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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.

‘Every street, every house is being fortified, the territorial defence is joining,’ Klitschko said in a televised interview today.

‘Even people who in their lives never intended to change their clothes, now they are in uniform with machine guns in their hands.’ 

The battle for Kyiv is now underway as Russian tanks this morning pushed to within just a few miles of the city outskirts, analysts and witnesses said, though initial assaults to the west and east were repelled as Putin’s forces face a long and bloody campaign to try and take the capital.

Kremlin troops launched two attacks on Kyiv late Wednesday and earlier today – one via the besieged western city of Irpin and another through the eastern district of Brovary, with video showing the moment Russian tanks and armoured vehicles were bombarded with artillery in a devastating ambush and forced to turn back. 

Colonel Andrei Zakharov, commander of the tank regiment, was also killed in the ambush according to the Ukrainian defence ministry and radio chatter intercepted from Russians on the battlefield. The same transmissions suggested the column suffered heavy losses, with one tank and an armoured vehicle destroyed. 

It marks just the latest Russian commander to be killed in Ukraine, after two generals were slain by Kyiv’s troops. Colonel Zakharov had been awarded the Order of Courage by Vladimir Putin in 2016.  

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Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, said Ukrainian forces had also managed to stop the attack in Irpin and were counter-attacking on Thursday morning with battles underway. In an afternoon update, the military said it had foiled a Russian attempt to cross the Irpin River in the town of Moshchun.

‘The night was quite difficult, but in general we can say that the Ukrainian army counterattacked near Kyiv,’ he said. ‘There is no further detailed information yet.’ Fighting was also reported to the south west of Kyiv as Putin’s men continued their efforts to surround the city. 

It means the Russian mission to overwhelm the Ukrainian capital is now underway, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said, amid fears that devastating airstrikes on the city of Mariupol – which struck a maternity hospital killing three including a six-year-old girl – and Kharkiv could soon be seen in the capital.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is still in Kyiv, said Thursday that his ‘heart breaks at what the occupants have done with our cities, our country, and at what they want to do to our people’ who he said needed ‘urgent help.’

In the capital, troops were also warning civilians not to stray beyond the outskirts of the city, because Russian vehicles had been spotted just a few miles away. If Putin’s men can encircle Kyiv, they are expected to shell it as they have done with other cities such as Mariupol, Kharkiv and Chernihiv. 

Zelensky said seven humanitarian corridors were urgently being organised from bombarded cities to get civilians out and aid packages in, which were meeting with mixed success. 

Authorities managed to evacuate around 80,000 people from areas surrounding Kyiv and Sumy over the past two days alone, the Ukrainian government said today.

‘We have evacuated more than 60,000 people in two days’ from the northeastern city of Sumy and nearby places, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in Telegram, before adding ‘some 20,000 people have been evacuated’ from areas to the northwest of the capital Kyiv, with another 3,000 evacuated from Izyum to the east. 

However, there has been no relief for the people of hard-hit Mariupol, which has been under bombardment for more than a week with no food, water, or electricity.

On Wednesday, a Russian airstrike targeted a children’s hospital in Mariupol in the south, wounding at least 17 people. Mortuary workers were pictured putting corpses in body bags or carpets, taking them to the outskirts of the besieged port city, and then dumping them in mass graves.

A convoy was trying to reach the city today to bring supplies, but there was no word on whether it had managed to get through by early afternoon. Four previous attempts to bring relief to the city have failed, after Ukraine said Russia shelled the route it was intending to use.   

Shelling in Kharkiv overnight killed four people, two of them children, with a five-year-old girl injured and rushed to hospital. Emergency workers said they are still working to pull people from the rubble of houses in the town of Slobozhanske. Three people were also killed in shelling on the city of Sumy – two women and a 13-year-old boy. 

Bombs also fell on two hospitals in Zhytomyr west of the capital, the mayor said, as Russian forces intensified their siege of Ukrainian cities. 

Giving an update on the situation on the ground on Thursday, Ukraine’s military said Russian efforts to attack Kyiv had been ‘restrained’ with offensives also thwarted in the cities of Mykolayiv as Putin’s men try to push towards Kryvyi Rih – to the northeast and birthplace of the President – and Voznesensk – to the northwest.

