KYIV: Russian forces inched towards Kyiv Saturday and pounded civilian areas in other Ukrainian cities as concerns grew over the besieged southern port of Mariupol, where officials said more than 1,500 people had been killed.
Air raid sirens sounded Saturday in several cities, including the capital Kyiv, Odessa, Dnipro and Kharkiv, according to Ukrainian media.
More than two weeks after Moscow shocked the world by invading Ukraine, the United Nations and others said it may be committing war crimes in cities such as Mariupol, which for days has been under attack by Vladimir Putin’s forces.
Survivors have been trying to flee Russian bombardment in a freezing city left without water or heating and running out of food. The situation is “desperate,” a Doctors Without Borders official said.
Ukraine hopes Russia will observe ceasefire to allow civilian evacuation
“Hundreds of thousands of people… are for all intents and purposes besieged,” Stephen Cornish, one of those heading the medical charity’s Ukraine operation, told AFP in an interview.
“Sieges are a medieval practice that have been outlawed by the modern rules of war for good reason.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said they were trying to arrange evacuations from besieged cities but Russian forces were disrupting efforts.
“Mariupol remains blocked by the enemy. Russian troops did not let our aid into the city and continue to torture our people, our Mariupol residents,” Zelensky said in a video address late Friday.
“Tomorrow we’ll try again. Once again, send food, water and medicine for our city.”
As Russia widens its bombardment and talks between Moscow and Kyiv seemingly go nowhere, Zelensky’s pleas for NATO to intervene have grown increasingly desperate.
Ukraine president appeals to mothers of Russian soldiers
US President Joe Biden on Friday again ruled out direct action against nuclear-armed Russia, warning that it would lead to “World War III”.
Instead, Washington added more layers of sanctions to those already crippling Russia’s economy, this time ending normal trade relations and announcing a ban on signature Russian goods vodka, seafood and diamonds.