Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its 12th day following what Ukrainian authorities described as increased shelling of encircled citiesand another failed attempt to start evacuating hundreds of thousands of civilians from the besieged southern port of Mariupol.
Russian and Ukrainian forces had agreed to an 11-hour cease-fire Sunday, but Ukrainian officials said Russian attacks quickly closed the safe-passage corridor.
A third round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian leaders was planned for Monday.
More than 1.5 million Ukrainians had been forced from the country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged his people to keep resisting, and Ukraine’s foreign minister said more than 20,000 people from 52 countries had volunteered to fight in Ukraine’s newly created international legion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin likened the West’s sanctions on Russia to “declaring war.”
WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE GROUND?
Russian forces launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks across the country, including powerful bombs dropped on residential areas of Chernihiv, a city north of the capital of Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said. But a miles-long Russian armored column threatening the capital remained stalled outside Kyiv.
Sunday evening, heavy shelling also came to Mykolaiv in the south and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city. Efforts to evacuate residents from the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin on Sunday were mostly unsuccessful.
A senior American defense official said Sunday the U.S. believes that about 95% of the Russian forces that had been arrayed around Ukraine are now inside the country. Ukrainian air and missile defenses remain effective and in use, and the Ukrainian military continues to fly aircraft and to employ air defense assets, the official said.
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Ukrainian forces were also defending Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port city, from Russian ships, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday announced plans to strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex, and it alleged that Ukrainian forces were plotting to blow up an experimental nuclear reactor in Kharkiv and to blame it on Russia. The ministry offered no evidence to back its claims, which could not be independently verified.
Intense diplomatic efforts continued, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Moldovapledging America’s support to the small Western-leaning former Soviet republic. The country is coping with an influx of refugees from Ukraine and keeping an eye on Russia’s intensifying war with its neighbor.
Blinken says the United States and its allies are having a “very active discussion” about banning the import of Russian oil and natural gas.
In a call with Putin that lasted nearly two hours on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron repeated calls for Russia to halt military operations, protect civilians and allow humanitarian aid. A French official reported that Putin said he does not intend to attack nuclear plants.
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said Sunday that Ukrainian staff at the country’s largest nuclear plant are now required to seek approval for any operation, even maintenance, from the Russians. The Zaporizhzhya plant was seized by the Russians last week.
Putin continued to blame the war on the Ukrainian leadership, saying, “They are calling into question the future of Ukrainian statehood.” In a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, Putin said the invasion could be halted only “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities,” according to a Kremlin account.
Israel’s prime minister spoke with Putin on Sunday, a day after they met directly in Russia. Israel is one of the few countries that has good working relations with both Russia and Ukraine.
THE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
The death toll of the conflict has been difficult to measure. The UN human rights office said at least 364 civilians have been confirmed killed since the Feb. 24 invasion, but the true number is probably much higher.
The World Health Organization said it verified at least six attacks that have killed six health care workers and injured 11 others.
The UN World Food Program says millions of people inside Ukraine, a major global wheat supplier, need food aid “immediately.”
Ukrainian refugees continued to pour into neighboring countries, including Poland, Romania and Moldova. The number of people who have left since fighting beganhas now reached 1.5 million, according to UN refugee agency.
* Fleeing conflict, caught in shelling Ukrainians fleeing the town of Irpin just outside Kyiv were caught in shelling by Russian forces and forced to dive for cover, Reuters witnesses said.
* U.S. concerned about civilians The United States has seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
* 'No war' protests in Russia Police detained more than 4,600 people at Russia-wide protests against President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, according to an independent protest monitoring group.
* The city mayor trying to get people out The mayor of Mariupol used to dream of revitalising the city. Now he says his main priority is to help many of the 400,000 people stuck in the southeastern Ukrainian city to escape.
* Diplomatic efforts Israeli Prime Minister Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his country will continue trying to mediate between Russia and Ukraine even if success seems unlikely.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged Putin to declare a ceasefire in Ukraine, open humanitarian corridors and sign a peace agreement, his office said.
* More companies quit operations in Russia Global streaming entertainment service Netflix, top accounting firms KPMG and PWC, and financial services firm American Express all cut ties with Russia as the conflict with Ukraine escalated.
* Oil import ban could be the West's next Russia weapon The United States and European partners are exploring banning Russian oil imports, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken said, but stressed the importance of maintaining steady oil supplies globally. Crude prices surged to their highest since 2008.
* Russia's credit rating slips Moody's cut Russia's credit rating to Ca, the second-lowest rung of its ratings ladder, citing central bank capital controls that are likely to restrict payments on the country's foreign debt and lead to default.