(CN) — Peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow on Thursday ended with neither side budging in a war that seems set to escalate further as Russian President Vladimir Putin pushes on with his invasion of Ukraine despite suffering heavy losses on the battlefield.
Meeting in Turkey, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba sat down for about an hour and a half and made little to no progress on ending the war through diplomacy.
“I want to repeat that Ukraine has not surrendered, does not surrender, and will not surrender,” Kuleba told reporters after his meeting with Lavrov, which he described as “difficult.”
Lavrov used the occasion to lash out at the West for its economic blockade and vowed that Russia will “emerge from this crisis with a healthier psychology and a healthier consciousness” by never becoming “dependent on the West.”
“We will not be under the slightest illusion that the West can be a reliable partner,” Lavrov said. “We will have no illusions that the West will betray at any moment – betray anyone and betray its own values.”
In Ukraine, the fighting continued amid more reports of horrific shelling and a growing humanitarian disaster, especially in the bombarded southern port city of Mariupol where officials say 1,200 bodies have been removed from the streets.
Speaking to the BBC, Serhiy Orlov, the city’s deputy mayor, said the city’s most recent figure for those killed is 1,207. He said 47 bodies, some unidentified, were buried in a mass grave because burial sites outside the city cannot be reached. Russian troops and pro-Russian separatist fighters from Donbas have surrounded the city and are smashing it with bombs.
The city is being held by ultranationalist Ukrainian forces affiliated with the Azov Battalion, a national guard militia group seen as among Ukraine’s most war-hardened soldiers and accused of harboring neo-Nazi views. For Russia, seizing Mariupol would be a strategic triumph because it would help complete a land bridge between Crimea and Donbas, parts of Ukraine that Russia and pro-Russian forces have occupied since 2014 when the country fell into chaos following the overthrow of a pro-Russian president during the so-called “Maidan Revolution.”
He said hundreds of thousands of people lack food, water, heat, electricity and medical care.
Efforts to evacuate people in Mariupol failed again on Thursday as fighting continued and both sides accused the other of violating ceasefires.
Other than Mariupol, efforts to get trapped civilians out of besieged towns and cities in other parts of Ukraine seemed to be more successful. The mayor of Kyiv said about half of the capital's 3 million residents have left.
Sasha Volkov, deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s delegation in Mariupol, described awful scenes of looted food stores and pharmacies, people fighting each other for food, siphoning gas from other people’s cars and hunkering down in a city terrified by bombing.
“Some people still have food but I’m not sure for how long it will last,” he said in a three-minute audio message broadcast by the Red Cross. He spoke via a satellite phone on Wednesday, the Red Cross said.
“People started to attack each other for food. People started to ruin someone’s car to take the gasoline out,” he said.