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Ukraine war: Guests on Russian state TV describe the invasion as like ‘Afghanistan, but even worse’

Russians were given a glimpse of the truth about the war on Ukraine last night as guests on one of the country’s most-popular state TV broadcasts risked the wrath of Vladimir Putin to denounce the invasion as ‘worse’ than the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which helped bring down the Soviet Union.

Semyond Bagdasarov, an academic, used an appearance on Russia 1’s prime time talk show ‘An Evening with Vladimir Soloviev’ – a man referred to as Putin’s propagandist-in-chief – to call on the Russian president to end the attack, while warning allies like China and India could soon turn their backs on Moscow.

‘Do we need to get into another Afghanistan, but even worse? There are more people and they’re more advanced in their weapon handling’, he said, ‘We don’t need that. Enough already.’ 

He then added: ‘If this picture starts to transform into an absolute humanitarian disaster, even our close allies like China and India will be forced to distance themselves from us. ‘This public opinion, with which they’re saturating the entire world, can play out badly for us… Ending this operation will stabilise things within the country.’ 

Karen Shakhnazarov, a filmmaker and state pundit, also sought to bust the Kremlin’s narrative that it is conducting a limited ‘special operation’ in the Donbass region by referencing attacks on the capital of Kyiv – which is located hundreds of miles away.

‘I have a hard time imagining taking cities such as Kyiv. I can’t imagine how that would look,’ he said, even as Putin’s troops close in on the capital and launch attacks into the outskirts.   

The pair spoke out despite the Russian government last week passing laws that threaten 15 years in jail for anyone publishing ‘fake news’ about the war – though the definition of ‘fake’ is set by the Russian government itself, meaning any an all criticism of the Kremlin’s actions is likely to be classed as such.

Almost all independent media in Russia have closed down since the bill became law, fearing a crackdown on dissent. It means citizens looking for information on the war are forced to turn to state-controlled media, which has been pumping out disinformation about it being a ‘special military operation’ to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine. 

It came as… 

  • Russian troops in Ukraine have been issued gas masks as chemical warfare equipment is seized from captured troops amid warnings from the West that Putin will launch a gas attack
  • A 40-mile Russian ‘death convoy’ that had been stalled to the north of Kyiv has begun moving towards the capital, satellite images reveal, with rocket artillery taking up firing positions as what is sure to be a long and bloody battle for control of the city enters its early stages
  • Another two million people are set to flee Ukraine within days – raising pressure on Britain to welcome more refugees 
  • The Government will unveil a hotline and webpage where individuals, charities, businesses and community groups will be able to offer rooms to those escaping the conflict

Semyon Bagdasarov

Karen Shakhnazarov (left) and Semyon Bagdasarov (right) appeared on a Russian prime time show, appearing to challenge the state’s narrative, in the programme hosted by Putin’s ‘propagandist-in-chief’ Vladimir Soloviev

A destroyed Russian tank is seen after battles on a main road near Brovary, north of Kyiv, March 10, 2022

A destroyed Russian tank is seen after battles on a main road near Brovary, north of Kyiv, March 10, 2022

Pictured, the air defence units of the Ukrainian Forces shot down another Russian Su-25 attack aircraft, in Volnovakha as the conflict continues

Pictured, the air defence units of the Ukrainian Forces shot down another Russian Su-25 attack aircraft, in Volnovakha as the conflict continues

Guests on Russian state television have called the Ukraine war 'even worse than Afghanistan' in the 1980s

Guests on Russian state television have called the Ukraine war ‘even worse than Afghanistan’ in the 1980s

Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022

Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022

Putin attends a videoconference meeting with Government members at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 10, 2022

Putin attends a videoconference meeting with Government members at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 10, 2022

Here’s how YOU can help: Donate here to the Mail Force Ukraine Appeal

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

Calling upon that human spirit, we are supporting a huge push 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 the bombs and guns.

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

Donations to the Mail Force Ukraine Appeal will be used to help 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.

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The information war escalated on Thursday, with Moscow shifting its stance over the bombing of a hospital in the city of Mariupol with a mix of statements on Thursday that veered between aggressive denials and a call by the Kremlin to establish clear facts.

