Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday said rescue work was ongoing to save hundreds of people still believed to be trapped under the rubble of a bombed theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol.
Earlier, human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova reported 130 survivors had been rescued from the rubble, but said there was still no information on more than 1,000 other people official figures suggest were sheltering there when the bomb fell.
"There are still hundreds of Mariupol residents under the rubble. Despite the shelling, despite all the difficulties, we will continue the rescue work," Zelenskiy said in an online video address.
The Ukrainian authorities have not confirmed the number of possible casualties.
"Rescuers are working. There is only this information: 130 people are alive and have been taken out. The rest are waiting for help," ombudswoman Denisova said on national television.
"According to our data there are still more than 1,300 people there who are in these basements, in that bomb shelter," Denisova said, referring to underground shelters below the theatre.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the figures.
Mariupol city council has previously said there were more than 1,000 people sheltering under the theatre.
Meanwhile, Russian missiles struck an area near the airport of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv early on this morning, the city’s mayor said.
Western sources and Ukrainian officials said Russia's assault has faltered since its troops invaded on February 24th, further dashing its expectations of a swift victory and the removal of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's government.
Russia has relied heavily on missiles and shelling to subdue Ukraine's forces but has yet to secure any of its 10 largest cities.
At least three blasts were heard near Lviv's airport this morning, with videos on social media showing large explosions and mushroom-shaped plumes of smoke rising.
Lviv's mayor, Andriy Sadovy, said several missiles has struck an aircraft maintenance facility, destroying buildings but causing no casualties.
The city has escaped significant fighting so far.
Despite battleground setbacks and punitive sanctions by the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown little sign of relenting.
His government said it is counting on China to help Russia withstand blows to its economy.
The United States, which this week announced $800 million in new military aid to Kyiv, is concerned China is "considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment to use in Ukraine," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
President Joe Biden, who described Putin as a "murderous dictator", will make clear to Chinese President Xi Jinping in a call Friday that China "will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia's aggression", Blinken told reporters.
The pair are due to speak at 9am US time the White House said.
China has declined to condemn Russia's action in Ukraine or call it an invasion. It said it recognises Ukraine's sovereignty but that Russia has legitimate security concerns that should be addressed. A Chinese foreign ministry official met this week with Russia's ambassador to China to exchange views on counter-terrorism and security cooperation, the ministry said in a statement.
It comes as the U.N. human rights office in Geneva said it has recorded 2,032 civilian casualties in Ukraine - 780 killed and 1,252 injured.
Some 3.2 million civilians have fled to neighbouring countries, the United Nations said.
A fourth straight day of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators took place on Thursday by video link, but the Kremlin said an agreement had yet to be reached.
Kyiv and its Western allies say Russia launched the war to subjugate a neighbour Putin calls an artificial state. Russia says it is carrying out a "special operation" to disarm Ukraine.
Rescuers in Mariupol, a southern port city, dug survivors from the rubble of a theatre that officials said had been hit by an air strike on Wednesday as civilians took shelter there from bombardments. Russia denies striking the theatre.
Mariupol has suffered the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the war, with hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in basements with no food, water or power. City officials said they are not able to estimate the number of casualties from the theatre.
Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the assertion that Russia had bombed the theatre was a lie.
North-eastern and north-western suburbs of Kyiv have suffered heavy damage but the capital itself has held firm, under a curfew and subjected to deadly rocket attacks nightly.
A building in Kyiv's Darnytsky district was extensively damaged on Thursday. As residents cleared glass, a man knelt weeping by the body of a woman covered in a bloody sheet.
Viacheslav Chaus, governor of the region centred on the front-line northern city of Chernihiv, on Thursday said 53 civilians had been killed there in the past 24 hours. The toll could not be independently verified.
One of those killed in Chernihiv was a U.S. citizen, Jimmy Hill, who was gunned down while waiting in a bread line, his family said.
"His body was found in the street," his sister wrote on Facebook.
Meanwhile, Japan and Australia announced separate measures sanctioning Russian individuals and organisations, including two oligarchs with links to Australia's mining industry, as well as Russia's state-owned arms exporter, its finance ministry and central bank.
