shattered remains of the original concrete bridge while awaiting their turn to pass.

A group of soldiers was digging anti-tank missile launchers into foxholes on the Kyiv side of the river.

Another group was preparing new supplies of shoulder-launched missiles and Kalashnikovs that could be ferried back across the wooden planks toward the front.

A long-range missile whistled overhead. A hollow thud about half a minute later signalled still more destruction somewhere in the general vicinity of northern Kyiv.

‘We were waiting it out. But yesterday, when a plane flew by and dropped something on us, we simply had to run,’ said Galina Vasylchenko, walking with her 30-year-old daughter toward the makeshift bridge.

A supermarket and petrol station that on Friday stood at a large junction on the border between Bucha and Irpin was just ruins on Saturday.

Soldiers were ushering the fleeing residents onto buses on the Kyiv side of the Irpin River because walking on that part of the city’s streets was no longer safe. Thousands more piled their belongings into cars and tried to get out of Irpin by taking a circuitous route that leads to Kyiv’s main train station from the southwest.

A queue of cars stretching at least 3 miles snaked its way past dozens of sandbagged checkpoints manned by armed Ukrainian volunteers in western Kyiv on Saturday.

Many had signs reading ‘children’ taped to their windshields.

Vladimir Putin says Western sanctions on Russia are almost a declaration of WAR and anyone imposing no-fly zone on Ukraine would be considered to have entered the conflict 

Vladimir Putin said today that Western sanctions on Russia are almost a declaration of war and that anyone imposing a no-fly zone on Ukraine would be considered to have entered the conflict.

He reiterated that his aims are to defend Russian speaking communities through the ‘demilitarisation and de-Nazification’ of the country so that it became neutral.

Ukraine and Western countries have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for the invasion he launched on February 24 and have imposed a sweeping range of sanctions aimed at isolating Moscow.

Speaking to a group of female pilots at an Aeroflot training centre near Moscow, Putin said: ‘These sanctions that are being imposed are akin to a declaration of war but thank God it has not come to that.’

He warned that any third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be considered as ‘participation in the armed conflict’, and Russia would view ‘any move in this direction’ as an intervention that ‘will pose a threat to our service members’.

The White House on Friday said it was weighing cuts to US imports of Russian oil, though it is proceeding cautiously, concerned about a spike in gasoline prices that would add to already high inflation.

On Friday, the United States flew B-52 Stratofortress bombers over NATO’s eastern flank above Romania, exercising with the German and Romanian militaries.

The largest strategic bombers in the US Air Force took off from RAF Fairford, a Royal Air Force station in England, and conducted ‘close air support and integration mission training’, according to a statement from US Air Forces in Europe. The B-52s then flew to Romania, where they conducted more close air support training as part of the Bomber Task Force (BTF) missions.

The White House announced that US Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Poland and Romania next week to meet with officials to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine and impact the war is having on the region.

Harris’ agenda for the March 9-11 visit to Warsaw and Bucharest is expected to centre on economic, security and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.

‘The Vice President’s meetings will also focus on how the United States can further support Ukraine’s neighbours as they welcome and care for refugees fleeing violence,’ Harris’ deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said.

Biden spoke on Friday with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda. Poland is assisting about 700,000 Ukrainians and others who have fled the war so far. The United States has also more than doubled its military presence in Poland, which is a member of NATO, to 9,000 troops in recent weeks.

While the vast Russian armoured column threatening Kyiv remained stalled outside the capital, Putin’s military has launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites across the country.

Russian forces did not make significant progress Friday in their offensive to sever Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, which would deal a severe blow to its economy. There were also no changes in the north and the east, where the Russian offensive has stalled, meeting fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Invading Russian troops have blockaded the strategic Ukrainian port city Mariupol, its mayor announced Saturday, as Moscow and Kyiv aimed to hold new talks over the weekend.

While laying siege to Mariupol for days, Russian forces also cut its electricity, food, water, heating and transportation in the depths of winter, prompting comparisons to the Nazi blockade of Leningrad in World War II.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba claimed that Russian troops have raped women in cities they have already captured. He did not give evidence to back his claim, but Ukrainian media reported that 11 cases of rape had been reported in Kherson, the only major city captured by Russia after more than a week of fighting. 

Earlier, it was revealed that no radiation was released from a Russian attack at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said on Friday the building hit by a Russian ‘projectile’ at the Zaporizhzhia plant was ‘not part of the reactor’ but instead a training centre at the plant.

