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Putin warns Ukraine war will continue ‘until the end’ as need for corridors to evacuate civilians agreed at talks

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin (Pic: Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS)

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (Pic: Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS)

A view shows a residential building destroyed by recent shelling, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the city of Irpin in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko

A view shows a residential building destroyed by recent shelling, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the city of Irpin in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko

A blaze at a Kharkiv University faculty building caused by a Russian missile strike yesterday just after 8.10am local time, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine/PA

A blaze at a Kharkiv University faculty building caused by a Russian missile strike yesterday just after 8.10am local time, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine/PA

A Ukrainian serviceman strokes a dog on a street, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yasnohorodka in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Maksim Levin

A Ukrainian serviceman strokes a dog on a street, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yasnohorodka in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Maksim Levin

People look at a train schedule at a railway station as they search for any train to leave Kyiv in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

People look at a train schedule at a railway station as they search for any train to leave Kyiv in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A couple with their newborn baby take shelter in the basement of a perinatal centre as air raid siren sounds are heard amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

A couple with their newborn baby take shelter in the basement of a perinatal centre as air raid siren sounds are heard amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin (Pic: Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS)

Russia and Ukraine agreed on the need to set up humanitarian corridors and a possible ceasefire around them for fleeing civilians, both sides said after talks today.

It was their first sign of agreement on any issue since the invasion.

But the UN human rights chief said tens of millions of lives were at risk in Ukraine, with cities surrounded and under bombardment.

It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted that the military operation in Ukraine was “going according to plan”.

Mr Putin made the comments in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron.

A French official said the two leaders held a 90 minute phone conversation.

The official at the French Elysee presidential palace said Putin also said the conflict would continue “until the end” unless negotiations meet his terms.

Putin said negotiations must centre on the “neutralization and disarmament of Ukraine,” according to the French official.

The French president said in a tweet after the call: "I spoke to President Putin this morning.

"He refuses to stop his attacks on Ukraine at this point.

"It is vital to maintain dialogue to avoid human tragedy.

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"I will continue my efforts and contacts.

"We must avoid the worst."

Putin later gave a televised address in which he repeated his baseless justifications for his unprovoked aggression against Ukraine.

He said: “I want to say that the special military operation is proceeding strictly in line with the timetable. According to plan. All the tasks that have been set are being successfully resolved.

“Now on Ukrainian territory, our soldiers and officers are fighting for Russia, for a peaceful life for the citizens of Donbass, for the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, so that we can’t be threatened by an anti-Russia right on our borders that the West has been creating for years.”

A high-ranking Russian general was killed during fighting in Ukraine, in what experts say will be a bitter blow for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Andrei Sukhovetsky (47) was the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division and a deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army, and by far the most senior Russian figure to have died in the conflict so far.

He is understood to have been killed by a sniper.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said the world was too slow to offer support for his embattled country as he challenged western leaders to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to deny access to Russian warplanes.

The US and Nato allies have ruled out the move, which would see western militaries pitted directly against Russian forces.

Mr Zelensky said if the West remains reluctant to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine, it should at least provide Kyiv with fighter jets.

He also challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to sit down for talks while urging the West to offer a stronger military assistance to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion.

In a sarcastic reference to a long table Putin used for his recent meetings with foreign leaders and Russian officials, Zelensky said: “Sit down with me to negotiate, just not at 30 meters,” adding, “I don’t bite. What are you afraid of?”

Mr Zelensky’s comments come as a French official says French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken for 90 minutes by phone with Putin.

The official said Putin told Macron that military operations in Ukraine are “going according to plan.”

The official at the French Elysee presidential palace said Putin also said the conflict would continue “until the end” unless negotiations meet his terms.

Putin said negotiations must centre on the “neutralization and disarmament of Ukraine,” according to the French official.

The French president said in a tweet after the call: "I spoke to President Putin this morning.

"He refuses to stop his attacks on Ukraine at this point.

"It is vital to maintain dialogue to avoid human tragedy.

"I will continue my efforts and contacts.

"We must avoid the worst."

It comes as the Biden administration announced new sanctions against Russian oligarchs and others in Putin’s inner circle as Russian forces continue to pummel Ukraine.

Those targeted by the new sanctions include Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, and Alisher Usmanov, one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals and a close ally of Putin.

The US State Department also announced it was imposing visa bans on 19 Russian oligarchs and dozens of their family members and close associates.

“These individuals and their family members will be cut off from the U.S. financial system; their assets in the United States will be frozen and their property will be blocked from use,” the White House said in a statement announcing the new penalties.

The war has now entered its second week with Ukrainian cities surrounded and under bombardment.

A US official said that while Mariupol is still under Ukrainian control, Russia appears to be trying to isolate the city.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials have said that Russian forces are stepping up efforts to seize control of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine.