Volodymyr Zelensky said three people including a child had been killed in the bombing on Wednesday, and rejected Russian assertions there had been no patients there.

‘Like always, they lie confidently,’ said Zelensky, who has accused Moscow of waging genocide in the war it launched two weeks ago.

In the face of worldwide condemnation there were rare signs of inconsistency in the response from Russian officials, who since the start of Moscow’s invasion on February 24 have stuck tightly to the same narrative for what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked for comment in the immediate aftermath, told Reuters on Wednesday: ‘Russian forces do not fire on civilian targets.’ On Thursday he said the Kremlin would look into the incident.

Other Russian officials took a more aggressive line, rejecting the hospital bombing as fake news. ‘This is information terrorism,’ foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

The Defence Ministry later denied having bombed the hospital, accusing Ukraine of staging the incident. It said Russian forces at the time had been respecting an agreement to hold fire to allow the evacuation of civilians.

‘Russian aviation carried out absolutely no strikes on ground targets in the area,’ spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. ‘The alleged air strike was completely a staged provocation… that can deceive the Western public but not an expert.’

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attacked what he called ‘pathetic shouting about so-called atrocities by the Russian armed forces’.

He told reporters after meeting Ukraine’s foreign minister in Turkey that the hospital building had for days been under the control of ultra-radical Ukrainian forces who had emptied out the doctors and patients – the version rejected by Zelensky as a lie.

On Wednesday, the United States denied renewed Russian accusations that Washington was operating biowarfare labs in Ukraine, calling the claims ‘laughable’.

During a televised meeting with Kremlin officials on Thursday, Putin addressed the Western sanctions that have caused the ruble to crash and led many major companies to leave Russia.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said today that Ukraine's capital city has been 'turned into a fortress' ahead of the Russian assault, with about 2 million people - half the residents of the metro area of the capital - having fled as Putin's troops draw ever closer

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said today that Ukraine’s capital city has been ‘turned into a fortress’ ahead of the Russian assault, with about 2 million people – half the residents of the metro area of the capital – having fled as Putin’s troops draw ever closer

A child wait to be evacuated from the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 202

A child wait to be evacuated from the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 202

Kyiv's northwest suburbs such as Irpin and Bucha have been enduring shellfire and bombardments for more than a week, prompting a mass evacuation effort (Ukrainian soldier hugs his wife evacuating Irpin, north of Kyiv)

Kyiv’s northwest suburbs such as Irpin and Bucha have been enduring shellfire and bombardments for more than a week, prompting a mass evacuation effort (Ukrainian soldier hugs his wife evacuating Irpin, north of Kyiv)

A Russian armoured vehicle sits by the side of the road in Brovary, to the east of Kyiv, after being destroyed in an artillery and rocket ambush that caused heavy casualties

A Russian armoured vehicle sits by the side of the road in Brovary, to the east of Kyiv, after being destroyed in an artillery and rocket ambush that caused heavy casualties

Ukrainian servicemen walk in front of a Russian tank that they captured after fighting, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, outside Brovary near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022

Ukrainian servicemen walk in front of a Russian tank that they captured after fighting, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, outside Brovary near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022

Ukrainian servicemen drive off in a Russian tank they captured after fighting with Russian troops, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, outside Brovary, near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022

Ukrainian servicemen drive off in a Russian tank they captured after fighting with Russian troops, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, outside Brovary, near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022

‘The pressure of sanctions has always been there. Yes, of course, now it is complex and creates certain challenges, problems, difficulties for us. But just as we overcame these difficulties in the previous years, we will overcome them now. We must go through this period. The economy will certainly adapt to the new situation’, the Russian despot said.

The list of companies that have stopped operating in Russia grew Thursday, with German fashion brand Hugo Boss temporarily closing its stores and US-based hotel chains Hilton and Marriott closing their Moscow offices, though their Russian hotels are owned and operated by franchisees and will stay open.

The Walt Disney Company said that in addition to pausing film releases in Russia, as previously announced, it was also ‘taking steps to pause all other businesses’ there.

