(CN) — Russian forces tried to force their way into the capital of Kyiv on Saturday, but their advance was held back by stiff resistance from Ukrainian soldiers.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is becoming ever more brutal as its army gets bogged down in fighting with Ukrainian forces and the devastation from artillery shelling, bombs and fighting is spreading across the country. The humanitarian disaster is growing too, especially in cities under siege from Russian attacks.
The situation in the southern port city of Mariupol is especially dire with hundreds of thousands of people without enough electricity, heat, water, medical supplies and food. The city has opened mass graves to bury the dead. Ukraine says more than 1,580 people have died there.
“The situation in Mariupol is terrible,” said Liudmyla Denisova, the commissioner for human rights at the Ukrainian Parliament, according to Ukrimform, a Ukrainian news agency. “These bombings, which take place almost every hour, simply kill and wipe this place off the map of Ukraine.”
A defiant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday said Russian President Vladimir Putin will only be able to seize Kyiv by razing the ancient city to the ground. Kyiv has deep cultural and spiritual meaning for Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians because they trace their roots to a powerful kingdom founded in the ninth century by Vikings known as Kyivan Rus'.
Speaking with foreign reporters, Zelenskyy said Russia will be able to take the city only by “carpet bombing” and killing Ukrainians in the city en masse.
“If there are hundreds, thousands of people and thousands of soldiers, who are now being mobilized by Russia, and if hundreds or thousands of tanks come, they may come to Kyiv,” he said. “We understand that. If they use ‘carpet bombing’ and just decide to erase historical memory of this entire region, the history of Kyivan Rus', the history of Europe ... Only by defeating us, can they enter Kyiv. Therefore, if that’s the goal, let them come.”
With so much at stake and already lost with his wild invasion, Putin is not backing down though. By invading Ukraine, Putin has turned Russia into the West's No. 1 enemy and thrust his country on a path that will leave it economically, culturally and technologically shut off from the West.
On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke with Putin by telephone and urged him to call a ceasefire and open humanitarian corridors to allow suffering civilians leave devastated cities.
But Putin showed no willingness to end the war, according to an official with French presidency, media reported. Putin also reportedly blamed Ukraine for war crimes, an allegation the Elysee Palace called “lies,” according to Le Monde, the French newspaper.
Russia was blasted for new brutalities against civilians on Saturday.
Late Saturday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense accused Russian troops of firing upon a column of women and children fleeing a village near Kyiv, killing seven people, including a child. The ministry said there were wounded people too.
In Mariupol, Ukraine said Russia bombed a mosque where more than 80 people, including children, were sheltering. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
In Kharkiv, the second-largest Ukrainian city in the northeast along Russia’s border, four more civilians were reported to have been killed Saturday, bringing the total number of civilians deaths there to 205, according to Ukrainian officials.
On Friday, the United Nations human rights office said it had confirmed 579 civilian deaths, including 42 children, since Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24, 17 days ago. The agency said the number of killed is likely much higher because it’s not been able to corroborate civilian deaths in areas where the fighting is most intense.