Ukrainian official says Biden and NATO won't impose a no-fly zone because they 'lack confidence'


Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said U.S. and NATO forces would only reject a no-fly zone over his country’s skies if they lacked ‘confidence’ in the military alliance – after Russian President Vladimir Putin said such a move would constitute an act of war.

Kuleba urged the U.S. and NATO to impose such a no-fly zone, even as skeptics including Sen. Marco Rubio warned it could ‘means starting World War III.’  

‘We heroically repel attacks fo the Russian armed forces on the ground. However we do have issues with the skies. And The Russian air force dominates in the skies, and continues bombing our cities and killing many civilians,’ Kuleba told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ on Monday.

Then, he appeared to try to goad the west into taking further action on Ukraine’s behalf, after the White House rejected the idea.

‘Well, we believe that the rejection of the no-fly zone is based on the lack of confidence in the strengths of NATO as an alliance, because the military might of NATO is [incomparably] bigger compared than Russia,’ he said, appearing in front of a blank wall while wearing a casual plaid shirt.

‘Why would Russia dare to shoot down a NATO plane knowing that it is doomed, eventually doomed if the war begins.’ He said a failure to act would endanger the alliance.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said it would show a 'lack of confidence' if the U.S. and NATO refuse to impose a no-fly zone over his country

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said it would show a ‘lack of confidence’ if the U.S. and NATO refuse to impose a no-fly zone over his country

‘If you you know this logic, then no-fly zone becomes possible. If you believe that you cannot stop Russia, then no-fly zone becomes impossible, but then also the chance to defend NATO vanishes because if you do not believe that you can stop Russia in Ukraine, why should you be able to stop it elsewhere?’

The White House rejected the idea as ‘definitely escalatory’ last week after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed it. 

Rubio told ABC’s ‘This Week’ on Sunday that such a no-fly zone – which the U.S. imposed in the Balkans in the 1990s – could trigger horrific consequences if deployed against nuclear Russia.  

‘That means flying AWACS [air defenses] 24 hours a day, that means the willingness to shoot down and engage Russian airplanes in the sky. That means, frankly, you can’t put those planes up there unless they’re willing to knock out the anti-aircraft systems that the Russians have deployed, and not just in Ukraine, but Russia and also in Belarus,’ he said.

‘So basically a no-fly zone, if people understand what it means, it means World War III. It means starting World War III.’ 

Kuleba also pleaded with the U.S. to move forward with an emerging plan to provide Polish-owned MiG-29 fighters to the battered Ukrainian air force.   

Kuleba urged the U.S. and Poland to speed their decision-making over handing over MiG-29 Russian-made aircraft that Ukrainian pilots know how to fly

Kuleba urged the U.S. and Poland to speed their decision-making over handing over MiG-29 Russian-made aircraft that Ukrainian pilots know how to fly

‘I urge both the United States and Poland to speed up the decision-making processes and procedures. If we receive fighting jets, that will allow us to re-establish control over the skies and save many, many civilian lives, as well as many houses, buildings and objects of critical infrastructure from being [destroyed] by Russian bombardments,’ Kuleba said. 

The idea is to hand over the Russian-made jets that Ukrainians know how to fly, and have the U.S. backfill the need with modern F-16s. 

Asked about the possibility of a long-term settlement, Kuleba responded that he is a diplomat and has to believe in a cease fire – although there has been no pause in Russian attacks amid prior rounds of talks. 

‘All wars end with peace. Since the reason for this war is the fact that president Putin rejects the rights of Ukrainians to exist … We will begin to fiercely and vigorously fight as him as an aggressor to prevail. This is the strategy. We have no other strategy but win because our own existence as a nation is at stake.’

Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics on Monday asked for a permanent U.S. military presence in his country, amid fears over where Putin may strike next. He made the comment after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

Putin will stop the war only with sanctions, losses in Ukraine and ‘total isolation,’ he said.

Putin on Saturday issued a dire threat about a no-fly zone – as U.S. defense officials continued to report Ukraine’s air space is contested.

‘Any move in this direction will be viewed by us as a participation in the armed conflict,’ Putin said. ‘That very second, we will view them as participants … and it would not matter what members they are,’ he added. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears to have ground to a halt with no significant territory captured despite a weekend of heavy fighting, with Kyiv’s men claiming to have taken out dozens of helicopters and recaptured a city this morning – sparking hopes that the unlikeliest of victories may be on the cards.