Goldman Sachs said it would close its operations in Russia entirely, making it the first major Wall Street bank to do so since Russia invaded Ukraine. 

And JPMorgan Chase said it was ‘unwinding’ its Russian banking business.

Meanwhile, Twitter launched a privacy-protected version of its site to bypass surveillance and censorship after Russia restricted access to its service in the country.

Transcript: Guests defy Russian state television President Putin’s propaganda and criticise the war in Ukraine 

Karen Shakhnazarov

‘The Ukraine situation paints a horrifying picture and it needs to be understood that it’s playing a huge role on our collective morality.

‘Ukraine, which ever you look at it or how you feel, has tens of thousands of human links. This moment of suffering of innocent people is not compensated by the suffering of other innocent people…If we look at the situation practically, the way I see it – I may be wrong – but the way I see it there are three ways this could go.

‘One, ideally, in the week our forces surround…they surrender, we take cities without huge losses for us and without big losses of civilians. Ukraine surrenders.

‘This territory of east Ukraine self-governs independently, becomes independent and creates a new government. This is the ideal variant and it’s entirely possible this was the proposed initial one but as they, not everything went, it appears, to plan…We accomplish those two goals, the way I understand – I’m no specialist but this is what the President talks about along with military specialists, if the figures really do align with the reality – the destruction of Ukraine’s structure, demilitarisation, the liberation of Donbas, and after that, the end of the military operation, or the end of the military part of the operation…denazification doesn’t seem realistic here.

‘I’m against Nazism with all my soul but I don’t see how it can happen here. It’s such a big country, you’d need 1.5 million soldiers to control everything.

‘Moreover, I don’t see a big political force which would consolidate Ukraine for Russia. I’m elderly, I remember Czechoslovakia, when we sent troops, I remember Afghanistan, I have to say in both those cases there was a strong force…Afghanistan – there was also a communist party.

‘A relatively strong one which also became our ally. Today unfortunately I don’t see that kind of political force in Ukraine. And those in masses who are supportive of Russia – I don’t know.

‘It seems everything is now how we’d like to see it. Basically, in this instance the most important thing in this scenario is to stop our military action. Others will say that sanctions will remain.

‘Yes, they will remain, but in my opinion discontinuing the active phase of a military operation is very important.’

Semyond Bagdasarov

‘May I remind you that Iran, until 1978, and before the Islamic Revolution, in one day delivered around six to seven barrels of oil in 24 hours.

‘That’s the level they were at…All that oil will go to replace our oil. We by the way are delivering just about 10 million barrels per day, it’s not a huge difference…Iran could replace us and Americans would gladly take it.

‘Unlike Trump, Biden wouldn’t refuse trading with them. (57:22) That’s what could happen but we will suffer. We say China says everything is OK…tomorrow they’ll put in a system which they had with Iran.

‘They’ll say, without question you’re an independent state, but between your companies and markets, which one will they choose…Now about Ukraine. I agree with Karen…We had prior experiences of bringing in our troops, destroying the military infrastructure and leaving.

‘I think that our army fulfilled their task of demilitarization of the country by destroying most of their military installations… To restore their military they will need at least 10 years…Let Ukrainians do this denazification on their own. We can’t do it for them… As for their neutrality, yes, we should squeeze it out of them, and that’s it.

‘We don’t need to stay there longer than necessary (1:02:45) Do we need to get into another Afghanistan, but even worse? There are more people and they’re more advanced in their handling of weapons. We don’t need that. Enough already… As for the sanctions, the world has never seen such massive sanctions.’

Putin’s ‘convoy of death’ targets Kyiv: Forty-mile column moves into ‘attack positions’ near capital as Ukraine says Russian forces are killing MORE civilians than soldiers in sledgehammer assault on cities 

By Chris Pleasance for MailOnline and James Gordon for Dailymail.com

A 40-mile Russian ‘death convoy’ that had been stalled to the north of Kyiv has begun moving towards the capital, satellite images reveal, with rocket artillery taking up firing positions as what is sure to be a long and bloody battle for control of the city enters its early stages.   

