Eight dead as Russia shells Kyiv shopping mall: Devastation in Ukrainian capital as Putin's war of attrition continues and Western intelligence claim 1,000 Russian soldiers are dying a day

 A huge explosion has rocked a shopping centre in Kyiv as rescuers pulled bloodied victims from the rubble as police said at least eight people had been killed amid fears dozens of others were missing.

The blast smashed the sprawling 'Retroville' mall and was so powerful it pulverised vehicles in its car park - leaving a massive crater - as well as bodies scattered in the carnage. Mayor Vitali Klitschko this morning said it was one of several bombs to be dropped on the city overnight, with others flattening homes. Offices and a gym were also hit.Rescuers were continuing to trawl through the chaos this morning as they desperately searched for any more survivors of the latest horror attack to rock Ukraine. Shortly after the strike, mayor Vitali Klitschko declared the start of another 35-hour curfew - going from 8pm this evening until 7am on Wednesday.

Russian forces have increasingly resorted to long-range rocket strikes as their army has stalled. Heavy fighting continues to the north of Kyiv, Britain's Ministry of Defence said Monday, but advances from the north-east have been halted. Attackers in the north-west have been 'repulsed by fierce Ukrainian resistance', the ministry added.

Western intelligence now estimates that Russia is losing up to 1,000 troops per day, which would be its fastest rate of casualties since the Second World War. Desite the punishing losses, British intelligence believes that capturing Kyiv remains Russia's 'primary objective' and Putin's men are 'likely to prioritise attempting to encircle the city over the coming weeks', the ministry added. 

It comes as Ukraine rejected Russian demands troops in the Black Sea port of Mariupol lay down their weapons and surrender in return for letting tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the heavily besieged city leave safely.

Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev laid out Moscow's offer late Sunday, saying Ukrainian troops and 'foreign mercenaries' who laid down their arms and raised white flags would be given safe passage.

But Mariupol rejected the demands within minutes, with Pyotr Andryushenko - an adviser to Mariupol mayor - saying Russian promises of amnesty could not be trusted and troops defending the city were determined to fight.

Elsewhere in the crisis overnight:

  • The British Army banned WhatsApp over fears Russia is hacking it to get operationally sensitive information;
  • Boris Johnson is considering a quick trip to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine's battle against Vladimir Putin;
  • A heart-breaking new video showing the devastation Ukraine has suffered has now emerged on social media;
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's government suspended 11 Ukrainian political parties due to alleged links with Russia;
  • Joe Biden will travel to Poland Friday to discuss the international response to Russia's brutal war in Ukraine.
Russian airstrikes destroyed the 'Retroville' shopping mall in the north of Kyiv on Monday, killing at least eight people and leaving others buried in the rubble

Russian airstrikes destroyed the 'Retroville' shopping mall in the north of Kyiv on Monday, killing at least eight people and leaving others buried in the rubblePeople gather amid the destruction caused after shelling of a shopping center, in Kyiv, Ukraine

People gather amid the destruction caused after shelling of a shopping center, in Kyiv, Ukraine

Rescuers work at the site of the shopping mall damaged by an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv this morning

Rescuers work at the site of the shopping mall damaged by an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv this morningA huge explosion has rocked a shopping mall in Kyiv as rescuers pulled bloodied victims from the rubble amid reports up to six people have been killed. Pictured: Rescuers trying to free survivors

A huge explosion has rocked a shopping mall in Kyiv as rescuers pulled bloodied victims from the rubble amid reports up to six people have been killed. Pictured: Rescuers trying to free survivors

Here, at least one person can be seen being carried away from the ruins on a stretcher by rescue workers as they trawled the scene for survivors

Here, at least one person can be seen being carried away from the ruins on a stretcher by rescue workers as they trawled the scene for survivors

The blast smashed the sprawling 'Retroville' and was so powerful it pulverised vehicles in its car park - leaving a massive crater - as well as bodies scattered in the carnage

 The blast smashed the sprawling 'Retroville' and was so powerful it pulverised vehicles in its car park - leaving a massive crater - as well as bodies scattered in the carnage

Mayor Vitali Klitschko this morning said it was one of several bombs to be dropped on the city, with others flattening homes nearby. Pictured: The bombed out shopping centre this morning

Mayor Vitali Klitschko this morning said it was one of several bombs to be dropped on the city, with others flattening homes nearby. Pictured: The bombed out shopping centre this morning

The ruins of a Ukrainian shopping mall in the northern outskirts of Kyiv is pictured on Monday morning, after it was hit by Russian missiles in the early hours