Putin’s men renewed their bombardments on Mariupol, Chernihiv, Mykolaiv and Kharkiv this morning as hundreds of civilians tried to evacuate Irpin – on the outskirts of Kyiv – across a destroyed bridge after days of heavy attacks in an attempt to encircle the capital. But Russian commanders have not significantly advanced their frontline since the city of Kherson and nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia were captured last week. 

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Meanwhile the Ukrainian armed forces claimed to have destroyed up to 30 Russian helicopters that had been moved to Chornobaivka airport, near Kherson, overnight and to have retaken the city of Chuhuiv, near Kharkiv, killing two Russian commanders – Lt. Col. Dmitry Safronov, and Lt Col. Denis Glebov – in the process. Later in the day, Urkaine said it had also recaptured the airport at Mykolaiv. 

Video also emerged which appeared to show Ukrainian defence forces based in Odessa, the country’s largest port, exchanging fire with ships overnight – one of which suffered a hit. Ukraine’s ministry of defence has since claimed the vessel, a corvette named Vasily Bykov, was destroyed. Images showed it afloat with black smoke pouring out in the early hours.

Ukraine’s military now estimates that 11,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in fighting along with the loss of 1,000 armoured vehicles, 290 tanks, 68 helicopters, 46 planes and dozens of other piece of hardware. Independent observers give lower totals, but Franz-Stefan Gady – of the International Institute for Strategic Studies – said the situation is never-the-less ‘slowly becoming unsustainable for Russia’.

Russia tacitly acknowledged the loss of two other commanders – Colonel Konstantin Zizevsky and Lieutenant Colonel Denis Glebov – whose funerals were held in Russia at the weekend. 

US intelligence believes Russia has committed 95 per cent of the invasion force it had assembled on Ukraine’s border to the fight, meaning significant reinforcements to push its attacks forward are unlikely to come soon – and could simply run into many of the same logistical problems that plagued the early assault.  

That has prompted some – including UK general Admiral Sir Tony Radakin – to predict that Russia could actually lose the war. Asked by the BBC on Sunday whether victory for Putin’s men was ‘inevitable’, as many had predicted before the fighting started, he responded: ‘No.’ 

Defeat for Russia does not automatically mean victory for Ukraine, however. Despite heavy losses Putin’s men have still been able to capture key territory, particularly in the south, cutting Kyiv off from many of its vital Black Sea trading routes and naval bases.

Ukraine’s forces have proven dogged in defence but it remains to be seen whether they can counter-attack successfully and push Russian forces back across the border.

It came as Ukrainian and Russian forces met in Belarus for a third round of talks between the two sides. Russia has for the first time raised the prospect of halting its operation, provided Ukraine recognises the independence of the Donbass, acknowledges Crimes as Russian territory and pledges never to join NATO. It is the first time that Russia has explicitly stated its position in talks, which Kyiv has rejected. 

It has also been announced that Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov will meet Ukrainian counterpart Dymtro Kuleba in Turkey on Thursday – the first high-level summit between the two sides on neutral ground since the fighting started.  

In the meantime, Russia is expected to keep up its bombardment of Ukraine’s largest cities with Moscow claiming to have opened up evacuation routes out of some of them – Mariupol, Sumy, Kharkiv and Kyiv – on Monday morning so civilians could flee. Ukraine quickly rejected the plan after it emerged most of the evacuation routes led into Russia or Belarus. 

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk rejected the ceasefire offer on Monday, saying it is ‘not an acceptable option’ for Ukrainians to flee to the country that is attacking them. Civilians ‘aren’t going to go to Belarus and then take a plane to Russia’, she said. 

A Russian T-72 tank is seen destroyed somewhere near the city of Mariupol in an image posted by the 'Azov Brigade', a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard that operates in and around the city

A Russian T-72 tank is seen destroyed somewhere near the city of Mariupol in an image posted by the ‘Azov Brigade’, a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard that operates in and around the city

The tail-end of a destroyed Russian Su-34 fighter is seen crashed through the roof of a warehouse near Kharkiv having been shot down by Ukrainian forces overnight

The tail-end of a destroyed Russian Su-34 fighter is seen crashed through the roof of a warehouse near Kharkiv having been shot down by Ukrainian forces overnight

A Russian tank is seen damaged and abandoned near the city of Mariupol, which has been under heavy shelling for days

A Russian tank is seen damaged and abandoned near the city of Mariupol, which has been under heavy shelling for days

