© Reuters. A man approaches a damaged car in a residential area damaged by shelling as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 18, 2022. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Kyiv, UKRAINE/LVIV (Reuters) – Russian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday called for meaningful talks with Russia to stop its incursion into Ukraine, warning that if Moscow does not change course, Moscow will It will take “generations” to recover from losses on the battlefield. .
Russian forces, facing stiff resistance, have largely slowed their advance since the February 24 offensive, even as they overrun the capital, Kyiv. To regain momentum, they surrounded towns and destroyed urban areas.
Unprecedented Western sanctions aimed at isolating Russia’s economy have done little to stop what President Vladimir Putin says is a “special operation” aimed at weakening his neighbor’s military capabilities and “deactivating his government” effect.
After Russia said it was “tightening the noose” around the key port of Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, Ukraine’s defense ministry acknowledged on Friday that it was “temporarily” unable to access the port. The Black Sea will be a huge loss for Ukraine.
But Western officials say Russia has suffered heavy casualties and demoralized its troops, a trend Zelensky noted in a video message in which he called for new negotiations to end the war.
“I hope everyone can hear my voice now, especially in Moscow. It’s time for a meeting, it’s time to talk,” he said earlier Saturday. “It is time to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and justice. Otherwise, Russia’s losses will take generations to recover. »
Russia admitted on March 2 that nearly 500 of its soldiers had been killed, but has provided no updates since. Ukraine says the number is now in the thousands. Reuters could not independently verify the death toll.
Kyiv and Moscow said progress was made this week in talks to ensure Ukraine’s security outside the NATO alliance.
But Ukraine said the need for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops remained, with the two sides accusing each other on Friday of stalling talks.
Towns in eastern Ukraine were heavily bombed by Russia, and missiles hit Kyiv at night, where Ukrainian troops stopped troops outside the city. Russia has also staged a spectacular strike in western Ukraine over the past week.
Putin has vowed to keep pushing ahead with the invasion until it succeeds, promising that Russia “absolutely completes all our plans” to the tens of thousands who waved Russian flags at a football stadium in Moscow on Friday.
The United States has repeatedly warned that Russia may turn to China, the largest power that has yet to condemn the attack, for help.
In a video call on Friday, President Joe Biden warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of “consequences” if Beijing provided “material support” to Russia in Ukraine, the White House said. Sanctioning Beijing is an option, he said.
China and Russia deny Beijing plans to provide military aid to Moscow. China has said it wants to see the conflict come to an end.
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In the fourth week of their land, sea and air assaults, Russian forces have not captured any major cities and the elected Ukrainian government remains defiant in the capital.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fled what Ukraine said were shelled on apartment buildings, schools, hospitals and cultural facilities to the western city of Lviv, far from the country’s eastern front.
Three missiles landed at an airport near Lviv on Friday as Russia seeks to regain the initiative, sparking fears the city could be under a deeper attack.
Safe civilians in eastern Ukrainian towns face cuts to electricity, heat and water as food and other vital resources become increasingly scarce. More than 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine’s western border.
Some 400,000 people were reportedly trapped for more than two weeks in Mariupol, where some of the fiercest fighting took place. Authorities say fighting has spread to the city centre, with near-constant shelling preventing humanitarian aid from entering.
Rescuers on Wednesday were still looking for survivors of the Mariupol theater flattened by a Russian airstrike. Russia denies attacking theaters.
Zelensky said in a video address that there was no information on the death toll in the theater, where hundreds of people took refuge. More than 130 people have been rescued so far, he said.
As people continue to try to flee through “humanitarian corridors” set up by Ukrainian and Russian officials, the World Food Programme has warned that the country’s food supply chain is collapsing.
Critical infrastructure such as bridges and trains have been destroyed by bombs, and many grocery stores and warehouses are empty, said Jacob Kern, WFP’s Ukraine crisis emergency coordinator.
“In Ukraine, our job is really to replace broken commercial food supply chains,” he said, calling it “a huge task.”