Mariupol continues to be surrounded by Russian forces but is still in Ukrainian hands, officials said. They said Ukrainian fighter jets and anti-aircraft missile units destroyed four Russian Su-25 attack jet and two Russian helicopters over the past 48 hours. 

Kyiv estimates that Russia has lost some 12,000 troops in the fighting, along with 335 tanks, 1,100 armoured personnel carriers, 500 vehicles, 81 helicopters and 49 planes. Moscow has admitted suffering losses, but has not given an accurate figure.

There has been no word from Ukraine on casualties its military has suffered. Russia says it has destroyed more than 2,900 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities has has taken control of a number of neighbourhoods in besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Speaking about the Russian strike on the hospital in Mariupol, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday denied that any patients had been inside at the time – despite pictures showing pregnant women being taken out with injuries – and accused Ukrainian ‘extremists’ of occupying it.

In a stunning act of hypocrisy, he outright denied that Russia had attacked Ukraine and added that the Kremlin ‘does not intend to attack anyone else’ – raising fears that Putin does in fact aim to go beyond the borders of his ex-Soviet neighbour. Battle plans broadcast on TV by Belarus ally Alexander Lukashenko in the opening days of the war seemed to suggest that Moldova could be targeted.

He also vowed that Russia ‘will survive’ western sanctions on Putin’s regime, and ‘will do everything not to rely on the West ever, in any areas of our lives.’ He added: ‘We have no illusions the West can be a reliable partner, [it will] betray whoever, and will betray its own values.’  

A Russian tank column that attempted to move into the outskirts of the capital Kyiv on Wednesday, through the satellite city of Brovary, was ambushed by artillery and missile strikes

A Russian tank column that attempted to move into the outskirts of the capital Kyiv on Wednesday, through the satellite city of Brovary, was ambushed by artillery and missile strikes

A Russian tank column that attempted to move into the outskirts of the capital Kyiv on Wednesday, through the satellite city of Brovary, was ambushed by artillery and missile strikes 

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

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 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

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 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 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 gathered the personal belongings of the Russian soldiers they took from an armored personnel carrier (APC) they hit on March 10, 2022 near Brovary, Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen gathered the personal belongings of the Russian soldiers they took from an armored personnel carrier (APC) they hit on March 10, 2022 near Brovary, Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen gathered the personal belongings of the Russian soldiers they took from an armored personnel carrier (APC) they hit on March 10, 2022 near Brovary, Ukraine

Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022. - Russian forces on March 10, 2022 rolled their armoured vehicles up to the northeastern edge of Kyiv, edging closer in their attempts to encircle the Ukrainian capital

Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022. - Russian forces on March 10, 2022 rolled their armoured vehicles up to the northeastern edge of Kyiv, edging closer in their attempts to encircle the Ukrainian capital

Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022. – Russian forces on March 10, 2022 rolled their armoured vehicles up to the northeastern edge of Kyiv, edging closer in their attempts to encircle the Ukrainian capital

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

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

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)

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 man carries a baby as he crosses the Irpin river next to a destroyed bridge during evacuation from the Irpin town, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine March 10

A man carries a baby as he crosses the Irpin river next to a destroyed bridge during evacuation from the Irpin town, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine March 10

A man carries a baby as he crosses the Irpin river next to a destroyed bridge during evacuation from the Irpin town, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine March 10

Irpin, north of Kyiv, has been bombarded constantly for days and the town has suffered massive damage as a result

Irpin, north of Kyiv, has been bombarded constantly for days and the town has suffered massive damage as a result

Irpin, north of Kyiv, has been bombarded constantly for days and the town has suffered massive damage as a result

A destroyed Russian tank is seen abandoned by the side of the road in Brovary, to the east of Kyiv, as Putin's men try to push into the outskirts of the capital

A destroyed Russian tank is seen abandoned by the side of the road in Brovary, to the east of Kyiv, as Putin's men try to push into the outskirts of the capital

A destroyed Russian tank is seen abandoned by the side of the road in Brovary, to the east of Kyiv, as Putin’s men try to push into the outskirts of the capital

An aerial view of the destroyed Russian armoured vehicle abandoned on a highway in Brovary, east of Kyiv, after the convoy it was travelling in got struck by Ukrainian artillery