A destroyed Russian infantry fighting vehicle is seen near the city of Mariupol, in images captured by Ukraine's 'Azov Brigade'

A destroyed Russian infantry fighting vehicle is seen near the city of Mariupol, in images captured by Ukraine’s ‘Azov Brigade’

Destroyed Russian vehicles are seen somewhere near Mariupol, in images captured by the Azov Brigade

Destroyed Russian vehicles are seen somewhere near Mariupol, in images captured by the Azov Brigade

A Russian warship - believed to be the patrol vessel Vasily Bykov - is seen smouldering off the coast of Odessa, Ukraine, after being hit by forces defending the city overnight

A Russian warship – believed to be the patrol vessel Vasily Bykov – is seen smouldering off the coast of Odessa, Ukraine, after being hit by forces defending the city overnight

Ukrainian civilians are pictured urinating against the side of a captured Russian vehicle while their national flag flies atop it, as Putin's forces take 'unsustainable' losses

Ukrainian civilians are pictured urinating against the side of a captured Russian vehicle while their national flag flies atop it, as Putin’s forces take ‘unsustainable’ losses

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Abandoned Russian armoured vehicles are filmed stranded in a field somewhere in Ukraine, as Putin’s invasion grinds to a halt

Ukrainian delegation leaves the country for Belarus, where a third round of negotiations will take place on the border after two previous rounds ended without agreement

Ukrainian delegation leaves the country for Belarus, where a third round of negotiations will take place on the border after two previous rounds ended without agreement

Russian forces are continuing to pound Mariupol, in the south, Kharkiv, in the east, Chernihiv, in the north, and Mykolaiv, in the south, with artillery - but have made little or no gains in territory in recent days. Forces continue to work to surround the capital Kyiv, though progress has been slow. Attacks on civilian areas on the outskirts have increased

Russian forces are continuing to pound Mariupol, in the south, Kharkiv, in the east, Chernihiv, in the north, and Mykolaiv, in the south, with artillery – but have made little or no gains in territory in recent days. Forces continue to work to surround the capital Kyiv, though progress has been slow. Attacks on civilian areas on the outskirts have increased

After more than a week in stalled positions, Russian forces have made small gains in their attempt to surround and assault Kyiv - with Ukraine saying enough firepower has now been amassed for the mission

After more than a week in stalled positions, Russian forces have made small gains in their attempt to surround and assault Kyiv – with Ukraine saying enough firepower has now been amassed for the mission

Red Cross volunteers working out of Mariupol also revealed that one of the route out of the city suggested by Russia on Sunday was covered in land mines. 

Meanwhile Volodymyr Zelensky vowed that ‘God will not forgive’ and Ukraine ‘will not forget’ the slaughter of civilians by Russian forces, saying a ‘day of judgement’ is coming for them.

Zelensky, in a late-night address to his countrymen on the Orthodox Christian holiday of ‘Forgiveness Sunday’, recalled how a family of four were among eight civilians killed by Russian mortars while trying to flee the city of Irpin – near Kyiv – earlier in the day. ‘We will not forgive. We will not forget,’ he told listeners.   

‘We cannot forgive the hundreds upon hundreds of victims. Nor the thousands upon thousands who have suffered,’ he added. ‘God will not forgive. Not today. Not tomorrow. Never.’

‘Instead of humanitarian corridors, they can only make bloody ones,’ Zelensky said, as Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko added: ‘There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom.’

Shortly after they spoke, columns of smoke were seen rising over the city of Mykolaiv, on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, as Russian forces resumed shelling. 

The exact number of civilian casualties is unclear, though is estimated by Ukraine to be in the thousands as residential areas of major cities are indiscriminately bombed using thermobaric and cluster munitions amid evidence of ‘hit squads’ targeting civilian vehicles. The UN has confirmed 406 civilian deaths, though admits the true toll will be higher, and says that that 1.5million people have fled the fighting.   

Britain’s Europe Minister James Cleverly said Russia’s latest offer of a ceasefire and an escape route for civilians was ‘cynical beyond belief’. 

Evacuation routes published by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency showed that civilians in some areas will only be able to leave towards Russia and Belarus.

Mr Cleverly told BBC Breakfast: ‘It appears cynical beyond belief. There is a view that Vladimir Putin believed there was a widespread desire of Ukrainians to be closer to Russia, to be more Russian. I think that has been proven to be a complete nonsense by the circumstances we are seeing.

