Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Russia must stop bombing Ukrainian cities before meaningful talks on a ceasefire could start.
Speaking in an interview in a heavily guarded government compound, Mr Zelensky urged NATO members to impose a no fly zone to stop the Russian air force, saying this would be a preventative measure and not meant to drag the alliance into war with Russia.
Mr Zelensky spoke out after a first round of negotiations this week had yielded scant progress.
The Ukrainian President, who has refused offers to leave the Ukrainian capital as Russian forces advanced, also said Ukraine would demand legally binding security guarantees if NATO shut the door on Ukraine's membership prospects.
Setting out his conditions for further talks with Russia, Zelensky told Reuters and CNN in a joint interview: "It's necessary to at least stop bombing people, just stop the bombing and then sit down at the negotiating table."
Just as he was speaking, news emerged that a Russian missile had struck a TV tower in the Ukrainian capital. Earlier on Tuesday, missiles struck the heart of the eastern city of Kharkiv.
Ukraine has received weapons shipments from NATO members to help withstand a full-scale military invasion unleashed by Russian forces last week, while the West has also introduced swingeing sanctions on the Russian economy.
But Zelensky has urged the international community to do more, including imposing a no fly zone.
He said, however, that US President Joe Biden had personally conveyed to him that now was not the time to introduce such a measure.
Ukraine has pressed NATO to accelerate its entry, a move fiercely opposed by Russia and cited as one of Moscow's reasons for launching its campaign.
"Our partners, if they are not ready to take Ukraine into NATO ... because Russia does not want Ukraine to be in NATO, should work out common security guarantees for Ukraine," Mr Zelensky said.
"This means that we have our territorial integrity, that our borders are protected, we have special relations with all our neighbours, we are completely safe, and the guarantors that give us security, they guarantee this legally."
Zelensky (44) was unshaven and wore a simple khaki T shirt, trousers and combat boots for the interview, which took place in a government compound, heavily guarded by the military.
Earlier he had told the European Parliament that people are “fighting for survival”, as his country makes an emergency application to join the EU and appeals for the West for help to fight off the Russian invasion.
Currently Ukraine is an associate member of the bloc.
Mr Zelensky’s plea came as Russia is advancing on Kyiv with a huge convoy of armoured vehicles, tanks and other military equipment spanning more than 60km, according to new satellite images.
As the troops advance, Russia’s defence ministry has warned that it will carry out a number of strikes on security sites in Kyiv, according to state news agency Tass.
Mr Zelensky later said he had asked German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to help close the skies over Ukraine to halt the shelling of civilians by Russia.
"Had a phone conversation with Chancellor Scholz. Spoke about Russia's shelling of residential neighbourhoods in Ukrainian cities during peace talks. Emphasized the need to close the sky over Ukraine," Mr Zelensky said.
He also told Scholz to move swiftly on Ukraine's EU membership bid.
It came as France declared an "all-out economic and financial war" against Russia that would collapse the Russian economy as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine.
Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia's central bank, oligarchs and officials, including President Vladimir Putin himself, and barred some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire described the sanctions packages as proving "extremely effective".
"We're waging an all-out economic and financial war on Russia," Le Maire told France Info radio. "We will cause the collapse of the Russian economy."
Mr Zelensky’s appeal comes as Vladimir Putin has been accused of war crimes following the indiscriminate shelling of Ukrainian cities, killing potentially dozens of civilians including three children who were “incinerated alive”.
The Ukrainian delegation present at the European Parliament received a rapturous round of applause as the Parliament President Roberta Metsola lauded the Ukrainian people for “reminding Europe that our way of life is worth defending”.
Ms Metsola said the European Parliament will “work towards the goal” of Ukrainian accession to the EU and said the EU will seek to ban any Russian representatives from entering the parliament due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
President Zelensky called for the EU to expedite its application to join the EU and said Ukraine was “losing its best people” to the war.
He said Freedom Square in Kharkiv, which is the largest square in the continent, was hit by two cruise missiles this morning, resulting in the deaths of dozens of civilians.
“Yesterday, 16 children were killed and Putin will still say this was a military operation.
