Sunday, 6 March 2022

The Military Operation Won't End Until Ukraine Stops Fighting - Putin

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Fighting stopped about 200,000 people from evacuating the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol for a second day in a row on Sunday, as Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to press ahead with his invasion unless Kyiv surrendered.

Most people trapped in the port city are sleeping underground to escape more than six days of near-constant shelling by encircling Russian forces that has cut off food, water, power and heating supplies, according to the Ukrainian authorities.

In a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Putin told Erdogan he was ready for dialogue to end the fighting but that any attempt to draw out talks would fail, according to the Kremlin.

The suspension of what Moscow describes as a special operation "is only possible if Kyiv stops military operations and carries out well-known Russian demands," the Kremlin said in a readout of the call.

The civilian death toll from hostilities across Ukraine since Moscow launched its invasion on Feb. 24 stood at 364, including more than 20 children, the United Nations said on Sunday, adding hundreds more were injured.

Moscow has repeatedly denied attacking civilian areas.

In Irpin, a town some 25 km (16 miles) northwest of the capital Kyiv, men, women and children trying to escape heavy fighting in the area were forced to take cover when missiles struck nearby, according to Reuters witnesses.

Soldiers and fellow residents helped the elderly hurry to a bus filled with frightened people, some cowering as they waited to be driven to safety. read more

The invasion has drawn almost universal condemnation around the world, sent more than 1.5 million Ukrainians fleeing from the country, and triggered sweeping Western sanctions against Russia aimed at crippling its economy. The Biden administration said on Sunday it was exploring banning Russian oil imports. read more

"War is madness, please stop," Pope Francis said in his weekly address to crowds in St Peter's Square, adding that "rivers of blood and tears" were flowing in Ukraine's war. read more

Russian media said Putin also spoke by phone for almost two hours with French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron told Putin he was concerned about a possible amphibious attack on Ukraine's historic port city of Odessa, Macron's office said.

The United States does not believe such an attack is imminent, the senior U.S. defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

'NO TO WAR'

Anti-war protests took place around the world including in Russia itself, where police detained more than 4,600 people, an independent protest monitoring group said. The interior ministry said 3,500 demonstrators had been held, included 1,700 people in Moscow and 750 in St Petersburg. read more

Thousands of protesters chanted "No to war!" and "Shame on you!", according to videos posted on social media by opposition activists and bloggers. Reuters was unable to independently verify the footage and photographs.

Demonstrations also took place in Western capitals as well as in India and Kazakhstan, after jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny called for worldwide protests against the war.

In the besieged city of Mariupol, authorities had said on Sunday they would make a second attempt to evacuate some of the 400,000 residents. But the ceasefire plan collapsed, as it had on Saturday, with each side blaming the other.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the failed attempt to evacuate 200,000 people had underscored "the absence of a detailed and functioning agreement between the parties to the conflict."
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