Russia continued its assault on Ukraine Sunday morning on the 11th day of its invasion, a day after a temporary ceasefire fell apart and Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened Ukrainian statehood.
Putin once again blamed Ukraine leaders for Russia’s violent invasion, threatening on Saturday that if they “continue to do what they are doing, they are calling into question the future of Ukrainian statehood.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky remained defiant, urging Ukrainians to pick up arms to fight back against Russian invaders.
“It is a special kind of heroism — to protest when your city is occupied,” Zelenskyy said. “Ukrainians in all of our cities that the enemy has entered — go on the offensive! You should take to the streets! You should fight!”
Thousands of people took to the streets to protest in Ukrainian cities occupied by Russian forces, including Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine. The city, which has a population of nearly 300,000, was the first to fall to Russian troops on March 2.
The UN reported that more than 1.4 million Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes as bombs continue to rain down on encircled cities.
Zelensky made a “desperate” plea to US lawmakers Saturday morning requesting additional military aid, including warplanes, ahead of Congressional debate over a request for a $10 billion emergency funding package that would provide humanitarian aid and security assistance, Senator Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
The embattled Zelensky has repeatedly pleaded with NATO and Western officials to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine to counter Russian air attacks. Western leaders have been hesitant to establish the zone fearing an escalation in the conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin said a no-fly zone would be tantamount to a declaration of war.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba at the Poland-Ukraine border, said “we are talking about and working on everything.”
President Joe Biden spoke with Zelensky by phone to discuss the “ongoing actions undertaken by the United States, its Allies and partners, and private industry to raise the costs on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine,” the White House said Saturday.
Ukrainian officials said Russian artillery fire and airstrikes prevented residents from evacuating the eastern city of Volnovakha and Mariupol, a city of about 430,000 where a ceasefire had been declared so residents of the besieged city could be evacuated.
However, just as evacuations began, shelling intensified.
“The city is in a very, very difficult state of siege,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko told Ukrainian TV. “Relentless shelling of residential blocks is ongoing, airplanes have been dropping bombs on residential areas.”
Associated Press journalists witnessed doctors make unsuccessful attempts to save the lives of wounded children as pharmacies ran bare and hundreds of thousands of people faced food and water shortages in freezing weather.
Ukrainian forces continued to defend the strategic city of Odessa, Ukraine’s biggest port city, from Russian ships, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.
Conflict continued in Russian-encircled cities such as Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy.
The World Health Organization reported Russian attacks on half a dozen health care facilities in Ukraine, resulting in six people killed and 11 injured. Russia has repeatedly denied that it is bombing civilian targets despite destroying residential apartments, schools and hospitals. The agency did not specify the locations of the attacks.
Delegates from Ukraine and Russia will meet for a third time on Monday, said Davyd Arakhamia, head of the parliamentary faction of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party and a member of Ukraine’s delegation at the talks.
Since the invasion began, Russia claims roughly 500 Russian troops have been killed and around 1,600 wounded. Ukraine has not yet released casualty figures for its military, however Ukraine’s State Emergency Service has reported that over 2,000 civilians have been killed – including at least 28 children. Over 840 children have been injured, the agency claimed.
The UN human rights office has confirmed that at least 351 civilians have been killed and 707 wounded in the fighting, however the actual number is believed to be much higher.
The UN World Food Program says millions of people inside Ukraine, a major global wheat supplier, will need food aid “immediately” as Ukrainian refugees flee into neighboring countries, including NATO allies Poland and Romania.
Economic sanctions imposed against Russia by the US and its allies continue to cripple the Russian economy, with Mastercard and Visa becoming joining financial companies to suspend their services.
The Russian ruble has plunged by more than a third to a record low since the invasion began, pushing up inflation for Russian households and causing widespread economic anxiety as Russians line up to withdraw cash at ATMs.
The International Monetary Fund said Saturday the war in Ukraine will have a “severe impact” on the global economy.
“While the situation remains highly fluid and the outlook is subject to extraordinary uncertainty, the economic consequences are already very serious,” the IMF said in a statement, after a board meeting chaired by Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.
With Post Wires