More than 9,000 people have left the besieged port city of Mariupol in the last day, and over 180,000 people could still flee to safety, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday.
Mr Zelensky said in a late night video address that Russian forces are deliberately creating a “humanitarian catastrophe” and preventing supplies from reaching surrounded cities in order to force Ukrainians to cooperate with them.
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The Ukrainian president appealed to the Russian president Vladimir Putin to hold talks with him directly.
“It’s time to meet, time to speak. I want to be heard by everyone, especially in Moscow,” he said.
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Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko said that fighting has now reached the city’s centre. Three weeks into the invasion, Russia has suffered heavy losses on the battlefield.
British Chief of Defence Intelligence Lt Gen Jim Hockenhull warned that Russia is shifting to a “strategy of attrition”, and deploying “indiscriminate use of firepower”.
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