LVIV, Ukraine (AP) – President Vladimir Putin warned on Saturday that Russia would consider any declaration of a third-party no-fly zone over Ukraine as participating in the war there, while Ukrainian officials accused Russian shelling of violating the ceasefire in two cities for the evacuation of civilians.
Fighting for a ceasefire in Mariupol, a strategic port in the southeast and the eastern city of Volnovakha, has shown volatility in ceasefire efforts across Ukraine, with refugees fleeing 1.4 million in just 10 days. after Russian forces invaded.
Putin accused Ukraine of sabotaging the evacuation and even said that the Ukrainian leadership was questioning the future of the country’s statehood, saying that “if this happens, it will be entirely on their conscience.”
Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had agreed with Ukraine on ways to evacuate from Volnovakha and Mariupol, places growing amid a continuous attack that created desperate scenes in hospitals and raised the prospect of food and water shortages for hundreds of thousands. people in the cold.
Commenting on Ukrainian television, Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko said thousands of people had gathered to leave the city safely and buses were leaving. when the shelling began.
“We value the life of every resident of Mariupol and can not risk it, so we stopped the evacuation,” he said.
Before Russia announced a ceasefire, Ukraine called on Moscow to create humanitarian corridors so that children, women and the elderly could flee the fighting, calling it “issue 1”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that Russia was ready for the third round of talks on these and other issues, but assured that “the Ukrainian side, most interested here, seems to be constantly inventing various grounds for postponement. the beginning of the next meeting “.
Diplomatic efforts continued when US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Poland to meet with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, a day after attending a NATO meeting in Brussels, where the alliance pledged to strengthen support for the eastern flank.
In connection with Western sanctions, the flagship Russian state airline Aeroflot has announced that it plans to suspend all international flights except Belarus on Tuesday.
While the huge Russian armored column threatening Ukraine’s capital remained deadlocked near Kiev, the shelling in Mariupol demonstrated Russia’s determination to cut off Ukraine’s access to the Black and Azov Seas, further damaging the country’s economy.
Even in the cities that came to the Russians, there were signs of resistance – peaceful or otherwise. When houses in the northern city of Chernihiv burned down because locals blamed Russian shelling, which had been aimed at Ukraine’s urban areas from the beginning, Ukrainian officials released images showing a Russian plane being shot down there.
Adviser to the President Alexei Arastovich said that on Saturday the situation was generally calm and Russian forces “have not taken active action since the morning.”
Instead, Putin was the one who was most on the offensive with his comments warning of a wider war.
The President of Ukraine called for the creation of a no-fly zone over his country and attacked NATO for refusing to introduce it, warning that “all people who die from this day will also die because of you.”
NATO has said a no-fly zone that bans all unauthorized planes from flying over Ukraine could provoke a major war in Europe. But as the United States and other NATO members send weapons to Kiev, the conflict is already involving countries far beyond Ukraine.
As Russia cracks down on independent media outlets reporting on the war, major international news agencies have said they are suspending their work inside the country. Moscow has also blocked Facebook and Twitter.
And, warning of an impending famine crisis, the UN World Food Program has said that millions of people in Ukraine, the world’s largest supplier of wheat, will need food aid “immediately.”
The President of Ukraine was to inform US senators on Saturday by video conference when Congress is considering a request for emergency funding of $ 10 billion for humanitarian aid and security needs.
And the UN Security Council has scheduled an open meeting on Monday to worsen the humanitarian situation. The United Nations estimates that 12 million Ukrainians and 4 million fleeing to neighboring countries will need humanitarian assistance in the coming months.
At least 351 civilians have been killed since Russia’s invasion on February 24, but the true figure is probably much higher, the UN Office for Human Rights said. Russia said Wednesday that 498 of its troops had been killed and have not been renewed since.
Kyiv Central Railway Station remained crowded with people who were desperately fleeing. “People just want to live,” said one woman, Xenia.
Elsewhere in the capital, as a sign of a rupture of nerves, two people on the sidewalk froze from a sharp blow. It was a garbage truck that overturned the container.