Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians trying to flee to safety were forced to seek shelter from Russian shells that hit cities in central, northern and southern Ukraine, leaving bodies in the streets.

As Ukrainian authorities described a “catastrophic” situation during failed evacuation efforts in the Kiev suburbs , authorities on both sides were preparing for a third round of talks on Monday.

On the outskirts of the capital, Kiev, a suitcase with wheels was left upright next to several dead bodies. A Russian rocket attack on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, left a wrecked car, a pile of rubble and another man dead. Ukrainian authorities said the shelling had only gotten worse as night fell on Sunday.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to keep fighting and urged his people in a televised message over the weekend to take to the streets to “drive this evil out of our cities, out of our land.”

“Instead of humanitarian corridors, they can only make them bloody,” Zelenskyy said later on Sunday, referring to an attempt to evacuate civilians that was abandoned by Russian bombardment. “Today a family was killed in Irpin. A man, a woman and two children. Directly on the street. Like in a shooting gallery.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow ‘s attacks could stop “only if Kiev ceases hostilities.” As he has regularly done, Putin blamed Ukraine for the war, telling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that Kiev must end all hostilities and comply with “Russia’s well-known demands.”

Putin launched his invasion with a series of false accusations against Kiev, including that it is led by neo-Nazis determined to undermine Russia by developing nuclear weapons.

As Russian attacks intensified, the brief relief of fighting in the southern port of Mariupol ended . Heavy artillery hit residential areas in other big cities, according to local authorities.

The death toll remained unclear.United NationsHe said he had confirmed only a few hundred civilian deaths, but warned that the number was far below the real number.

Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich described a “catastrophic” situation in the Kiev suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, where efforts to evacuate people failed on Saturday. Russian shelling in Irpin killed about eight civilians, including a family, according to the mayor, Oleksander Markyshin.

The bombing strategy is likely “to be an effort to break Ukrainian morale,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said, as the fighting entered its 12th day on Monday. The violence has caused 1.5 million people to flee the country, in what the head of the United Nations refugee agency described as “the fastest-moving refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”

British military officials compared Russian tactics with those used by Moscow in Chechnya and Syria, where besieged cities were pulverized by airstrikes and artillery.

Food, water, medicine and almost all other supplies were in short supply in Mariupol, where Russian and Ukrainian forces had agreed to an 11-hour ceasefire to evacuate civilians and the wounded. But Russian attacks soon closed the humanitarian corridor, according to Ukrainian officials.

The International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that some 200,000 people were trying to flee Mariupol.

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

“We saw everything: houses on fire, everyone sitting in basements,” said Yelena Zamay, who fled to one of the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. “No communication, no water, no gas, no electricity, no water. There was nothing”.

Russia has made significant progress in southern Ukraine, where it is trying to cut off access to the Sea of ​​Azov. Capturing Mariupol would allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in a move most other countries deemed illegal.

But much of Russia’s progress has stalled, including a huge military convoy that has been nearly motionless north of Kiev for days.

A senior US defense official said on Sunday that according to Washington estimates, about 95% of the Russian troops that had been deployed along Ukraine’s borders are already inside the country. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to comment on military assessments, said Russian forces continue to advance and seek to isolate Kiev, Kharkiv and Chernigov, but have met stiff Ukrainian resistance.

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