Nuclear officials from Sweden to China said no radiation spikes had been reported, as did Grossi.

Ukrainian officials have said Russian troops took control of the overall site, but the plant’s staff were continuing to ensure its operations. Grossi said the Ukrainians were in control of the reactor. 

A child has a drink at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Saturday, March 5, 2022, after fleeing from Ukraine

A child has a drink at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Saturday, March 5, 2022, after fleeing from Ukraine

People wait to board a train towards Poland as they flee Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Lviv, March 5, 2022

People wait to board a train towards Poland as they flee Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Lviv, March 5, 2022

Refugees, mostly women with children, arrive at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, March 5, 2022

Refugees, mostly women with children, arrive at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, March 5, 2022

Civilians, mostly women and children rush to board any train car that still has any room on it in Irpin on Friday

Civilians, mostly women and children rush to board any train car that still has any room on it in Irpin on Friday

view to the residential houses which were destroyed by shelling in Markhalivka, March 5, 2022

view to the residential houses which were destroyed by shelling in Markhalivka, March 5, 2022

Gulaim Tolybayeva, the neighbour of Ihor Mazhayev, helps remove the rubble of his house in Markhalivka, March 5, 2022

Gulaim Tolybayeva, the neighbour of Ihor Mazhayev, helps remove the rubble of his house in Markhalivka, March 5, 2022

Ukrainian troops take cover from Russian shelling in the city of Bucha, located to the west of Kyiv

Ukrainian troops take cover from Russian shelling in the city of Bucha, located to the west of Kyiv

A man stands in front of a residential building damaged in yesterday's shelling in the city of Chernihiv on March 4 after 47 people died in the city on March 3, according to officials

A man stands in front of a residential building damaged in yesterday’s shelling in the city of Chernihiv on March 4 after 47 people died in the city on March 3, according to officials 

A house in Irpin, west of Kyiv, is pictured on fire on Friday as the town came under heavy Russian bombardment

A house in Irpin, west of Kyiv, is pictured on fire on Friday as the town came under heavy Russian bombardment

A burnt car stands next to the remains of the local house of culture on Friday, following a night air raid in the village of Byshiv, 20 miles west of Kyiv

A burnt car stands next to the remains of the local house of culture on Friday, following a night air raid in the village of Byshiv, 20 miles west of Kyiv

The city of Kharkiv, pictured, has been devastated by the Russian invasion. The city, to the east of Ukraine, has been under near constant bombardment

The city of Kharkiv, pictured, has been devastated by the Russian invasion. The city, to the east of Ukraine, has been under near constant bombardment

A woman walks amidst the debris of a school building destroyed by shelling, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Zhytomyr on March 4

A woman walks amidst the debris of a school building destroyed by shelling, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Zhytomyr on March 4

A local resident walks past the remains of a house of culture following a night air raid in the village of Byshiv, 40 kilometres west of Kyiv

A local resident walks past the remains of a house of culture following a night air raid in the village of Byshiv, 40 kilometres west of Kyiv

Destroyed Russian armoured vehicles in the city of Bucha, west of Kyiv, which has been under heavy attack in recent days

Destroyed Russian armoured vehicles in the city of Bucha, west of Kyiv, which has been under heavy attack in recent days

Jens Stoltenberg (left) and Antony Blinken (right) have today warned Putin that NATO is ready to defend 'every inch' of its territory in the event of a Russian attack, but is not seeking a war

Jens Stoltenberg (left) and Antony Blinken (right) have today warned Putin that NATO is ready to defend ‘every inch’ of its territory in the event of a Russian attack, but is not seeking a war

A delusional Putin has again insisted that Russia is not bombing Ukrainian cities, despite fears that 100 people are buried under rubble after an apartment block near Kyiv was struck and after an attack on the city of Chernihiv which killed 49

A delusional Putin has again insisted that Russia is not bombing Ukrainian cities, despite fears that 100 people are buried under rubble after an apartment block near Kyiv was struck and after an attack on the city of Chernihiv which killed 49

MILITARY ANALYSTS SAY NATO WILL NOT IMPOSE A NO-FLY ZONE 

Military analysts say there is no chance that the US, Britain and their European allies will impose a no-fly zone because it could easily escalate the war in Ukraine into a nuclear confrontation between NATO and Russia.

WHAT IS A NO-FLY ZONE?

