President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday called for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow to stop its aggression on Ukraine, saying it would take Russia “several generations” to recover from its defeat in the war.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an offensive on Feb. 24, Russian troops have suffered heavy losses and their advance has largely stalled, with long lines of troops attacking Kyiv stopped on its outskirts.
However they have besieged cities, blasted urban areas into ruins, and have recently intensified missile attacks on targets scattered in western Ukraine, far from major battlefields in the north and east of the country.
On Saturday, Russia’s defense ministry said it had destroyed a large underground depot for missiles and aircraft missiles in the western region of Ivano-Frankivsk using hypersonic weapons, missiles that can move at speeds five times sound or faster.
The missiles also destroyed Ukrainian military radios and a reconnaissance center near the port of Odessa, the Interfax news agency quoted the ministry as saying.
Reuters could not independently confirm the report. Zelenskiy’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday they had not seen any significant changes over the past 24 hours in frontline areas, noting the cities of Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Kherson in the south and Izyum in the east had witnessed intense fighting.
More than 3.3 million refugees have fled Ukraine through its western border, with another 2 million displaced within the country. Efforts to evacuate civilians from the besieged city through “humanitarian corridors” continued.
Ukrainian authorities said they hope to open 10 such corridors on Saturday.
The unprecedented Western sanctions aimed at crippling Russia’s economy and starving its war machine have yet to stop what Putin called a “special operation” to disarm its neighbors and purge them of the “Nazis”. Kyiv and its allies have cited this as an unfounded excuse for war.
Ukraine’s defense ministry on Friday admitted it had “temporarily” lost access to the Sea of Azov, a strategic link with the Black Sea, after Russia said it was “tightening the noose” around the besieged southern port of Mariupol.
Hundreds of thousands have been trapped there for more than two weeks with electricity, water and heat cut off. Its Soviet-era apartment blocks are blasted into burning shells and uncollected corpses in the middle of the rubble are a common sight. Local officials said fighting had reached the city center while heavy gunfire prevented humanitarian aid from entering.
Rescue workers are still searching for survivors from the Mariupol theater which according to local authorities was leveled by Russian airstrikes on Wednesday. Russia denied hitting the theater and said it was not targeting civilians.
In a challenging atmosphere, Putin on Friday promised the crowd waving flags at a football stadium in Moscow that Russia would “really achieve all our plans”.
Zelenskiy said the reluctance to compromise would come at a high price.
“I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. The time has come for a meeting, it is time to speak,” he said in a video speech early Saturday. “The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be such that it will take you several generations to recover.”
The last time Russia admitted on March 2 that nearly 500 of its soldiers had been killed; Ukraine says the number has now reached thousands. Reuters could not independently confirm the death toll.
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Western analysts say Moscow seems to underestimate the resistance it faces in Ukraine, where civilians who never laid down arms until a few weeks ago are joining permanent forces to defend their country.
At a training facility in Odessa, a beautiful Black Sea port and a vibrant cultural center, the city’s young professionals are learning about handling weapons and applying first aid to wounds on the battlefield.
“Everyone should know how to fight, how to make medicine, help for your relatives or others,” said 26-year-old graphic designer Olga Moroz. She trains with her boyfriend, 32 -year -old sales manager Maxim Yavtushenko.
The facility has been training 80 to 150 people a day, all trying to prepare for the day the Russian army urging closer to the city may finally arrive.
Kyiv and Moscow reported some progress in talks this week toward a political formula that would guarantee Ukraine’s security, while keeping it outside NATO, though both sides accused each other of dragging the matter.
Although Russia has been isolated by sanctions and diplomatically isolated, China is the only major power that has not condemned the attack. The United States worries the lifeline from Beijing could make international pressure less effective.
In a video call on Friday, President Joe Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping there would be “consequences” if Beijing provided “material support” to Russia in Ukraine, the White House said, adding sanctions were an option.
Both Russia and China have denied discussing military aid and Beijing said it wants to see an end to the conflict.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)