Vladimir Putin’s forces are now attacking to the north, west and east of Kyiv, Ukrainian commanders say, as the convoy – which had been stuck for two weeks due to fuel and logistical issues – gets moving again – dispersing to take up firing positions or else concealing itself in civilian areas and forests to prevent attacks. 

Ukraine believes the capital – which is currently home to around 2million people – could soon be surrounded, after which it faces the same punishing fate meted out to the cities of Mariupol, which has been without water or power for 11 days, Kharkiv, and Sumy, where thousands of civilians have been killed.

Here’s how YOU can help: Donate here to the Mail Force Ukraine Appeal

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

Calling upon that human spirit, we are supporting a huge push 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 the bombs and guns.

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

Donations to the Mail Force Ukraine Appeal will be used to help 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

US readers can donate to the appeal via a bank transfer to Associated Newspapers or by sending checks to dailymail.com HQ at 51 Astor Place (9th floor), New York, NY 1000

Territorial defence units, charged with protecting the city, were pictured digging trenches there and setting up barricades, as mayor Vitali Kitschko said the capital has been turned into a ‘fortress’. 

Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, said Russia’s attacks have now killed more civilians than soldiers after generals switched tactics from American-style ‘shock and awe’ precision strikes – which largely failed due to poor battlefield tactics – to ‘medieval’-style siege warfare of the kind Moscow’s men waged in Syria.

Airstrikes early Friday struck the cities of Dnipro, in central Ukraine, Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, in the west, which have largely been spared attacks. The strike on Dnipro hit civilian areas including a shoe factory, killing at least one person. The bombings in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk are thought to have targeted military airports – mirroring attacks in the early days of the war. Two soldiers were killed.

Strikes on Kharkiv, a surrounded city in the north east of Ukraine, hit the Physics Institute which houses a nuclear reactor – drawing accusations from Ukraine that Russia is committing ‘nuclear terrorism’. It comes after Putin’s forces also attacked the nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia, further to the south.  

Comparisons with Russia’s assault on Syria are particularly chilling, because of the brutal punishment meted out to cities such as Aleppo which was all-but levelled by Russian artillery which killed thousands of innocents. Bashar al-Assad’s forces also used chemical weapons on civilian targets during that campaign, most notably in Ghouta in 2013 and Khan Shakhun in 2017.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, giving a late-night address to his people on Thursday, confessed to fears that Russia itself is now preparing to use chemical weapons in Ukraine – having accused the Ukrainian government of preparing such an attack.

‘We have found if you want to find out Russia’s plans, you should look at what Russia is accusing others of,’ he said, pointing out that ahead of Putin giving the order to invade Ukraine, the Kremlin accused Ukraine of preparing an attack against Russia.

‘We’re the ones being blamed, as if we’ve attacked a peaceful Russia. And what now,’ he asked in an emotional late-night address. ‘What does it mean, that we’re being accused of preparing chemical attacks? Have you decided to conduct a dechemicalisation of Ukraine? With what? With ammonia? With phosphorus? 

‘What else have you prepared for us? What do you plan to hit with chemical weapons? A maternity hospital in Maripul? A church in Kharkiv? A children’s hospital?’ 

US intelligence said Russian forces had made gains elsewhere to the west of Kyiv and had inched three miles closer to the city centre. Tanks are now nine miles from the central government district, the Pentagon said late Thursday, having been 13 miles out previously. 

Putin’s men are now facing a long and bloody mission to try and take the capital, which is thought to be the main target of their ‘special military operation’ – with the goal being to topple the government and install a puppet regime friendly to Moscow. 

Russia has convened a UN security council meeting today to discuss what it claims are threats from Ukrainian chemical weapons. Should Russia decide to deploy WMDs, it is unclear where the attack would take place.

Moscow is officially committed to destroying its chemical weapons stockpiles under various international treaties, and has not used the weapons in combat for decades. The Soviets were last accused of using them during the invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

However, the Kremlin is known to have maintained an illegal chemical weapons programme which it has used to attack political opponents. Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, was used in the failed assassination attempt on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the UK in 2018. It was also used in a failed attack on Alexei Navalny in 2020.