A no-fly zone would bar all unauthorized aircraft from flying over Ukraine. Western nations imposed such restrictions over parts of Iraq for more than a decade following the 1991 Gulf War, during the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1993-95, and during the Libyan civil war in 2011.

WHY WON’T NATO TAKE THIS STEP IN UKRAINE?

In simple terms, because it would risk a direct military conflict with Russia that could escalate into a wider European war with a nuclear-armed superpower.

While the idea may have captured the public imagination, declaring a no-fly zone could force NATO pilots to shoot down Russian aircraft.

But it goes beyond that. In addition to fighter planes, NATO would have to deploy refueling tankers and electronic-surveillance aircraft to support the mission. 

To protect these relatively slow, high-flying planes, NATO would have to destroy surface-to-air missile batteries in Russia and Belarus, again risking a broader conflict.

‘The only way to implement a no-fly zone is to send NATO fighter planes into Ukrainian airspace, and then impose that no-fly zone by shooting down Russian planes,’ NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said Friday. 

‘We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did that, we would end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe.’

‘We have a responsibility as NATO allies to prevent this war from escalating beyond Ukraine,’ he said.

WHAT WOULD A NO-FLY ZONE ACHIEVE?

Ukrainian authorities and people cowering night after night in bomb shelters say a no-fly zone would protect civilians – and now nuclear power stations – from Russian air strikes.

But analysts say it’s Russia’s ground forces, not aircraft, that are causing most of the damage in Ukraine.

What Ukrainians actually want is a broader intervention like the one that occurred in Libya in 2011, when NATO forces launched attacks on government positions, said Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. That’s not likely to happen when the opponent is Russia.

‘They want to see the West kind of sweeping in and taking out the rocket artillery that’s pummeling Ukrainian cities,’ Bronk said. 

‘We’re not going to go to war against the Russian army. They are a massive nuclear-armed power. There is no way that we could possibly model, let alone control, the escalation chain that would come from such an action.’

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE SKIES OVER UKRAINE?

Predictions that Russia would quickly control the skies over Ukraine have not come to fruition.

Military experts are wondering why Russia has chosen to leave most of its fixed-wing combat aircraft on the ground during this massive land offensive. 

One explanation may be that Russian pilots aren’t well trained in supporting large-scale land operations, engagements that require coordination with artillery, helicopters and other assets in a fast-moving environment.

‘I think that maybe they’re a little bit worried that that is a very constrained area. It’s not like the Middle East, where there’s all kinds of space to roam around in the air,’ said Robert Latif, a retired U.S. Air Force major general who now teaches at the University of Notre Dame.

‘They could very easily stray over borders,’ he explained.

‘With both Ukrainian and Russian air defense systems and Ukrainian, what little they have, and Russian airplanes all flying around – that could be a very confusing. I think maybe they’re a little bit worried about actually being able to pull it off.’

 

In the frenzied initial aftermath when the risk of a radiation release was not clear, the attack caused worldwide concern – and evoked memories of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, at Ukraine’s Chernobyl.

Facing worldwide indignation over the attack, Russia sought to deflect blame. Without producing evidence, defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov blamed arson rather than artillery fire.

He claimed a Ukrainian ‘sabotage group’ had occupied the training building at the plant, fired on a Russian patrol and set fire to the building as they left.

There had been conflicting reports earlier over which part of the Zaporizhzhia facility had been affected in the attack, with an official saying at one point that shells fell directly on the facility and set fire to a reactor not in operation as well as a training building. Grossi later said that the fire was in the training centre.

The confusion itself underscored the dangers of active fighting near a nuclear power plant. It was the second time since the invasion began just over a week ago that concerns about a nuclear accident or a release of radiation materialized, following a battle at Chernobyl.

Grossi said only one reactor of six at Zaporizhzhia is currently operating, at about 60 per cent capacity, and that two people at the site were injured in the fire.

Ukraine’s state nuclear plant operator Enerhoatom said three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two wounded.

The plant fire came as the Russian military advanced on a strategic city on the Dnieper River near where the facility is located, and gained ground in their bid to cut the country off from the sea.

That move would deal a severe blow to Ukraine’s economy and could worsen an already dire humanitarian situation.

With the invasion in its second week, another round of talks between Russia and Ukraine yielded a tentative agreement to set up safe corridors to evacuate citizens and deliver humanitarian aid to the country, overturned by a war that has sent more than 1million fleeing over the border and countless others sheltering underground.

A handful of cities are without heat and at least one is struggling to get food and water.