‘Providing evacuation routes into the arms of the country that is currently destroying yours is a nonsense.’

He added that ‘ultimately the most humanitarian thing the Russians could do is end this completely illegal, completely unjustified invasion of Ukraine’.

Even after the corridors were announced, Russia’s armed forces continued to pummel Ukrainian cities, with multiple rocket launchers hitting residential buildings. 

Russia has offered to allow civilians to flee out of some of the country's besieged cities - but the plan was rejected after it emerged all the routes led either to Russia or Belarus

Russia has offered to allow civilians to flee out of some of the country’s besieged cities – but the plan was rejected after it emerged all the routes led either to Russia or Belarus

Evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, which has been under heavy Russian attack

Evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, which has been under heavy Russian attack

Civilians continue to flee from Irpin due to ongoing Russian attacks in Irpin, Ukraine

Civilians continue to flee from Irpin due to ongoing Russian attacks in Irpin, Ukraine

People cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing the town of Irpin close to Kyiv, Ukraine

People cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing the town of Irpin close to Kyiv, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers carry a wounded woman out of the city of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv, amid heavy Russian attacks

Ukrainian soldiers carry a wounded woman out of the city of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv, amid heavy Russian attacks

A woman weeps as the sound of shelling intensifies in the city of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv, with Russians trying to surround the capital ahead of an expected bombardment

A woman weeps as the sound of shelling intensifies in the city of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv, with Russians trying to surround the capital ahead of an expected bombardment

A family-of-four were killed by a Russian mortar round as they tried to flee Irpin on Sunday, with Zelensky vowing God 'will not forgive' troops targeting the innocent and Ukraine 'will not forget'

A family-of-four were killed by a Russian mortar round as they tried to flee Irpin on Sunday, with Zelensky vowing God ‘will not forgive’ troops targeting the innocent and Ukraine ‘will not forget’ 

People cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing the town of Irpin, Ukraine

People cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing the town of Irpin, Ukraine

Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister who led the Orange Revolution against pro-Russia politician Viktor Yanukovych, is pictured in Kyiv after returning to the country

Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister who led the Orange Revolution against pro-Russia politician Viktor Yanukovych, is pictured in Kyiv after returning to the country

The limited ceasefire announcement came a day after hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians attempting to flee to safety were forced to shelter from Russian shelling of cities in Ukraine’s center, north and south. Officials from both sides planned a third round of talks Monday.

Russian forces continued their offensive, opening fire on the city of Mykolaiv, 480 kilometers south of the capital of Kyiv, Ukraine’s General Staff said Monday morning. Rescuers said they were putting out fires in residential areas caused by rocket attacks.

Shelling also continued in the suburbs of Kyiv, including Irpin, which has been cut off from electricity, water and heating for three days.

‘Russia continues to carry out rocket, bomb and artillery strikes on the cities and settlements of Ukraine,’ the General Staff said. ‘The invaders continue to use the airfield network of Belarus to carry out air strikes on Ukraine.’

The Russians have also been targeting humanitarian corridors, taking women and children hostage and placing weapons in residential areas of cities, according to the General Staff.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday, accused Putin of hypocrisy and cynicism over the offer of humanitarian corridors .

‘All this is not serious, it is moral and political cynicism, which I find intolerable,’ he told LCI television in an interview.

AFP journalists saw thousands of civilians early Monday fleeing the fighting via an unofficial humanitarian corridor in Irpin, a strategic suburb west of Kyiv.

‘I am so happy to have managed to get out,’ said Olga, a 48-year-old woman leaving with her two dogs.

Children and the elderly were carried on carpets used as stretchers on the route, which leads over a makeshift bridge and then a single path secured by the army and volunteers.