This satellite image from Thursday provided by Maxar Technologies shows resupply trucks and multiple probable rocket launchers in firing position, in Berestyanka, Ukraine

This satellite image from Thursday provided by Maxar Technologies shows resupply trucks and multiple probable rocket launchers in firing position, in Berestyanka, Ukraine

Satellite images shows troops and equipment deployed in trees and towed artillery in firing position, northwest of Antonov Airport in Lubyanka, Ukraine

Satellite images shows troops and equipment deployed in trees and towed artillery in firing position, northwest of Antonov Airport in Lubyanka, Ukraine 

The new satellite images provided by Maxar on Thursday also show armored units maneuvering in and through towns close to Antonov airport northwest of the Ukrainian capital

The new satellite images provided by Maxar on Thursday also show armored units maneuvering in and through towns close to Antonov airport northwest of the Ukrainian capital

Initially, the 40-mile line of vehicles, tanks and artillery had stalled outside Kyiv but as of Thursday, parts of the convoy have now 'repositioned' into the woods and dispersed

Initially, the 40-mile line of vehicles, tanks and artillery had stalled outside Kyiv but as of Thursday, parts of the convoy have now ‘repositioned’ into the woods and dispersed

A handout satellite image made available by Maxar Technologies shows equipment and trucks convoy, southeast of Ivankiv, Ukraine, 10 March 2022

A handout satellite image made available by Maxar Technologies shows equipment and trucks convoy, southeast of Ivankiv, Ukraine, 10 March 2022

On February 28, a string of Russian vehicles could be seen stretching for 40 miles north of the capital

On February 28, a string of Russian vehicles could be seen stretching for 40 miles north of the capital 

Ukraine war: The latest

  • Kyiv may soon be encircled with Russian forces moving on areas north and west of the capital, the Ukrainian military says
  • Volodymyr Zelensky says trucks carrying food and medicine to the besieged city of Mariupol – without water and power for 11 days – were attacked by Russian tanks 
  • Russia claims deadly bomb attack on Mariupol’s children hospital was ‘staged’ by Ukraine
  • A kindergarten and an apartment block are hit in the first air strikes on the city of Dnipro
  • Ukraine says at least 71 children have been killed and more than 100 wounded
  • Zelensky says about 100,000 people have evacuated from areas surrounding Kyiv, Sumy and Izyum
  • Ukrainian military says fighting is raging for control of the northern city of Chernihiv and Kharkiv and Severodonetsk, in the east
  • Moscow promises to open humanitarian corridors every day to allow Ukrainians to flee, but Kyiv has rejected routes leading into Russia or its ally Belarus
  • UN Security Council will meet Friday after Russia says biological weapons are being developed in Ukraine, in what is feared to be pre-text for a potential use of the weapons by Moscow
  • US and Europe could impose additional penalties on Moscow because ‘the atrocities that they’re committing against civilians seem to be intensifying’
  • White House says any decision by Moscow to seize assets of US or international companies ‘will ultimately result in more economic pain for Moscow’
  • European Union leaders tell Ukraine there is no fast way to join the bloc, 
  • N says more than 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine – more than half to Poland
  • Asian stock tumble with Tokyo falling more than two percent and the yen hitting a five-year low
  • US investment bank Goldman Sachs pulls out of Russia, the first Wall Street institution to do so 

The so-called ‘death convoy’ originated in Belarus and had been making its way south towards Kyiv. 

It had massed outside the city early last week, but its advance appeared to have stalled amid reports of food and fuel shortages. 

U.S. officials said Ukrainian troops also targeted the convoy with anti-tank missiles.

It’s believed the convoy consisted of fuel tankers and trucks carrying food and ammunition together with an estimated 15,000 troops.

But images on social media over the past several days showed Russian tanks and military vehicles sitting idle, or even destroyed on the side of roads. 

In earlier images, the units in the convoy were seen to be traveling two or three across the road while in other sections, they were spaced out. 