In the centre of the capital, Kyiv, frequent shelling could still be heard Friday, although more distant than in recent days, with loud thudding every 10 minutes resonating over the rooftops.

The West has heaped sanctions on Russia, and most of the world lined up to demand Russia withdraw its troops in a vote in the UN General Assembly this week.

In the latest show of international opposition to the invasion, the UN’s top human rights body voted 32-2 on a resolution that would among other things set up a panel of experts to monitor human rights in Ukraine. Only Russia and Eritrea opposed; there were 13 abstentions.

The attack on the nuclear facility led to phone calls between the Ukrainian president and Biden and other world leaders. The US Department of Energy activated its nuclear incident response team as a precaution.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to raise the issue of Russia’s attack on the plant.

In an emotional speech in the middle of the night, Zelensky said he feared an explosion that would be ‘the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe’. But most experts saw nothing to indicate an impending disaster.

‘The real threat to Ukrainian lives continues to be the violent invasion and bombing of their country,’ the American Nuclear Society said in a statement.

Putin’s forces have brought their superior firepower to bear over the past few days, launching hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites around the country and making significant gains in the south.

The Russians announced the capture of the southern city of Kherson, a vital Black Sea port of 280,000, and local Ukrainian officials confirmed the takeover of the government headquarters there, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began just over a week ago.

A Russian airstrike destroyed a power plant in Okhtyrka, leaving the northeastern city without heat or electricity, the head of the region said on Telegram.

‘We are trying to figure out how to get people out of the city urgently because in a day the apartment buildings will turn into a cold stone trap without water, light or electricity,’ Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said.

Another strategic port, Mariupol on the Azov Sea, was ‘partially under siege,’ and Ukrainian forces are pushing back efforts to surround the city, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.

‘The humanitarian situation is tense,’ he told reporters, adding that Ukrainian authorities are in talks with Russian representatives and international organisations to set up humanitarian corridor to evacuate residents and supply food.

Battles in the area have knocked out the city’s electricity, heat and water systems, as well as most phone service, officials said. Food deliveries to the city were also cut.

Video from the port city showed the assault lighting up the darkening sky above deserted streets and medical teams treating civilians, including a 16-year-old boy who could not be saved.

The child was playing football when he was wounded in the shelling, according to his father, who cradled the boy’s head on the trolley and cried.

Ukraine’s defence minister said Friday that the flagship of its navy has been scuttled at the shipyard where it was undergoing repairs in order to keep it from being seized by Russian forces.

Oleksii Reznikov said on Facebook that the commander of the frigate Hetman Sahaidachny decided to flood the ship.

Ukraine’s state emergency agency issued mass text messages on Friday with advice on what to do in case of an explosion: Lie on the ground and cover your head with your hands; use available shelter; do not rush to leave the shelter; help the wounded; do not enter damaged buildings.

A woman and child look on as they flee towards Poland, in the train station in Lviv, March 5, 2022

A woman and child look on as they flee towards Poland, in the train station in Lviv, March 5, 2022

Sparks erupt from an administration building (bottom right) as a live steam video shot from a larger office block behind it films Russian tanks opening fire on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the early hours of Friday morning

Sparks erupt from an administration building (bottom right) as a live steam video shot from a larger office block behind it films Russian tanks opening fire on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the early hours of Friday morning

Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the UN's nuclear energy watchdog, outlines where the building that caught fire was in relation to the six reactors at Zaporizhzhia

Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the UN’s nuclear energy watchdog, outlines where the building that caught fire was in relation to the six reactors at Zaporizhzhia

As fears of a nuclear disaster continue, Russian planes also bombed a thermal power plant in Okhtyrka (pictured), 220 miles east of Kyiv, on Friday

As fears of a nuclear disaster continue, Russian planes also bombed a thermal power plant in Okhtyrka (pictured), 220 miles east of Kyiv, on Friday

Russian armoured vehicles and troops attacked the nuclear power plant in the early hours of Friday, shooting and shelling guards holed up in administrative buildings near the nuclear reactors - setting one of them on fire

Russian armoured vehicles and troops attacked the nuclear power plant in the early hours of Friday, shooting and shelling guards holed up in administrative buildings near the nuclear reactors – setting one of them on fire

Fire-damaged buildings at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex are pictured on Friday morning after coming under attack by Russian forces overnight, leading to international condemnation

Fire-damaged buildings at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex are pictured on Friday morning after coming under attack by Russian forces overnight, leading to international condemnation 

In the early hours of Friday, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was attacked. A damaged Russian attack vehicle is seen outside the power plant

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire that broke out inside a training complex

In the early hours of Friday, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was attacked. A damaged Russian attack vehicle is seen outside the power plant (left) while firefighters work to extinguish a fire that broke out inside a training complex (right)

Overall, the outnumbered, outgunned Ukrainians have put up stiff resistance, staving off the swift victory that Russia appeared to have expected.