Russian tanks had opened fire in the town on Thursday, Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said, sparking fears of a nuclear disaster at the largest such plant in Europe and the ninth largest on earth.

Thousands of plant employees live in Energodar and many locals took to the road leading to the plant on Wednesday to create a human barricade between Russian forces and the plant.

Russia has already captured the defunct Chernobyl plant, 100 km north of Kyiv.

Russian troops were trying to break through a barricade to the plant erected by local residents and territorial defence forces, Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said in an online post.

Another adviser, Vadym Denysenko, said the situation was alarming with Russians entering Energodar town where the plant's workers live.

Russia has already captured the defunct Chernobyl plant, some 100km north of Ukraine's capital Kyiv.

Earlier, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said his country’s armed forces are holding off the Russian advance.

“We have nothing to lose but our own freedom,” he said in his latest video on Thursday.

Last night Vladimir Putin was accused of a new tactic of deliberately trapping civilians under relentless artillery fire.

In a statement, Mariupol city council compared the tactic of the siege to the Nazis blockage of Leningrad in the Second World War, which resulted in millions of deaths.

“Deliberately, for seven days, they have been destroying the city’s critical life-support infrastructure. We have no light, water or heat again,” it said of the Russian armed forces.

The mayor of the strategically important southern city of Kherson confirmed it had fallen into enemy hands, and that Russia planned to set up a “military administration” there.

It means that Putin has now established a bridgehead from which his forces can cross the River Dnieper – which cuts Ukraine in two – and head westwards and northwards to attack Kyiv from a second direction.

A series of large explosions were heard in Kyiv last night as Russia continues its bombardment of cities across Ukraine.

The situation in Kyiv is “difficult but under control”, the city’s mayor has said.

Speaking on Thursday, Vitali Klitschko said there were no casualties in the capital overnight.

Explosions heard above Kyiv were caused by Ukrainian air defences hitting incoming Russian missiles, he added.

Meanwhile, Germany will send more weapons to Ukraine to help it fight the Russians, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmyro Kuleba has said.

Despite a pledge from Putin last week that he would not target cities or civilians, the southern port city of Mariupol is being “flattened”, with its water and electricity cut off and rail links shut down.

A Ukrainian delegation had left for a second round of talks with Russian officials on a ceasefire, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters.

Russian forces have yet to overthrow the government in Kyiv but thousands are reported to have died or been injured and more than a million people have fled Ukraine amid the biggest attack on a European state since 1945.

Intelligence chiefs suggested Putin had adopted “classic siege” tactics. “Their mission is to destroy us,” said the city’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko. “We cannot even take the wounded from the streets, from houses and apartments today, since the shelling does not stop.”

Irish man and family flee Ukraine

Meanwhile, An Irish man who is a Ukrainian resident has spoken about the long and frightening journey his family endured in recent days to reach safety.

Tom O’Callaghan, who is a native of Co Kerry, has been living in Kyiv with his wife Anna and two children for the last five years.

He left Kyiv with his family and Anna’s aunt last Thursday as the Russian invasion began.

Mr O’Callaghan said they played to move to the west of Ukraine for a short period, but as the shelling began at 5am on Thursday morning their only option was to flee for the border.

“You could hear thuds in the distance, and we had jets flying low overhead as we were leaving. It was essentially, it was a parking lot leaving Kyiv. The first couple of kilometres took us a couple of hours,” he said.

Railway explosions

Last night, a powerful explosion was reported near the central railway station in Kyiv, through which thousands of women and children are being evacuated, as a senior US official said that Russia was becoming more aggressive in targeting infrastructure in the capital. Ukraine also warned that Putin is planning to use his Black Sea fleet to launch a seaborne invasion in the south-west of the country.

Igor Kolykhayev, the mayor of Kherson, said in a Facebook post that “armed visitors” had taken part in a city executive meeting and that he had agreed to certain conditions, including a curfew and that pedestrians would walk only in groups of one or two, in order to keep the city running.

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People look at a train schedule at a railway station as they search for any train to leave Kyiv in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

People look at a train schedule at a railway station as they search for any train to leave Kyiv in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

People look at a train schedule at a railway station as they search for any train to leave Kyiv in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Without mentioning the Russian army, he said: “I didn’t make any promises to them. I just have nothing to promise. I just asked not to shoot people. We do not have Ukrainian armed forces in the city, only civilians and people who want to LIVE here! Let it be for now. The flag above us is Ukrainian. And in order for it to remain the same, these requirements will have to be met. I can’t offer anything else.”

Heavy shelling also caused widespread casualties in Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, as President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than 2,000 civilians had been killed since the invasion began. He also said 5,840 Russian military personnel had been killed, while Russia said the number was less than 500.

Mariupol

But it was Mariupol, which stands in the way of Putin controlling the coast from Crimea to the Donbas, that suffered the worst horrors yesterday.