Senior U.S. defense officials say Ukrainian troops were targeting the convoy with ground fire, including shoulder-fired Javelin anti-tank missiles that had been provided by Western allies.

Simply striking the vehicles at the front of the convoy created significant delays as they proved difficult to move and essentially created their own roadblock.  

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Russians appear not to have anticipated such difficulties or the strength of Ukrainian resistance.  

Western leaders had originally feared that the sudden influx of ground forces would descend rapidly on Kyiv, directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, to topple the government and install a new Kremlin-friendly regime.

Intelligence agencies also speculated that the convoy might have been attempting to encircle Kyiv in order to place the city under siege and cut off  supplies and escape routes.

Russian forces were continuing their offensive toward Kyiv from the northwest and east, notably trying to break through Ukrainian defences from Kukhari, 56 miles to the northwest, through to Demidov, 25 miles north of Kyiv, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said in a statement.

He said Russian troops had been halted in efforts to take the northern city of Chernihiv, notably by Ukraine’s retaking of the town of Baklanova Muraviika, which Russian troops could use to move toward Kyiv.

Russian forces are blockading Kharkiv and pushing their offensive in the south around Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia and Kryvyi Rih, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s home town.

Rough weather on the Azov and Black Seas has stalled Russian ships’ efforts to come ashore, the general staff said.

Three Russian airstrikes hit the important industrial city of Dnipro in eastern Ukraine on Friday, killing at least one person in strikes that hit near a kindergarten and apartment buildings, according to interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko.

One strike hit a shoe factory, sparking a fire, he said. He released video showing flashes over residential areas of the city, home to nearly one million people. 

A US defence official said Russian forces moving toward Kyiv had advanced about three miles in the past 24 hours, with some elements as close as nine miles from the city.

The official gave no indication that the convoy had dispersed or otherwise repositioned in a significant way, saying some vehicles were seen moving off the road into the tree line in recent days.

In Mariupol, a southern seaport of 430,000, the situation was increasingly dire as civilians trapped inside the city scrounged for food and fuel.

More than 1,300 people have died in the 10-day siege of the city, according to deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Residents have no heat or phone service, and many have no electricity. Night-time temperatures are regularly below freezing, and daytime ones normally hover just above it. Bodies are being buried in mass graves. The streets are littered with burned-out cars, broken glass and splintered trees.

‘They have a clear order to hold Mariupol hostage, to mock it, to constantly bomb and shell it,’ Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address to the nation.

Repeated attempts to send in food and medicine and evacuate civilians have been thwarted by Russian shelling, Ukrainian authorities said.

The number of refugees fleeing the country topped 2.3 million, and some 100,000 people have been evacuated during the past two days from seven cities under Russian blockade in the north and centre of the country, including the Kyiv suburbs, Mr Zelensky said.

He told Russian leaders that the invasion will backfire on them as their economy is strangled.

Western sanctions have already dealt a severe blow, causing the rouble to plunge, foreign businesses to flee and prices to rise sharply.

‘You will definitely be prosecuted for complicity in war crimes,’ Mr Zelensky said in a video address, warning that ‘you will be hated by Russian citizens’.

Russian president Vladimir Putin dismissed such talk, saying the country has endured sanctions before.

‘We will overcome them,’ he said at a televised meeting of government officials. He did, however, acknowledge the sanctions create ‘certain challenges’.

In addition to those who have fled the country, millions have been driven from their homes inside Ukraine. Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said about two million people, half the population of the metropolitan area, have left the capital.

‘Every street, every house… is being fortified,’ he said. ‘Even people who in their lives never intended to change their clothes, now they are in uniform with machine guns in their hands.’

Western officials said Russian forces have made little progress on the ground in recent days and are seeing heavier losses and stiffer Ukrainian resistance than Moscow apparently anticipated. But Mr Putin’s forces have used air power and artillery to pummel Ukraine’s cities.

Ukraine war: Guests on Russian state TV describe the invasion as like ‘Afghanistan, but even worse’ Source link Ukraine war: Guests on Russian state TV describe the invasion as like ‘Afghanistan, but even worse’

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