But Russia’s seizure of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 gives it a logistical advantage now in the country’s south, with shorter supply lines that smoothed the offensive there, said a senior US defence official.

Ukrainian leaders called on the people to defend their homeland by cutting down trees, erecting barricades in the cities and attacking enemy columns from the rear.

In recent days, authorities have issued weapons to civilians and taught them how to make Molotov cocktails.

As the Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met in Belarus on Thursday, Putin warned in a call with Macron that Ukraine must quickly accept the Kremlin’s demand for its ‘demilitarisation’ and declare itself neutral, renouncing its bid to join NATO.

The two sides said they tentatively agreed to allow cease-fires in areas designated safe corridors, and that they would seek to work out the necessary details quickly.

A Zelensky adviser also said a third round of talks will be held early next week.

The Pentagon set up a direct communication link to Russia’s ministry of defence earlier this week to avoid the possibility of a miscalculation sparking conflict between Moscow and Washington.  

A military quagmire, Putin ousted or Russian victory: Experts outline five ways the Ukraine war could go, 10 days into Putin’s invasion 

Ten days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin shows no sign of pulling back.

This morning Russia’s defence ministry declared a ceasefire for the ‘opening of humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave Mariupol and Volnovakha’ expected to have started from 10am Moscow time (7am GMT). 

Distressing images from the scene continue to emerge, including an image of a baby being rescued from the scene of a brutal attack near Kyiv, while other photos showed a terrified woman walking past a burning house after Irpin was pounded by Kremlin forces.

Russia is continuing to advance in southern Ukraine, with Mariupol under bombardment and Odessa and Mykolaiv under threat. Chernihiv, in the north, and Kharkiv, in the east, continue to come under heavy bombardment. The capital Kyiv is also under threat, though Ukrainian counter-attacks took out some Russian forces early on Friday

Russia shows the movement of its forces in Kyiv region. Troops invaded on February 24 and have continued with brutal attacks

Russia shows the movement of its forces in Kyiv region. Troops invaded on February 24 and have continued with brutal attacks

Russia's forces pictured in Kyiv. After Ukraine, some speculate that Putin might also be eyeing Moldova, a former Soviet state wedged between Ukraine and Romania

Russia’s forces pictured in Kyiv. After Ukraine, some speculate that Putin might also be eyeing Moldova, a former Soviet state wedged between Ukraine and Romania

Despite this Putin is insisting that Russia is not bombing Ukrainian cities, amid mounting fears that 100 people are buried under rubble after an apartment block near Kyiv was struck and after a cluster bomb attack on the city of Chernihiv killed 49. 

Here are possible scenarios for the weeks and months ahead, according to Western government sources and think-tank experts. 

Military quagmire

Ukrainian forces have resisted Russia’s invasion so far, defeating an attempt by paratroopers to seize the capital in the opening days and keeping control over major cities such as Kharkiv and Mariupol.

Although Russia claims it has full air superiority, Ukraine’s air defences around the capital Kyiv and in other areas appear to be degraded but still working, Western officials say.

‘That’s caused them so many problems,’ a European source told reporters yesterday on condition of anonymity.

Vast numbers of Ukrainians have also joined territorial defence units and questions remain about the morale of the Russian army and its logistical support.

Ten days into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, President Vladimir Putin (pictured) shows no sign of pulling back

Ten days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, President Vladimir Putin (pictured) shows no sign of pulling back

Backed by Western intelligence and a flow of anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles, Ukraine’s troops might be able to hold out in the capital and force some sort of military stalemate.

Deepening Western sanctions that are strangling the Russian economy might force Putin to change his calculations. 

This week Samuel Charap from the RAND Corporation, a US think-tank, wrote: ‘The West could leverage some sanctions to push Putin to abandon his core war aim of decapitating the Ukrainian government and installing a pro-Russian puppet.’ 

Pressure from Beijing, increasingly a Kremlin ally under President Xi Jinping, might also be necessary. 

Domestic Russian change

Russian President Vladimir Putin is keeping a close eye on domestic dissent.