Having captured Kherson, Putin needs to control Mariupol in order to link the city of Odessa with the occupied territory of the Crimean peninsula and cut off Ukraine from the sea. Mariupol, an industrial port on the Sea of Azov, was pounded by relentless and indiscriminate rocket artillery fire that authorities said seemed to be targeting civilian infrastructure and homes in order to make the city unliveable.

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A Ukrainian serviceman strokes a dog on a street, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yasnohorodka in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Maksim Levin

A Ukrainian serviceman strokes a dog on a street, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yasnohorodka in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Maksim Levin

A Ukrainian serviceman strokes a dog on a street, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yasnohorodka in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Maksim Levin

Officials said it amounted to “real genocide”.

The city’s deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov said: “The Russian army is working through all their weapons here – artillery, multiple rocket launch systems, planes, tactical rockets. They are trying to destroy the city.”

Mr Boichenko said there had been “colossal destruction”.

“Our railway link has been cut – they even went to the railway station and fired on our diesel locomotives so that people can’t be evacuated. So their mission is to destroy us. They have no intention of helping civilians.

“They have been flattening us non-stop for 12 hours now. We cannot even take the wounded from the streets, from houses and apartments today, since the shelling does not stop.”

Russian spearheads pushing out of Crimea and Russian-occupied parts of Donetsk region linked up and cut the last road out of Mariupol on Tuesday.

Mariupol is strategically vital, sitting astride the highway Russia will need to control if it is to open a land route from the Donbas to Crimea. Ukrainian forces have been readying for a possible Russian attempt to open that land route for eight years, and the city is heavily defended.

An emergency session of the United Nations voted for a resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine and calling for Russia to withdraw. Five nations voted against the resolution: Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Syria and Russia.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said that the next few days will get “harder and harder” for Ukraine.

War crimes

An investigation into possible war crimes will immediately be opened by the International Criminal Court, following requests by 39 of the court's member states, an unprecedented number

It comes as the United Nations General Assembly yesterday overwhelmingly voted to reprimand Russia for invading Ukraine, and demanded Moscow stop fighting and withdraw its military forces – an action that aims to diplomatically isolate Russia at the world body.

The resolution, supported by 141 of the assembly’s 193 members, passed in a rare emergency session called by the UN Security Council.

The text of the resolution deplores Russia’s “aggression against Ukraine”.

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A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

The last time the Security Council convened an emergency session of the General Assembly was in 1982, according to the UN website.

Russia was joined by Belarus (which has served as a launch pad for Russian invasion forces), Eritrea, North Korea and Syria in voting against the resolution. Thirty-five other nations, including China, abstained.

While General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they carry political weight, with yesterday’s vote representing a symbolic victory for Ukraine and increasing Moscow’s international isolation. Even Russia’s traditional ally Serbia voted against it.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the assembly that Russia was poised to intensify the brutality of its offensive and urged members to hold Moscow accountable for its violations of international law.

She cited videos of Russian troops moving heavy weapons into Ukraine, including cluster munitions and vacuum bombs, banned under international law.

Russia’s UN envoy, Vassily Nebenzia, denied Moscow was targeting civilians and accused western governments of pressuring assembly members to pass the resolution, whose adoption he said could fuel further violence.

Moscow’s ground offensive in the north and east of the country remained stalled in the face of what analysts and Ukrainian government officials say are resupply challenges and unexpectedly stiff resistance.

Ukrainian and US officials continue to describe Russian forces as being bogged down throughout the country.

Russian convoy to Kyiv

A Russian convoy northwest of Kyiv that stretches for dozens of miles has struggled for days to advance toward the capital, a senior US defence official said.

The convoy, which appears to be a mix of supply vehicles and combat power, would be instrumental in any Russian strategy to take over Kyiv. Officials say occasional attacks by the Ukrainian military, low morale among Russian troops and botched planning have slowed it down.

Sanctions

Meanwhile, Apple, Exxon, Boeing and other firms joined an exodus of international companies from Russian markets that has left Moscow financially and diplomatically isolated.

Both the European Union and the United States also imposed new sanctions on Belarus for its supporting role in the invasion.

Amid calls for him to face sanctions, Russian businessman Roman Abramovich said he would sell Chelsea FC and donate money from the sale to help victims of the war.

The Russian economy must be devastated to bring an end to the war against Ukraine, the British foreign secretary has said.

During a news conference in Lithuania, Liz Truss said: “We need to make sure...that the Russian economy is crippled so it is unable to continue to fund Putin and the war machine”.

French authorities have seized a yacht linked to Igor Sechin, the boss of Russian oil company Rosneft, who has ties to the Kremlin.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday the vessel was being held in La Ciotat as part of the EU’s sanctions against Russia.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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