An aerial view of the destroyed Russian armoured vehicle abandoned on a highway in Brovary, east of Kyiv, after the convoy it was travelling in got struck by Ukrainian artillery

An aerial view of the destroyed Russian armoured vehicle abandoned on a highway in Brovary, east of Kyiv, after the convoy it was travelling in got struck by Ukrainian artillery

An aerial view of the Russian tank that was destroyed in an artillery ambush by Ukrainian forces in Brovary, near Kyiv

An aerial view of the Russian tank that was destroyed in an artillery ambush by Ukrainian forces in Brovary, near Kyiv

An aerial view of the Russian tank that was destroyed in an artillery ambush by Ukrainian forces in Brovary, near Kyiv

Damaged and destroyed Russian vehicles are seen after an armoured column was attacked by Ukrainian artillery at Brovary, on the outskirts of Kyiv, and forced to retreat

Damaged and destroyed Russian vehicles are seen after an armoured column was attacked by Ukrainian artillery at Brovary, on the outskirts of Kyiv, and forced to retreat

Damaged and destroyed Russian vehicles are seen after an armoured column was attacked by Ukrainian artillery at Brovary, on the outskirts of Kyiv, and forced to retreat

Analysts believe the Russian assault on Kyiv is now underway, as troops massed in both the west and east try to push into the city limits - with missions also underway to surround the capital from the south west

Analysts believe the Russian assault on Kyiv is now underway, as troops massed in both the west and east try to push into the city limits - with missions also underway to surround the capital from the south west

Analysts believe the Russian assault on Kyiv is now underway, as troops massed in both the west and east try to push into the city limits – with missions also underway to surround the capital from the south west

Colonel Andrei Zakharov (right, receiving the Order of Courage from Vladimir Putin in 2016) was killed in the Ukrainian ambush, according to the country's defence ministry

Colonel Andrei Zakharov (right, receiving the Order of Courage from Vladimir Putin in 2016) was killed in the Ukrainian ambush, according to the country's defence ministry

Colonel Andrei Zakharov (right, receiving the Order of Courage from Vladimir Putin in 2016) was killed in the Ukrainian ambush, according to the country’s defence ministry

Dramatic new footage from Wednesday morning shows Kremlin ‘peacekeeping’ tanks driving through the town of Irpin

Dramatic new footage from Wednesday morning shows Kremlin ‘peacekeeping’ tanks driving through the town of Irpin

Dramatic new footage from Wednesday morning shows Kremlin ‘peacekeeping’ tanks driving through the town of Irpin

Footage filmed by the Ukrainian military on Tuesday and released today shows attacks on Russian armoured vehicles in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, as Putin's forces try to push into the capital

Footage filmed by the Ukrainian military on Tuesday and released today shows attacks on Russian armoured vehicles in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, as Putin's forces try to push into the capital

Footage filmed by the Ukrainian military on Tuesday and released today shows attacks on Russian armoured vehicles in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, as Putin’s forces try to push into the capital

A Ukrainian serviceman aims towards Russian positions outside the city of Brovary, east of Kyiv

A Ukrainian serviceman aims towards Russian positions outside the city of Brovary, east of Kyiv

A Ukrainian serviceman aims towards Russian positions outside the city of Brovary, east of Kyiv

Ukraine has rejected most Russian evacuation routes because they lead to Russian soil or that of its ally, Belarus, while routes that Ukraine has proposed have come under bombardment. The only successful evacuation to take place so far has been from Sumy to Poltava (in green)

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol

A woman injured in Russian shelling of Mariupol's maternity hospital stands outside wrapped in a blanket amid the carnage

A woman injured in Russian shelling of Mariupol's maternity hospital stands outside wrapped in a blanket amid the carnage

A woman injured in Russian shelling of Mariupol’s maternity hospital stands outside wrapped in a blanket amid the carnage

A doctor navigates the ward of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, southern Ukraine, after it was destroyed by Russian bombs

A doctor navigates the ward of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, southern Ukraine, after it was destroyed by Russian bombs

A doctor navigates the ward of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, southern Ukraine, after it was destroyed by Russian bombs

Explosions are seen on the skyline of Mariupol, southern Ukraine, as the city came under renewed bombardment today