A crackdown on independent media and foreign news providers has removed alternative sources of information about the war, cementing the grip of the ultra-loyal Russian state media.

Nevertheless, small anti-war demonstrations have taken place in cities from Saint Petersburg to Moscow, with at least 6,000 people arrested, according to local rights groups.

There are also signs of cracks in the ruling elite, with some oligarchs, MPs, and even private oil group Lukoil calling openly for a ceasefire or an end to fighting.

A woman reacts as she stands in front of a house burning after being shelled in the city of Irpin, outside Kyiv yesterday

A woman reacts as she stands in front of a house burning after being shelled in the city of Irpin, outside Kyiv yesterday 

Russian policemen detain a protester during rally against Russia entering troops into Ukraine in St Petersburg, Russia, yesterday

Russian policemen detain a protester during rally against Russia entering troops into Ukraine in St Petersburg, Russia, yesterday

Though not seen as likely at this stage, the possibility of Putin being brought down in a popular backlash or even a palace coup is not being ruled out.

‘His personal security is very good and it will be very good until the moment it isn’t,’ said Eliot A. Cohen from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think-tank.

‘That’s happened numerous times in Soviet and Russian history.’

Russian military success

Given Russian troops’ superior weapons, air power and devastating use of artillery, Western defence analysts expect them to continue grinding forward.

A huge convoy of vehicles has been assembled outside of Kyiv ahead of what is expected to be an assault on the capital.

French President Emmanuel Macron concluded that ‘the worst is still to come’ after a call with Putin on Thursday morning.

A Ukrainian soldier was pictured rescuing a tiny baby from a scene of total devastation in Irpin, including what appeared to be a bombed-out bridge

A Ukrainian soldier was pictured rescuing a tiny baby from a scene of total devastation in Irpin, including what appeared to be a bombed-out bridge

Pictured, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. Distressing images from the scene continue to emerge

Pictured, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. Distressing images from the scene continue to emerge

Putin wants ‘to seize control of the whole of Ukraine’, an aide told reporters afterwards.

But even if Russian troops depose Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and overrun Ukraine’s resistance elsewhere, Putin would then face the challenge of occupying a nation of 40 million.

Lawrence Freedman, a British warfare historian and King’s College London professor, wrote on Substack this week: ‘Getting into a city is not the same as holding it.’

Conflict spreads

Ukraine has a border with four former Soviet states that are now members of the US-led NATO military alliance, which considers an attack on one member to be an attack against all.

Putin’s nostalgia for the Soviet Union and his pledge to protect Russian minorities – which are found in the Baltic States – has left an open question about his territorial ambitions.

After Ukraine, some speculate that Putin might also be eyeing Moldova, a former Soviet state wedged between Ukraine and Romania.

Workers pictured yesterday clearing the debris of a school building destroyed by shelling, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine

Workers pictured yesterday clearing the debris of a school building destroyed by shelling, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine

Few expect Putin to openly attack a NATO member, which would run the risk of nuclear war, but other provocations are possible.

‘Neutral Sweden is keeping a watchful eye on Russia’s intentions towards the Gotland island in the Baltic Sea,’ wrote analyst Bruno Tertrais for the Montaigne Institute, a French think-tank.

Charap warned of the ‘risks of an accident, incident, or miscalculation that spirals into a NATO-Russia war’, with anything from a stray missile to cyberattacks providing the spark. 

NATO confrontation

This was always thought to be impossible because of the nuclear weapons’ mutual guarantee of destruction.

The US and Russia have opened up a so-called ‘deconfliction line’ over which they can exchange military information quickly to reduce the chances of a misunderstanding.

The same method is employed in Syria, where US and Russian forces have been active on opposite sides of the country’s civil war since 2015.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, pictured, has warned that a third world war can 'only be a nuclear' one

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, pictured, has warned that a third world war can ‘only be a nuclear’ one

But Putin has ordered Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces onto high alert and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that ‘World War Three can only be a nuclear war’.

Western analysts say such warnings should be taken as posturing to deter the United States and Europe from considering ideas such as a ‘no-fly zone’ over Ukraine.

Gustav Gressel, an expert on missile defence at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said: ‘These announcements are predominately addressed to a Western audience to make us fear and our societies insecure.’They use nuclear deterrence as a form of information operation. There’s no substance.’ 

The innocent victims slaughtered as they tried to flee Ukraine Source link The innocent victims slaughtered as they tried to flee Ukraine

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