Ukraine war: The latest 

  • Russia steps up its shelling as the UN says 1.5 million people have now fled
  • Attempts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol fail again, amid repeated ceasefire violations 
  • Ukraine’s military says it is fighting ‘fierce battles’ on the edge of the southern city of Mykolayiv, 
  • Dozens of civilians are being killed in the battle for Chernihiv in the north
  • A barrage of Russian missiles destroys Vinnytsia airport in central Ukraine
  • Russian shops are told to limit sales of essential foodstuffs to counter black market speculation
  • Thousands more are arrested at anti-war demonstrations in Russia, bringing the total to well over 11,000
  • Vladimir Putin says he will achieve his aims in Ukraine ‘through negotiation or through war’
  • US ‘green lights’ Poland to supply Kyiv with fighter jets, amid fears it could drag NATO into war
  • Antony Blinken says the West is in ‘very active’ discussions about a Russian oil embargo, despite price at all-time high
  • Credit card giants Visa, Mastercard and American Express freeze business in Russia. Russian banks say they will use China’s UnionPay system
  • Consultancy firms KPMG and PwC announce an end to operations in Russia
  • France announces it will send iodine tablets and other medical supplies to Ukraine. They are used to protect against the effects of exposure to radiation
  • krainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says 20,000 international volunteers have joined the fight
  • Netflix suspends services in Russia and social media giant TikTok blocks posting of video content from the country
  • Foreign media including the BBC, CBC, ARD, ZDF, Bloomberg News, CNN, CBS, RAI and EFE have suspended reporting from Russia after Moscow threatened jail terms

Desperate people abandoned pushchairs and heavy suitcases to make sure they could get on the buses out of the war zone.

‘We had no light at home, no light, no water, we just sat in the basement,’ Inna Scherbanyova, 54, an economist from Irpin, told AFP.

‘Explosions were constantly going off… Near our house there are cars, there were dead people in one of them… very scary.’

A day earlier a family of two adults and two children were killed by a shell as they tried to leave the war-torn area.

‘They are monsters. Irpin is at war, Irpin has not surrendered,’ mayor Oleksandr Markushyn said on Telegram, adding that he had seen the family killed with his own eyes. 

There was no let-up in the violence overnight into Monday, as outgunned Ukrainian forces, helped with military supplies from western countries, try to hold back Russian forces.

Air sirens sounded in cities across the country, and there was intense aerial bombardment in Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, which has endured almost non-stop fire in recent days.

‘The enemy continues the offensive operation against Ukraine, focusing on the encirclement of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mykolayiv,’ the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement.

The mayor of Gostomel, the town north of Kiev that is home to a crucial military airfield, was shot dead by Russian forces along with two other people while ‘distributing bread to the hungry and medicine to the sick,’ officials said.

Nine bodies – five civilians and four soldiers – were found in the rubble of Vinnytsia airport in central Ukraine after it was destroyed in a Russian missile attack on Sunday, rescue services said.

Fears meanwhile rose that main port of Odessa, dubbed the ‘pearl of the Black Sea’, was the next target of Russia’s offensive in the south. Officials said Russia had shelled the village of Tuzly in the Odessa region from the sea, causing no injuries.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky renewed calls for the West to boycott Russian exports, particularly oil, and to impose a no-fly zone to stop the carnage.

‘How many more deaths and losses must it take to secure the skies over Ukraine?’ he said in a video message.

Twelve days of fighting have killed hundreds of civilians and wounded thousands. An unending stream of people – mostly women and children – has poured into neighbouring countries, especially Poland.

Western allies have imposed unprecedented sanctions against businesses, banks and billionaires in a bid to choke the Russian economy and pressure Moscow to halt its assault.

– ‘Neutralisation’ of Ukraine –

But Putin has equated global sanctions with a declaration of war, put nuclear forces on alert and warned that Kyiv is ‘putting in question the future of Ukrainian statehood’ by continuing to resist.

Moscow has been forced to restrict sales of essential goods to limit black-market speculation, while on Sunday payment giant American Express halted operations there, a day after Visa and MasterCard announced similar steps.

Streaming giant Netflix suspended its service in Russia while social media titan TikTok halted the posting of new videos from Russia.

Despite harsh punishments for those voicing dissent, protests in Russia against the Ukraine invasion have continued, with more than 10,000 people arrested since it began.

Putin has pledged the ‘neutralisation’ of Ukraine ‘either through negotiation or through war’.

Sputtering diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict continue with the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia and Turkey set to meet in southern Turkey on Thursday, Ankara said.

China said on Monday it was open to helping to mediate peace, but stressed that the friendship between close allies Beijing and Moscow remained ‘rock solid’.

The International Court of Justice meanwhile heard Ukraine’s appeal for it to order Russia to halt the fighting, but Moscow declined to attend the sitting of the UN’s top court, in The Hague.

NATO allies have so far rebuffed Ukraine’s calls for a no-fly zone, with one senior US senator, Marco Rubio, saying Sunday that it could lead to ‘World War III’ against nuclear-armed Russia.

Kyiv has urged the West to boost its military assistance, with Zelensky pleading for Russian-made planes that his pilots are trained to fly. 