“We are fighting for survival. But we are also fighting to be equal members of Europe and I believe today we are showing everyone what we are. We believe we have proven our strength and that the EU will be stronger with us and Ukraine will be lonely without the EU.
“Do prove to us you are with us, do prove that you are Europeans,” President Zelensky said in an emotional speech that saw the EU Parliament translator break down in tears.
President Zelensky said of Ukrainians “nobody will break us”, despite what he said was Russian targeting of civilians and children.
Ruslan Stefanchuk, Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament, the Rada, said Europe was “now at a crossroads in its history”.
“Ukraine is now on the doorstep of darkness. God forbid Ukraine falls, because no one knows Russian [when] aggression will stop”.
Mr Stefanchuk said Europe needs to seriously think about where “Russia’s tanks will go once it defeats Ukraine”.
“The threat today is like never before and the best support for Ukrainian people is to recognise our membership in the European Union,” Mr Stefanchuk said, before calling for tougher sanctions on Russia.
Mr Zelensky said what Ukraine was experiencing was a “tragedy with a very high price”.
He then discarded his speech and said: “I won’t read from the paper as the paper phase for my country is over. Now we are dealing with reality. I believe today we are giving our lives for values, for freedom, for the desire to be equal as much as you (the EU) are.
“We’re giving away our best people, the strongest ones. Ukrainians are incredible.
“I would like to hear the Ukrainian choice for Europe from you.”
Charles Michel, President of the European Council said President Zelensky’s words “pierce the hearts of us and makes us think hard about what we must do”.
Mr Michel said what Vladimir Putin was doing was “geopolitical terrorism”.
“Russia, stop the war, let go and go home,” was the unified message of Europe, Mr Michel said.
Mr Michel said the EU will “seriously look at” Ukraine’s bid for EU membership.
“War has returned to Europe,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the parliament. It is a “moment of truth for Europe”, she said.
“This is a clash between the rule of law and rule of the gun. Between democracies and an autocracy. The destiny of Ukraine is at stake but our own future is also in the balance.
“The people of Europe are demonstrating all across Europe and are welcoming refugees fleeing Putin’s bombs."
Ms von der Leyen said she was proud of the EU, as it adopted three waves of sanctions “in the speed of light” against Russia and its “corrupt elites”.
She said that further “yachts and fancy cars” of oligarchs in Europe will be frozen in response to the “unprecedented aggression in Russia”.
The European Union has taken unprecedented steps, including financing weapons deliveries to Ukraine, after Russia's President Vladimir Putin launched war on its neighbour last week.
The European Parliament will also urge EU leaders to be tougher on oligarchs and officials close to the Russian leadership, restrict oil and gas imports from Russia, ban Russia and its ally Belarus entirely from the SWIFT bank messaging system, and to close all EU ports to Russian ships or ships headed to or from Russia.
Ukrainian cities are coming under ever fiercer bombardment today, with a 60km Russian military convoy lining up for a renewed attack on the capital Kyiv.
At least 136 civilians have been killed, including 13 children, and 400 have been injured since Russia invaded Ukraine last week, a United Nations agency has said.
"The real toll is likely to be much higher," Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN human rights office (OHCHR), told a briefing, adding that 253 casualties were in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine.
The UN World Food Programme is scaling up activities in Ukraine so that it can support up to 3.1 million people, WFP spokesperson Tomson Phiri said, adding: "Food supplies are running low."
In a speech in Warsaw, Poland, which has been offering humanitarian assistance to its neighbour, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Putin had made a "colossal mistake" by invading Ukraine, after vowing the UK would intensify sanctions.
"Putin has lied to his people and to his troops about how this conflict would go, and he has now been caught out in that lie," he said.
"They have not been welcomed to Ukraine as he prophesised, their tanks have not been cheered in the streets or garlanded with flowers.
"Instead, Ukrainians have mounted an astonishing and tenacious resistance."
NATO's Chief Jens Stoltenberg today called on Russia to end the war in Ukraine and withdraw all its forces, adding the alliance would not send troops or combat jets to support Kyiv as it does not want to become part of the conflict.