Explosions are seen on the skyline of Mariupol, southern Ukraine, as the city came under renewed bombardment today

Explosions are seen on the skyline of Mariupol, southern Ukraine, as the city came under renewed bombardment today

Ukraine war: The latest 

Ukraine accuses Russia of a ‘war crime’ over a devastating attack on a children’s hospital

Some 1,207 civilians have been killed in the 10-day Russian siege on Mariupol, its mayor says

Red Cross calls situation in Mariupol ‘apocalyptic’ after more than a week without water, power or heat

35,000 civilians are evacuated from other Ukrainian cities during a 12-hour ceasefire

Fears are mounting Kyiv will also soon be encircled, with Russian tanks just a few miles away

Two women and a 13-year-old boy are killed overnight in bombing near Sumy overnight

Four people are killed in bombing on Kharkiv, with a five-year-old girl rushed to hospital wounded

US lawmakers pass a $14bn aid package for Ukraine with Canada pledging more military equipment

The International Monetary Fund approves $1.4 billion in emergency financing for Ukraine

The United States deploys two new Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries in Poland

Fearing a wider conflict, the Pentagon rejects a Polish offer to give MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine

Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are in Turkey to hold face-to-face talks

Britain calls on the G7 to ban Russian oil, but move is opposed by France, Germany, Italy and Japan

Nuclear watchdog says it is not receiving updates from either Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants, both of which are in Russian hands 

Washington rejects Russian claims it funded bioweapons research in Ukraine, and warns Russia could be about to use chemical or biological weapons itself

UN says at least 2.2 million people have fled Ukraine, with more than half now in Poland

Oil prices tumble while US and European and Asian stocks surge after days of market turmoil 

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Lavrov was speaking after talks with Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on the sidelines of a summit in Turkey, which ended without an agreement to stop the fighting.

Kuleba, speaking after the meeting, said Russia had demanded that Ukraine ‘surrender’ – which he said ‘we will not do’. Ukraine wants a diplomatic solution, he added, but is determined to keep fighting if needs be. 

Ukraine’s military warned on Wednesday that Russia is ‘not abandoning its plans to encircle’ Kyiv and that its ‘defence forces are repelling and holding back’ the offensive ‘in all directions’. 

The crisis in Ukraine is likely to get worse as Russian forces resort to increasingly brutal and indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas in response to stronger than expected resistance.  

CIA director William Burns on Tuesday said that Russian losses have been ‘far in excess’ of what Moscow expected, sparking fears that Putin’s generals will ramp up their ‘war of terror’ on innocent civilians and strike further non-military targets.

An official told The Times in London: ‘I think around Kyiv they are continuing to tighten the noose… this is definitely not over. They are still set on moving in. It’ll be utterly horrific when they do’.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said fighting continued northwest of the capital on Wednesday, with the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol being heavily pummelled by surrounding Russian forces.

Putin’s troops are placing military equipment on farms and amid residential buildings in the northern city of Chernihiv, Ukraine’s military said. In the south, Russians in civilian clothes are advancing on the city of Mykolaiv, a Black Sea shipbuilding centre of 500,000 people, it said.

The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, is building up defences in cities in the north, south and east, and forces around Kyiv are ‘holding the line’ against the Russian offensive, authorities said.

In Irpin, a town of 60,000, police officers and soldiers helped elderly residents from their homes. One man was hoisted out of a damaged structure on a makeshift stretcher, while another was pushed toward Kyiv in a shopping cart. Fleeing residents said they had been without power and water for the past four days.

Regional administration head Oleksiy Kuleba said the crisis for civilians is deepening in and around Kyiv, with the situation particularly dire in the suburbs.

‘Russia is artificially creating a humanitarian crisis in the Kyiv region, frustrating the evacuation of people and continuing shelling and bombing small communities,’ he said.

The situation is even worse in Mariupol, a strategic city of 430,000 people on the Sea of Azov that has been encircled by Russian forces for the past week.

Efforts to evacuate residents and deliver badly needed food, water and medicine failed on Tuesday because of what the Ukrainians said were continued Russian attacks. The city took advantage of a lull in the shelling on Wednesday to hurriedly bury 70 people, before a maternity hospital was targeted in a Russian airstrike.

US Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday embraced calls for an international war crimes investigation of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, making special reference to the ‘atrocities’ of bombing the maternity hospital. 

Harris expressed outrage over the bombing of the hospital and scenes of bloodied pregnant women being evacuated, as well as other attacks on civilians. She stopped short of directly accusing Russia of having committed war crimes.

‘Absolutely there should be an investigation, and we should all be watching,’ said Harris, noting that the United Nations has already started a process to review allegations. ‘I have no question the eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities.’

Authorities announced new cease-fires on Wednesday morning to allow thousands of civilians to escape from towns around Kyiv as well as the southern cities of Mariupol, Enerhodar and Volnovakha, Izyum in the east and Sumy in the northeast.

Previous attempts to establish safe evacuation corridors largely failed because of what the Ukrainians said were Russian attacks. But Putin, in a telephone call with Germany’s chancellor, accused militant Ukrainian nationalists of hampering the evacuations.

It was not immediately clear whether anyone was able to leave other cities on Wednesday, but people streamed out of Kyiv’s suburbs, many headed for the city centre, even as explosions were heard in the capital and air raid sirens sounded repeatedly. From there, the evacuees planned to board trains bound for western Ukrainian regions not under attack.

Nationwide, thousands are thought to have been killed, both civilians and soldiers, in the two weeks of fighting since Putin’s forces invaded. The UN estimates more than 2million people have fled the country, the biggest exodus of refugees in Europe since the end of the Second World War.

The fighting knocked out power to the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant, raising fears about the spent fuel that is stored at the site and must be kept cool. But the UN nuclear watchdog agency said it saw ‘no critical impact on safety’ from the loss of power.  

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Before/after: Two satellite images taken of the same district of Mariupol, in the south of Ukraine, show how virtually every building has been struck by artillery as Russian forces try to bomb the city into submission

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Before/after: Satellite images taken over civilian areas of Mariupol show how Russian artillery strikes have reduced buildings to rubble, with others burned out from the inside

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Before/after: Satellite images of Mariupol’s largest shopping center show how it has been all-but destroyed by Russian artillery, which has been bombarding the city for more than a week

Ukrainian soldiers replenish their supplies from destroyed Russian convoys somewhere on the frontlines

Ukrainian soldiers replenish their supplies from destroyed Russian convoys somewhere on the frontlines

Ukrainian soldiers replenish their supplies from destroyed Russian convoys somewhere on the frontlines

Kyiv has said that its troops are capturing Russia weapons and vehicles, which are being repurposed to use in the defence

Kyiv has said that its troops are capturing Russia weapons and vehicles, which are being repurposed to use in the defence

Kyiv has said that its troops are capturing Russia weapons and vehicles, which are being repurposed to use in the defence

Ukrainian troops walk past a destroyed Russian armoured vehicle carrying ammunition looted from the convoy

Ukrainian troops walk past a destroyed Russian armoured vehicle carrying ammunition looted from the convoy

Ukrainian troops walk past a destroyed Russian armoured vehicle carrying ammunition looted from the convoy

A haul of Russian supplies captured by the Ukrainians after a successful attack on a Russian supply convoy

A haul of Russian supplies captured by the Ukrainians after a successful attack on a Russian supply convoy

A haul of Russian supplies captured by the Ukrainians after a successful attack on a Russian supply convoy

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces train to operate RPG-7 anti-tank launcher during military exercises amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces train to operate RPG-7 anti-tank launcher during military exercises amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces train to operate RPG-7 anti-tank launcher during military exercises amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces train to operate NLAW anti-tank launcher during military exercises amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces train to operate NLAW anti-tank launcher during military exercises amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces train to operate NLAW anti-tank launcher during military exercises amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces wait for military exercises amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces wait for military exercises amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces wait for military exercises amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv

The aftermath of Russian artillery shelling on a residential area in Mariupol where a rocket hit a house, according to the Armed Forces of Ukraine

The aftermath of Russian artillery shelling on a residential area in Mariupol where a rocket hit a house, according to the Armed Forces of Ukraine