The owner of Burger King has said the operator of its 800 stores in Russia has “refused” to close them.
The president of Restaurant Brands International (RBI), which owns Burger King and has operated its restaurants in Russia for a decade in a joint venture which includes Alexander Kolobov, said the company was attempting to withdraw from the Russian market following the invasion of Ukraine.
RBI president David Shear wrote in an open letter to employees: “We contacted the main operator of the business and demanded the suspension of Burger King restaurant operations in Russia. He has refused to do so.
“We suspended all corporate support for the Russian market, including operations, marketing, and supply chain support in addition to refusing approvals for new investment and expansion.”
Mr Shear said the company’s “complicated” agreements with overseas partners meant it was unable to walk away from its Russia business, adding any changes “would ultimately require the support of Russian authorities on the ground and we know that practically will not happen any time soon”.
The joint venture, which RBI owns 15% of, with Mr Kobolov also includes a Ukrainian investment fund and VTB Capital, an affiliate of Russia’s second-largest financial institution VTB Bank.
VTB Bank has been sanctioned by the UK, the US and numerous European countries over the invasion.
Mr Shear said: “We committed to redirecting any profits we receive from the business, including our ownership stake, to the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) and made an immediate donation of 1 million dollars (£760,000) toward that commitment. We’ve also worked with franchisees from more than 25 countries to distribute 2 million dollars (£1.5m) of free meal coupons for Burger King restaurants to NGOs supporting Ukrainian refugees.”
Foreign Affairs and Defence Minister Simon Coveney said Irish troops will go to the Poland-Ukraine border to assist with the humanitarian effort there “if it’s helpful”.
Minister Coveney said Ireland will offer “logistical help” through the Defence Forces to register refugees, manage logistics on the border and assist with transport systems if needed.
The minister is due to meet with his Polish counterpart for talks in Warsaw today and he said the focus of the meeting will be on how Ireland can help and be “more proactive politically and from a humanitarian point of view”.
He said they will also discuss the European Union’s support to the Ukrainian military through the European Peace Facility because “it’s likely” that commitment will be increased.
However, Mr Coveney said the biggest issue at the moment is the “extraordinary” number of Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
“About two million [refugees] have come across the border in three weeks. That’s about 100,000 people a day coming into Poland and that is a burden we need to share across the European Union to support Ukrainian people while they’re fleeing war,” he said.
Mr Coveney said it is expected that between 18,000 and 21,000 Ukrainian nationals will have relocated to Ireland by the end of March.
He said that number will increase if the war continues “which it is expected to”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Mr Coveney described the situation in Poland at present as feeling like “a war-time atmosphere”.
“[It is] Completely dominated by the war next door in Ukraine and the generosity of the Polish people towards their Ukrainian brothers and sisters is just remarkable,” he said.
“To imagine that in three weeks, two million people would cross a border into your country, and largely be accommodated and looked after, is an extraordinary effort.
“Whether that is sustainable in the weeks ahead as that two million figure becomes four million over the next month or so is the question, and that’s where the rest of the European Union has got to be generous.”
Regarding the efforts to secure a ceasefire in Ukraine, Minister Coveney said Ireland would act as an intermediary for Ukraine-Russia talks, if Russia will sit down.
“We’d be more than willing to do that, whether we have the capacity to it, whether Russia would want that it’s hard to know,” he said.
“We had a Security Council meeting in the last number of hours. Russia had proposed what is seen as quite a cynical motion in relation to protecting civilians from the war in Ukraine while they continue to shell them.
“It’s just hard to know who the Kremlin will listen to right now and that’s why I think there has been some effort within the UN to try and put pressure on China, India and Turkey to use the influence they have in Moscow, because they clearly have more influence than others, to try and bring this madness to an end.”
He added that Ireland is looking to use “every platform it can” to try and bring about peace.
Meanwhile, U.N refugee agency official says humanitarian needs n Ukraine are increasing ‘exponentially’.
And a World Food Programme official says the Ukraine conflict is triggering a wave of ‘collateral hunger’ across the globe.