"The Russian assault is totally unacceptable and it is enabled by Belarus," Mr Stoltenberg said after meeting Polish President Andrzej Duda.
"NATO is a defensive alliance, we do not seek conflict with Russia. Russia must immediately stop the war, pull all its forces from Ukraine and engage in good faith in diplomatic efforts," he added.
However he said there was no need for Nato to raise its nuclear alert level, despite threats from Putin.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday accused the European Union of engaging in a "Russophobic frenzy" by supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine during Moscow's military campaign there.
Mr Lavrov made the comment in a speech via video link to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The US has ordered 12 Russian diplomats to the United Nations to leave, UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia revealed after taking a call in the middle of a UN Security Council meeting, calling it a "gross violation by the host country”.
Richard Mills, deputy head of the US mission to the UN, confirmed the expulsion of the diplomats, adding it was a step taken "in full accordance with" US obligations as the host country to the UN. The US mission said in a statement that "this action has been in development for several months."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki added that the expelled Russians "had abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security”.
A doctor who tried in vain to save the life of a six-year-old girl, killed when her family home was bombed, turned to a television camera after she died and declared: “Show this to Putin. The eyes of this child, and crying doctors.”
Ukrainian officials said 16 children had been killed in the first four days of fighting. That number is likely to have risen significantly after the deadliest attacks on civilians since the start of the invasion. Among the dead was schoolgirl Polina, aged around 10 and pictured with a pink streak in her hair, who was killed by Russian saboteurs in Kyiv along with her parents and brother, according to officials.
On the fifth day of the war, the Kremlin ordered the bombardment of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and there were claims it had deployed cluster munitions in dense urban areas, maximising civilian casualties. Russia has previously been accused of using cluster bombs in Syria.
Ukrainian president Zelensky said that in five days Russian forces had launched 56 missile strikes and 113 cruise missiles in Ukraine.
He said in a video posted on social media late on Monday: "Today, Russian forces brutally fired on Kharkiv from jet artillery. It was clearly a war crime.
"Kharkiv is a peaceful city, there are peaceful residential areas, no military facilities. Dozens of eyewitness accounts prove that this is not a single false volley, but deliberate destruction of people: the Russians knew where they were shooting.
"There will definitely be an international tribunal for this crime – it's a violation of all conventions. No one in the world will forgive you for killing peaceful Ukrainian people.”
Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said he would soon begin a war crimes investigation into the Russian invasion.
The Ukraine interior ministry said yesterday: “Kharkiv has just been massively fired upon by Grads [rockets]. Dozens dead and hundreds wounded.”
Ihor Terekhov, the city’s mayor, said that the fatalities included a family of five, including three children, who were “incinerated alive” when a Russian rocket hit their car. “It’s not just a war, it’s murder,” he said. A school in the city was also destroyed.
Oleg Sinegubov, the governor of Kharkiv, said: “The Russian enemy is bombing residential areas of Kharkiv, where there is no critical infrastructure, where there are no positions of the armed forces.”
In the city of Chernihiv, missiles were fired on a shopping centre in scenes described by a local teacher as “like from some horror movie”.
The six-year-old girl was killed in a separate attack in the southern port city of Mariupol, after her apartment block was shelled. Dozens were killed in the strikes, according to Ukraine’s interior ministry. Local officials put the toll at 11, but said it was certain to rise.
The mayor of Mariupol said this morning the city was under constant shelling that had killed civilians and damaged infrastructure.
"We have had residential quarters shelled for five days. They are pounding us with artillery, they are shelling us with GRADS, they are hitting us with air forces," Vadym Boichenko said in a live broadcast on Ukrainian TV.
"We have civilian infrastructure damaged – schools, houses. There are many injured. There are women, children killed."
On a day when peace talks were held without a breakthrough in neighbouring Belarus, Russia continued its onslaught. A military convoy 60km long had reached the outskirts of Kyiv yesterday with reports of explosions close to the capital.
More than 70 Ukrainian servicemen were killed when Russian troops shelled a military base in the town of Okhtyrka in Ukraine's northeastern Sumy region on Monday, regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said on Facebook.