The aftermath of Russian artillery shelling on a residential area in Mariupol where a rocket hit a house, according to the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Fires burn on the outskirts of Mariupol, in the south of Ukraine, which has been under heavy shelling for more than a week

Fires burn on the outskirts of Mariupol, in the south of Ukraine, which has been under heavy shelling for more than a week

Fires burn on the outskirts of Mariupol, in the south of Ukraine, which has been under heavy shelling for more than a week

Rubble litters the street in Mariupol as the city came under renewed bombardment by Russian forces today

Rubble litters the street in Mariupol as the city came under renewed bombardment by Russian forces today

Rubble litters the street in Mariupol as the city came under renewed bombardment by Russian forces today

Burned-out wreckage litters the road out of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv, while people evacuate (left) as fighting rages nearby

Burned-out wreckage litters the road out of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv, while people evacuate (left) as fighting rages nearby

Burned-out wreckage litters the road out of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv, while people evacuate (left) as fighting rages nearby

Zelensky warned on Wednesday that ‘millions’ of Ukrainians could die if NATO and the West wait for World War Three to start before imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. He also warned that Russia wants Ukrainians to ‘feel like animals’ as he urged the West to act two weeks after Moscow launched an all-out invasion of his homeland – and added that Putin is ‘going directly to hell’.

‘They want us to feel like animals because they blocked our cities, the biggest cities in Ukraine and they blocked them because they don’t want our people to get some food or water,’ he said in an interview with Sky News.

‘We can’t stop all of this alone. Only if the world will unite around Ukraine.

‘Don’t wait for me to ask you several times, a million times, to close the sky. You have to phone us, to our people who lost their children, and say ‘sorry we didn’t do it yesterday’.

‘The world did nothing. I’m sorry, but it’s true. In future, it will be too late. They will close the sky but will lose millions of people [while they wait]’.

Ukraine has called on Putin’s Russia to ‘capitulate’ as Kremlin lapdog Sergei Lavrov prepares for ‘peace talks’ with Kyiv’s foreign minister in Turkey on Thursday. 

Moscow’s most senior diplomat arrived in the southern resort city of Antalya to negotiate with Dmytro Kuleba at a summit mediated by Ankara, which has supplied Ukraine with drones and condemned the invasion but criticised punitive global sanctions against Russia.

Russia and Ukraine’s meeting will be the highest-level diplomatic encounter since the Kremlin launched a full-scale operation to ‘demilitarise’ and ‘de-Nazify’ the country – aims dismissed as baseless pretexts by Kyiv and the West to instead overthrow Zelensky. 

But in a video on Facebook confirming that talks would proceed, Kuleba said his expectations were ‘limited’ and that the success of the negotiations would depend on ‘what instructions and directives Lavrov is under’ from the Kremlin at the discussions. 

Russia has demanded that Ukraine cease military action, change its constitution to enshrine neutrality so it cannot join the EU or NATO, recognise Crimea as sovereign Russian territory and recognise the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent territories.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight on Wednesday, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Verashchuk called Moscow’s peace terms ‘ultimatums’ and thundered: ‘There is only one discussion to be had: Russia’s capitulation.’ 

‘I think that in order to make demands you need to meet, you need to talk. But of course, the ultimatums that Russia has put forward are unacceptable: to recognize Crimea, to recognise the separatist republics as independent states, this is completely impossible,’ she said.

‘Of course we cannot trade away our territory, we would have to amend the constitution. How could we look the Ukrainian people in the eye and calmly give away a part of sovereign independent Ukraine. How will we look our children in the eyes? This is aggression, not just against Ukraine as you can clearly see. This is a challenge to the whole world.’

Asked what Ukraine wants from the West, Verashchuk went on: ‘We want them to help us to impose a no-fly zone, at least over critical infrastructure. We would like air defence systems’.

When it was put to her that Britain and the US have ruled out no-fly zones because of the risk of nuclear war with Russia, Kyiv’s deputy prime minister retorted: ‘And the fact that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is no longer under our control? You don’t think that is a nuclear standoff with Russia? 

‘Putin is raising the stakes, he knows that. Who do you think this is aimed at? President Zelensky, or President Biden?’. 

Putin’s actions have sparked an unprecedented Western diplomatic, economic and cultural boycott of Russia and all things Russian. 