Putin has already warned that sanctions imposed by the West on Russian are ‘tantamount to a declaration of war’ and that any attempt to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine – which would involve NATO jets shooting down Russian aircraft and attacking ground-based anti-air systems – would prompt retaliation.

NATO and the US have firmly ruled out the idea of sending forces to fight, despite calls from Zelesnky, but are struggling to gage what other responses might trigger Putin to escalate. According to the New York Times, the question being asked in the White House is: ‘Tell me how we don’t get sucked in to a superpower conflict?’

Instead of directly engaging in the fight with Russia, the U.S. and its allies in the 30-member NATO group were sending weapons to Ukraine; more than 17,000 anti-tank weapons, including Javelin missiles, have been sent by land to Ukraine over the borders of Poland and Romania since the conflict began.

A $350 million package of military aid was approved by Congress on February 26, two days into the conflict, and 70 percent of it was delivered in five days. By contrast, a $60 million arms package to Ukraine agreed to in August was not completed until November, the Pentagon said

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Poland has been given a ‘green light’ to supply MiG fighters to Ukraine’s air force – which their pilots are trained to fly – in exchange for American-made F-16s which would be given to Warsaw to ensure its air force is not depleted. 

Ukrainian soldiers help an elderly woman to cross a destroyed bridge as she evacuates the city of Irpin

Ukrainian soldiers help an elderly woman to cross a destroyed bridge as she evacuates the city of Irpin

Civilians continue to flee from Irpin due to ongoing Russian attacks in Irpin,

Civilians continue to flee from Irpin due to ongoing Russian attacks in Irpin,

A Ukrainian serviceman looks on as evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv

A Ukrainian serviceman looks on as evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv

A woman carries her pet cat as evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin

A woman carries her pet cat as evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin

Civilians cross amid rubble of a damaged bridge in the Irpin city near from Kyiv

Civilians cross amid rubble of a damaged bridge in the Irpin city near from Kyiv

A Ukrainian volunteer fighter helps carry a child for local residents as they evacuate on foot as Russian forces advance and continue to bombard the area with artillery, in Irpin

A Ukrainian volunteer fighter helps carry a child for local residents as they evacuate on foot as Russian forces advance and continue to bombard the area with artillery, in Irpin

Civilians carry children across a damaged bridge in the Irpin city near Kyiv, as the area comes under Russian attack

Civilians carry children across a damaged bridge in the Irpin city near Kyiv, as the area comes under Russian attack

Ukrainian servicemen help an elderly woman in the town of Irpin, which was heavily shelled by Russia at the weekend

Ukrainian servicemen help an elderly woman in the town of Irpin, which was heavily shelled by Russia at the weekend

Local residents evacuate as Russian forces advance and continue to bombard the town with artillery, in Irpin

Local residents evacuate as Russian forces advance and continue to bombard the town with artillery, in Irpin

Ukrainian soldiers help people trying to leave the city amid the collapsed structures and debris in Irpin

Ukrainian soldiers help people trying to leave the city amid the collapsed structures and debris in Irpin

A wife says her goodbyes to her husband who is a member of the Territorial Defense as she evacuates from the city of Irpin

A wife says her goodbyes to her husband who is a member of the Territorial Defense as she evacuates from the city of Irpin

A father says goodbye to his daughter as civilians flee the city of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv, with Russian forces approaching

A father says goodbye to his daughter as civilians flee the city of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv, with Russian forces approaching

However, Poland described reports that its jets are being sent to Ukraine as ‘fake news’. Back-and-forth reports of Polish fighters being sent to aid Kyiv have been going on since at least last week. There are fears that such a move would lead Putin to step up his attacks, possibly by trying to invade a second country.

If Putin were to target Poland directly, it would suck NATO into the war because Poland is a member of the 30-state alliance – whose members all pledge to defend one-another in the event they are attacked.  

Meanwhile China – which has so-far sought to tread a middle-ground on Ukraine, pacifying western outrage by abstaining on votes at the UN while still cosying up to Russia economically – has offered to mediate peace talks between the two sides.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Monday said the friendship between Beijing and Moscow was still very strong, despite international condemnation of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, as he offered Beijing’s help in mediating peace.

‘The friendship between the two peoples is rock-solid, and both sides’ future cooperation prospects are very vast,’ said Wang at an annual press briefing, adding that China would send humanitarian aid to Ukraine and was ‘willing to work with the international community to carry out necessary mediation’.