Russia is not a signatory to the convention on cluster munitions that bans the use of indiscriminate weapons, but the Geneva Convention outlaws targeting civilians.
In a continued show of defiance in the face of the onslaught, president Zelensky said: “Every crime that the occupiers commit against us brings us closer and closer to each other. Russia never imagined that it would face such solidarity.”
The negotiations held in Belarus only ended with an agreement for further talks. The Kremlin denied that the Russian military was targeting populated areas, Dmitry Peskov, its spokesman, even claimed that Ukrainian nationalists were using civilians as human shields and putting military equipment in populated areas.
Emmanuel Macron, the French President, said Mr Putin confirmed to him in a telephone call that he would “stop all strikes and attacks on civilians and residential areas”.
It also emerged that Vladimir Medinsky, the Kremlin’s chief negotiator and an ultra-conservative adviser to Mr Putin, had less than a week ago described Ukraine as a “historical phantom”, effectively denying its existence.
Six days into the invasion, the Russian military's movements have been stalled by fierce resistance on the ground and a surprising inability to dominate the airspace. Many Ukrainian civilians, meanwhile, spent another night huddled in shelters, basements or corridors.
“I sit and pray for these negotiations to end successfully, so that they reach an agreement to end the slaughter,” said Alexandra Mikhailova, weeping as she clutched her cat in a shelter in Mariupol. Around her, parents tried to console children and keep them warm.
The Kremlin has twice in as many days raised the spectre of nuclear war and put on high alert an arsenal that includes intercontinental ballistic missiles and long-range bombers. Stepping up his rhetoric, president Putin denounced the United States and its allies as an “empire of lies”.
Meanwhile, an embattled Ukraine moved to solidify its ties to the West by applying to join the European Union — a largely symbolic move for now, but one that won't sit well with Putin, who has long accused the United States of trying to pull Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit.
Yesterday, the Taoiseach said there was no limit on the number of Ukrainian refugees who can come to Ireland, with 500 refugees on the move.
When asked about the numbers of refugees who may come to Ireland, Micheál Martin said the Government has not “set limits” and “will provide whatever supports we can”.
“We will provide whatever supports we can, I’ve already had offers from people in the medical world and elsewhere to say ‘look, we might be able to help you in certain areas’,” Mr Martin said.
“Many Ukrainian families are here and I think many families would take families in Ireland, so there will be a structured refugee programme.”
He added that Ireland should “facilitate families” who need to settle here and who need “peace and calm”.
It comes as Cabinet will sign off on €10m in aid for Ukraine and call on the UN to find “peaceful agreement” between Ukraine and Russia, and as the Irish people have mobilised to collect food and supplies to send to help the people of Ukraine.
Queues for food and basic supplies formed in Kyiv on Monday as Russian troops began to mass, threatening to lay siege.
A senior US official said Washington expected “Russian forces to try to encircle the city in the coming days” amid fears that attacks could become “more aggressive” over frustrations the advance had been slower than he anticipated.
Russian forces had seized two small cities in south-east Ukraine and the area around a nuclear power plant, according to the Interfax news agency.
Russia’s central bank doubled interest rates to 20pc to prevent an economic collapse on Monday after the ruble plunged 30pc to a record low against the dollar in the face of sanctions from the West, while the Moscow stock market did not open to prevent a market meltdown. Russian citizens were fleeing the country themselves yesterday, fearing fresh repression and the eradication of their savings.
Fifa and Uefa also suspended Russia from international football while Uefa terminated its sponsorship with the Russian energy giant Gazprom.
Today, Liz Truss, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, will say in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council that the Russian president has “blood on his hands”, adding: “Putin is violating international law... He is violating human rights on an industrial scale and the world will not stand for it.”
Mr Johnson said the UK would “continue to bring maximum pressure to bear” on Russia as he pledged that Mr Putin would “feel the consequences” for invading Ukraine.
On the eve of a trip today to Poland and Estonia to meet allies and British troops, the British Prime Minister said the Russian president “must fail”.
The British Army last night issued a warning to British soldiers not to travel to Ukraine individually to fight.