Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said his country would be “destroyed” before it surrenders its cities to invading Russian forces, as he doubled down on a call for direct talks with Vladimir Putin as the key to ending the war.
As Russia defended overnight strikes that reduced a Kyiv shopping mall to rubble, killing eight, US President Joe Biden held a call with European leaders to address the increasingly “brutal tactics” employed by Moscow — undeterred by unprecedented Western sanctions.
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But despite a soaring civilian toll, the Ukrainian president made clear his countrymen would not “hand over” the capital, the eastern city of Kharkiv, or the heavily bombarded and besieged Mariupol.
“Ukraine cannot fulfil Russian ultimatums,” he said. “We should be destroyed first.”
Nearly a month after Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24, Moscow has meanwhile ramped up its air and sea operations, flying 300 sorties in the past 24 hours, in a “desperate” bid to turn the tide against the Ukrainian resistance, a senior US defence official said.
In Kyiv, a new 35-hour curfew was ordered from 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) Monday, after Russian strikes — likely a missile — laid waste to the “Retroville” shopping complex where AFP reporters saw six bodies covered by black sheets on the ground.