Victor, a volunteer of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, is treated at a hospital after being injured during fights with Russian forces near Brovary, north of Kyiv

Victor, a volunteer of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, is treated at a hospital after being injured during fights with Russian forces near Brovary, north of Kyiv

Victor, a volunteer of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, is treated at a hospital after being injured during fights with Russian forces near Brovary, north of Kyiv

Katya, 14-years-old, is treated in a hospital after being shot while fleeing with her family from a village near Brovary, Kyiv

Katya, 14-years-old, is treated in a hospital after being shot while fleeing with her family from a village near Brovary, Kyiv

Katya, 14-years-old, is treated in a hospital after being shot while fleeing with her family from a village near Brovary, Kyiv

A Ukrainian soldier hugs his wife in the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, as Russian forces try to fight their way through the region

A Ukrainian soldier hugs his wife in the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, as Russian forces try to fight their way through the region

A Ukrainian soldier hugs his wife in the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, as Russian forces try to fight their way through the region

A Ukrainian woman shelters in the basement of a home in Irpin, near Kyiv, which has come under Russian bombardment

A Ukrainian woman shelters in the basement of a home in Irpin, near Kyiv, which has come under Russian bombardment

A Ukrainian woman shelters in the basement of a home in Irpin, near Kyiv, which has come under Russian bombardment

Valeriy Zukin, CEO of Leleka ('Stork') private maternity clinic, walks next to a bloodied stretcher, at a short distance from the frontline in Horenka, northern Kyiv

Valeriy Zukin, CEO of Leleka ('Stork') private maternity clinic, walks next to a bloodied stretcher, at a short distance from the frontline in Horenka, northern Kyiv

Valeriy Zukin, CEO of Leleka (‘Stork’) private maternity clinic, walks next to a bloodied stretcher, at a short distance from the frontline in Horenka, northern Kyiv

Residents and soldiers help civilians to flee from the frontline town of Irpin, Kyiv, which has seen heavy fighting today

Residents and soldiers help civilians to flee from the frontline town of Irpin, Kyiv, which has seen heavy fighting today

Residents and soldiers help civilians to flee from the frontline town of Irpin, Kyiv, which has seen heavy fighting today

A civilian is loaded on to a stretcher and evacuated from the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, as fighting rages nearby

A civilian is loaded on to a stretcher and evacuated from the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, as fighting rages nearby

A civilian is loaded on to a stretcher and evacuated from the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, as fighting rages nearby

Wounded civilians are stretchered out of the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, amid clashes in the city with Russian forces

Wounded civilians are stretchered out of the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, amid clashes in the city with Russian forces

Wounded civilians are stretchered out of the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, amid clashes in the city with Russian forces

A disabled civilian is carried across a temporary bridge out of the city of Irpin, near Kyiv, alongside their wheelchair

A disabled civilian is carried across a temporary bridge out of the city of Irpin, near Kyiv, alongside their wheelchair

A disabled civilian is carried across a temporary bridge out of the city of Irpin, near Kyiv, alongside their wheelchair

A soldier makes his way over a temporary bridge set up on the outskirts of Irpin to help civilians evacuate the city

A soldier makes his way over a temporary bridge set up on the outskirts of Irpin to help civilians evacuate the city

A soldier makes his way over a temporary bridge set up on the outskirts of Irpin to help civilians evacuate the city

An apartment building in the city of Mykolaiv, in the south of Ukraine, smoulders after being struck by Russian artillery

An apartment building in the city of Mykolaiv, in the south of Ukraine, smoulders after being struck by Russian artillery

An apartment building in the city of Mykolaiv, in the south of Ukraine, smoulders after being struck by Russian artillery

Firemen put out an apartment building in southern Ukraine after it was hit by Russian forces on Thursday

Firemen put out an apartment building in southern Ukraine after it was hit by Russian forces on Thursday

Firemen put out an apartment building in southern Ukraine after it was hit by Russian forces on Thursday

An interior shot of the apartment building shows it sustained heavy damage after shelling by Russian forces

An interior shot of the apartment building shows it sustained heavy damage after shelling by Russian forces

An interior shot of the apartment building shows it sustained heavy damage after shelling by Russian forces

The booster section of a Russian Smerch rocket is shown landed in the street in Mykolayiv, southern Ukraine

The booster section of a Russian Smerch rocket is shown landed in the street in Mykolayiv, southern Ukraine

The booster section of a Russian Smerch rocket is shown landed in the street in Mykolayiv, southern Ukraine

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson has committed to impose the ‘maximum economic cost’ on Russia as the Foreign Secretary is expected to say aggression like Putin’s must ‘never again’ be allowed to ‘grow unchecked’.