Putin launched his invasion with a string of false accusations against Kyiv, including that it is led by neo-Nazis intent on undermining Russia with the development of nuclear weapons.

As Russian attacks worsened, a brief reprieve from fighting in Mariupol collapsed. Heavy artillery hit residential areas in other large cities, local officials reported.  

Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich described a ‘catastrophic’ situation in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, where efforts to evacuate residents on Sunday failed. About eight civilians, including a family, were killed by Russian shelling in Irpin, according to Mayor Oleksander Markyshin.

Video footage showed a shell slamming into a city street, not far from a bridge used by people fleeing the fighting. A group of fighters could be seen trying to help the family. Arestovich said the government was doing all it could to resume evacuations. 

‘This is likely to represent an effort to break Ukrainian morale,’ the U.K. Ministry of Defense said of Russian tactics as the war entered its 12th day Monday. Fighting has caused 1.5 million people to flee the country, which the head of the U.N. refugee agency called ‘the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.’

British military officials compared Russia’s tactics to those Moscow used in Chechnya and Syria, where surrounded cities were pulverized by airstrikes and artillery.

Food, water, medicine and almost all other supplies were in desperately short supply in Mariupol, where Russian and Ukrainian forces had agreed to an 11-hour cease-fire that would allow civilians and the wounded to be evacuated. But Russian attacks quickly closed the humanitarian corridor, Ukrainian officials said.

The handful of residents who managed to flee the city before the humanitarian corridor closed said the city of 430,000 had been devastated.

‘We saw everything: houses burning, all the people sitting in basements,’ said Yelena Zamay, who fled to one of the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists. ‘No communication, no water, no gas, no light, no water. There was nothing.’

Russia has made significant advances in southern Ukraine as it seeks to block access to the Sea of Azov. Capturing Mariupol could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in a move that most other countries considered illegal.

But much of the Russian advance has become stalled, including an immense military convoy that has been almost motionless for days north of Kyiv.

A senior US defense official said Sunday that the U.S. assesses that about 95% of the Russian forces that had been arrayed around Ukraine are now inside the country. 

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russian forces continue to advance in an attempt to isolate Kyiv, Kharkhiv and Chernihiv, but are being met with strong Ukrainian resistance.

Emergency officials in the Kharkiv region said Monday that overnight shelling killed at least eight people and wrecked residential buildings, medical and education facilities and administrative buildings.

Ukraine’s professional and volunteer fighters have fought with great tenacity, though they are greatly outmatched by the Russian army. Volunteers lined up Saturday in Kyiv to join the military. Ukraine is also planning to fill an international legion with 20,000 volunteers from dozens of countries, though it was not clear how many were in Ukraine.

Smoke rises over the city of Mykolaiv, on Ukraine's Black Sea coast, early on Monday after Russian rocket attacks

Smoke rises over the city of Mykolaiv, on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, early on Monday after Russian rocket attacks

Ukrainian firemen scour the rubble of Vinnytsia airport, in central Ukraine, after a Russian airstrike at the weekend that authorities now say killed nine people

Ukrainian firemen scour the rubble of Vinnytsia airport, in central Ukraine, after a Russian airstrike at the weekend that authorities now say killed nine people

Ukrainian emergency services at Vinnytsia Airport

Ukrainian emergency services at Vinnytsia Airport

Ukrainian emergency services search the rubble of Vinnytsia Airport for survivors and victims of a Russian airstrike

Kiev's Mayor Vitaly Klitschko visits a blockpost near Kyiv, as Russian forces attempt to surround the capital and besiege it

Kiev’s Mayor Vitaly Klitschko visits a blockpost near Kyiv, as Russian forces attempt to surround the capital and besiege it

Kiev's Mayor Vitaly Klitschko (right) greets Ukrainian territorial defense fighter Lesya following her wedding with Valeriy (not pictured) at a blockpost near Kyiv

Kiev’s Mayor Vitaly Klitschko (right) greets Ukrainian territorial defense fighter Lesya following her wedding with Valeriy (not pictured) at a blockpost near Kyiv

Ukrainian firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in an apartment building near Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine, after it was struck by Russian Smerch rocket launchers in the early hours

Ukrainian firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in an apartment building near Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine, after it was struck by Russian Smerch rocket launchers in the early hours

Mykolaiv, on Ukraine's Black Sea coast, is coming under increasing attacks by Russia as Putin's forces attempt to push along the coast to attack the country's largest port city at Odessa

