Russia has made dire threats to the West that any military shipments to Ukraine will be seen as ‘legitimate targets’, prompting fears there could be an escalation of conflict that could suck in other countries.
It comes as Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of shooting children and said Vladimir Putin’s forces will only take Kyiv if they ‘raze the city to the ground’, with Kremlin troops inching closer to the capital and conflict raging nearby today, endangering attempted evacuations.
Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov warned the US ‘that pumping weapons from a number of countries it orchestrates isn’t just a dangerous move, it’s an action that makes those convoys legitimate targets’, after Joe Biden personally intervened to stop a shipment of Polish MiG fighter jets to Kyiv, fearing the move could lead to ‘World War Three’.
But Volodymyr Zelensky has slammed the West for its inaction, saying today he ‘doesn’t see any bravery from NATO’ as he pleaded for more involvement from allies in peace negotiations and offered to pay for more anti-missile systems. In response, the US made lukewarm promises of taking ‘diplomatic steps’ to help the Ukrainian government.
Zelensky, who claimed 1,300 Ukrainian troops have been killed so far and 500 Russians surrendered yesterday, added: ‘If they decide to carpet bomb (Kyiv), and simply erase the history of this region, the history of the Kyivan Rus, the history of Europe, and destroy all of us, then they will enter Kyiv. If that’s their goal, let them come in, but they will have to live on this land by themselves.’
Senior Russian officials incredulously flipped the narrative on its head on Saturday, warning that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating because of the actions of the country’s armed forces – and even accusing Ukraine of shelling its own people.
‘The humanitarian situation in Ukraine, unfortunately, continues to rapidly worsen, and in some cities has reached catastrophic proportions,’ RIA quoted Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Defence Control Centre, as saying.
Mizintsev, who said Russian forces were observing ceasefires, said Ukrainian forces had mined residential neighbourhoods and destroyed bridges and roads. Ukraine has complained repeatedly that Russian forces do not always respect ceasefires so civilians can leave through evacuation corridors.
Moscow’s troops continue to use indiscriminate shelling to encircle key Ukrainian cities and are said to be bearing down on Kyiv for an ‘all-out assault’ in the coming days.
Satellite images taken on Saturday morning showed extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and residential buildings throughout the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, a private US company said.
Maxar Technologies said fires were seen in the western section of the Black Sea port city and dozens of high-rise apartment buildings had been severely damaged.
But there appear to be signs of slight progress in negotiations, with Zelensky saying the warring countries have begun discussing ‘concrete’ proposals rather than just ‘exchanging ultimatums’, although he said any negotiations must begin with a ceasefire.
The conciliatory tone was not resonating in the Kremlin though, with Putin raging after a 75-minute call with Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz that Ukraine was guilty of ‘extrajudicial reprisals against dissidents, taking civilians hostage, using them as human shields, [and] putting heavy armaments in civilian areas near hospitals, schools, kindergartens’.
Scholz and Macron implored Putin to end the war and stop the brutal siege of Mariupol but a French official said he did not show any willingness for calling off his inhumane invasion.
Russian armoured vehicles are still slowly advancing on Kyiv’s northeast after being stalled for days, and a military airfield south of the city in Vasylkiv has been hit by missiles, destroying the runway, a fuel depot and an ammunition store.