In a call on Wednesday evening, the Prime Minister joined Zelensky in condemning a reported Russian strike on a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

He noted that this, together with reports Russian forces had failed to respect ceasefire agreements, was ‘yet further evidence that Putin was acting with careless disregard for international humanitarian law’, Downing Street said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss prepared to call for a ‘paradigm shift’ in the wake of Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

In a speech in the US on Thursday, she will make comparisons between the Russian despot’s actions and 9/11, and will urge the international community to change its approach to dealing with antagonistic world leaders.

One of the three areas where she will say the UK wants to see stronger action is on forging stronger global alliances, including with countries not historically aligned to Britain, according to Foreign Office officials.

Giving the Makins Lecture at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, the Cabinet minister will say it is time to end ‘strategic dependence’ on hostile and authoritarian states, including a departure from using Russian energy.

It comes after the UK and the US on Tuesday announced they will phase out imports of Russian oil by the end of the year as part of increased sanctions on Moscow.

Truss will also argue that allies must strengthen deterrence by spending more on defence and NATO, warning that the ‘era of complacency is over’.

The Foreign Secretary is expected to say that the West needs to become ‘tough’ in its approach to global security in the wake of the Ukraine crisis in order to prevent future aggressors from making advances.

She will urge leaders to ramp up global pressure and ‘tighten the vice’ on the Kremlin, including by implementing further sanctions, such as encouraging other countries to join in bringing about punitive measures and implementing a ‘full Swift ban’.

Truss, who on Wednesday met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is scheduled to argue that Putin has ‘launched a full-frontal assault’ not just on Ukraine but ‘on the very foundation of our societies and the rules by which we coexist’.

She will add: ‘The invasion of Ukraine is a paradigm shift on the scale of 9/11. How we respond today will set the pattern for this new era.

‘If we let Putin’s expansionism go unchallenged it would send a dangerous message to would-be aggressors and authoritarians around the world. We can’t allow that to happen.’

Irina from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and her one-year-old Chihuahua 'Alissa' stand with other Ukrainian refugees in the queue in front of the Central Aliens Office in Hamburg, Germany

Irina from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and her one-year-old Chihuahua 'Alissa' stand with other Ukrainian refugees in the queue in front of the Central Aliens Office in Hamburg, Germany

Irina from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and her one-year-old Chihuahua ‘Alissa’ stand with other Ukrainian refugees in the queue in front of the Central Aliens Office in Hamburg, Germany

Residents wait to be evacuated from the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, amid fighting with Russian forces nearby

Residents wait to be evacuated from the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, amid fighting with Russian forces nearby

Residents wait to be evacuated from the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, amid fighting with Russian forces nearby

Residents wait to be evacuated from the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv

Residents wait to be evacuated from the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv

Residents wait to be evacuated from the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv

Families who have just fled Ukraine sit inside a bus provided by aid workers in Palanca, Moldova

Families who have just fled Ukraine sit inside a bus provided by aid workers in Palanca, Moldova

Families who have just fled Ukraine sit inside a bus provided by aid workers in Palanca, Moldova

Women and children arrive at a makeshift camp to board a train heading to Krakow after fleeing Ukraine, at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

Women and children arrive at a makeshift camp to board a train heading to Krakow after fleeing Ukraine, at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

Women and children arrive at a makeshift camp to board a train heading to Krakow after fleeing Ukraine, at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

Temporary tent housing is available for refugees arriving at night at a newly constructed campsite approximately two kilometers from the border in Palanca, Moldova

Temporary tent housing is available for refugees arriving at night at a newly constructed campsite approximately two kilometers from the border in Palanca, Moldova

Temporary tent housing is available for refugees arriving at night at a newly constructed campsite approximately two kilometers from the border in Palanca, Moldova

Source: DailyMail

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