Mykolaiv, on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, is coming under increasing attacks by Russia as Putin’s forces attempt to push along the coast to attack the country’s largest port city at Odessa

Rescuers dismantle the rubble of a destroyed school after Russian troops shelled the city of Chernihiv, to the north of the capital Kyiv, on Monday morning

Rescuers dismantle the rubble of a destroyed school after Russian troops shelled the city of Chernihiv, to the north of the capital Kyiv, on Monday morning

People are seen among debris of residential buildings damaged by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Zhytomyr - to the west of Kyiv

People are seen among debris of residential buildings damaged by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Zhytomyr – to the west of Kyiv

Russian tanks marked with the 'Z' invasion symbol are seen in Donetsk, a rebel-occupied area in Ukraine's east, on Sunday

Russian tanks marked with the ‘Z’ invasion symbol are seen in Donetsk, a rebel-occupied area in Ukraine’s east, on Sunday

Smoke rises from Russian artillery pieces after opening fire on a road near Bugas, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine

Smoke rises from Russian artillery pieces after opening fire on a road near Bugas, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists, in uniforms without insignia, are seen in the pro-Russian separatists-controlled Donetsk

Pro-Russian separatists, in uniforms without insignia, are seen in the pro-Russian separatists-controlled Donetsk

Pro-Russian separatist forces are transported to join the fighting in the rebel-occupied Ukrainian region of Donetsk

Pro-Russian separatist forces are transported to join the fighting in the rebel-occupied Ukrainian region of Donetsk

Russian armoured vehicles are seen taking up firing positions in the rebel-occupied Donetsk region of Ukraine

Russian armoured vehicles are seen taking up firing positions in the rebel-occupied Donetsk region of Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists, in uniforms without insignia, are seen in the pro-Russian separatists-controlled Donetsk

Pro-Russian separatists, in uniforms without insignia, are seen in the pro-Russian separatists-controlled Donetsk

‘The whole world today is on Ukraine’s side, not only in words but in deeds,’ Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Ukrainian television Sunday night.

The West has broadly backed Ukraine, offering aid and weapon shipments and slapping Russia with vast sanctions. But no NATO troops have been sent to Ukraine.

Zelenskyy has also heaped criticism on Western leaders for not responding with more force to Russia. He reiterated a request for foreign protectors to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which NATO so far has ruled out because of concerns such an action would lead to a far wider war.

Zelenskyy also asked the United States and NATO countries to send more warplanes to Ukraine. But that idea is complicated by questions about how to provide aircraft to Ukrainian pilots.

He later urged the West to tighten its sanctions on Russia, saying that ‘the audacity of the aggressor is a clear signal’ that existing sanctions are not enough.

Russia has become increasingly isolated in the days since the invasion began, closing itself off to outside sources of information as sanctions bite deeply into its economy. The ruble has plunged in value, and dozens of multinational companies ended or dramatically scaled back their work in the country.

On Sunday, American Express announced it would suspend operations in Russia, as well as in Russian-allied Belarus. Also, two of the so-called Big Four accounting firms, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, said Sunday they would end their relationships with their Russia-based member firms.

TikTok announced Sunday that Russian users would not be able to post new videos or see videos shared from elsewhere in the world. The company blamed Moscow’s new ‘fake news’ law, which makes it illegal, among other things, to describe the fighting as an invasion. Netflix also cut its service to Russia but provided no details.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress is exploring how to further isolate Russia from the global economy, including banning the import of its oil and energy products into the United States.

A Ukrainian soldier aids a victim of a mortar attacks from Russian forces in Irpin, to the west of Kyiv

A Ukrainian soldier aids a victim of a mortar attacks from Russian forces in Irpin, to the west of Kyiv

Refugees, mostly women and children, wait in a crowd for transportation after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

Refugees, mostly women and children, wait in a crowd for transportation after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

A woman covers herself with a blanket to keep warm after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

A woman covers herself with a blanket to keep warm after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

Refugees, mostly women and children, wait in a crowd for transportation after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

Refugees, mostly women and children, wait in a crowd for transportation after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

A woman feeds a baby after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

A woman feeds a baby after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland

Refugees wait in a crowd for transportation after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border in Medyka, Poland

Refugees wait in a crowd for transportation after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border in Medyka, Poland

A woman with a child arrives at the border crossing after fleeing from the Ukraine in Medyka, Poland

A woman with a child arrives at the border crossing after fleeing from the Ukraine in Medyka, Poland

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