The ruins of a Ukrainian shopping mall in the northern outskirts of Kyiv is pictured on Monday morning, after it was hit by Russian missiles in the early hours

The ruins of a truck parked near the site of a Russian airstrike on a mall in northern Kyiv is seen after the explosion

The ruins of a truck parked near the site of a Russian airstrike on a mall in northern Kyiv is seen after the explosion

Firefighters inspect the burned-out ruins of a shopping mall north of Kyiv, after it was struck by Russian missiles

Firefighters inspect the burned-out ruins of a shopping mall north of Kyiv, after it was struck by Russian missiles

Emergency workers search through the rubble of a destroyed shopping mall in northern Kyiv after it was bombed by Russia

Emergency workers search through the rubble of a destroyed shopping mall in northern Kyiv after it was bombed by Russia

A Ukrainian serviceman walks among debris inside a shopping center after bombing in Kyiv, Ukraine

A Ukrainian serviceman walks among debris inside a shopping center after bombing in Kyiv, Ukraine

Ukranian servicemen search through rubble inside the Retroville shopping mall after a Russian attack in northwest of Kyiv

Ukranian servicemen search through rubble inside the Retroville shopping mall after a Russian attack in northwest of Kyiv

 SLIDE ME 

BEFORE AND AFTER: How the shelling left the front entrance to the sprawling shopping centre decimated, with cars pulverised in the car park

 SLIDE ME 

BEFORE AND AFTER: A view from the car park towards the Sport Life store and a tower block on the site is now reduced to a hollowed out building

Odesa is Russia's next target, ex-Army chief Sir Richard Barrons says

What is the significance of the battle for Mariupol?

'When the Russians feel they've successfully concluded that battle, they will have completed the land-bridge from Russia to Crimea, and they will see that as a major strategic success. And the second is if you look at the method they have adopted, where this really matters to them.

'They couldn't walk in, they couldn't drive in with their tanks, so they've pounded it to rubble. And that's what we should expect to see anywhere else that really matters to them.'

If no price is too high in terms of losses, what will happen?

'We're going to see them applying firepower on the Ukrainian military in depth, so they're beginning to hit their supply lines, logistics and air bases as well as the forces that are doing the fighting. And then they'll pound away at cities and territory that they feel they need to own.

'And I think our eyes should now turn to Odessa, because that logically is the next place to go in the south and there seem to be more ships in the Black Sea pointing towards it.'

Will they delay the attack on Kyiv?

'I think they'll maintain pressure on Kyiv because it's the political centre of gravity, but they know that it's too big an objective, it's too well defended to force the way into anything like the whole of the city. What we'll probably see is some bombardment of it, maybe attempt to force down some narrow routes – but so far the Ukrainians have very effectively pushed that away. And I think the next big strategic prize could be Odessa because that would isolate Ukraine's economy from the Black Sea.'

Klitschko said on his Telegram channel: 'According to the information we have at the moment, several homes and one of the shopping centers [were hit].'

He said 'rescuers, medics and police are already in place' and reported 'at this time - one victim'. It is unclear if he referred to a fatality or injury.

In another post, he said: 'Rescuers are extinguishing a large fire in one of the shopping centers in the Podolsk district of the capital. All services - rescue, medics, police - work on site. The information is being clarified.'

The burnt-out mall was still smoking on Monday morning. All of its south side had been destroyed, as well as a fitness centre in its car park.

Twisted bits of metal and other debris were strewn across the area for hundreds of metres, as firefighters and soldiers searched the devastation for victims.

'Enemy shelling' had caused fires on several floors and set several cars ablaze, emergency services said on Facebook.

They released security camera footage showing a massive explosion and a mushroom cloud, followed by a series of smaller blasts.

Firefighters pulled at least one man covered in dust from the twisted debris, according to more video released by the emergency services.

Soldiers cordoned off the site and told journalists to move back, warning of danger from unexploded munitions without elaborating further.

Neighbours in a housing block whose windows were shattered by the blast said they had seen a mobile rocket launcher near the mall for several days previously.

At least 902 civilians have been killed and 1,459 wounded in Ukraine as of midnight on March 19, the UN human rights office said.

Ten million people have been displaced, including nearly 3.4 million who have fled the country, the U.N. refugee agency said. 

The latest attacks come ahead of Biden's trip to Europe next week for face-to-face talks with European leaders about the Russian invasion, White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Biden will meet with European leaders at an extraordinary NATO summit in Brussels on March 24. He will attend a scheduled European Council summit, where efforts to impose sanctions are underway.

Destroyed cars are seen at the site of a military strike on a shopping center in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv

Destroyed cars are seen at the site of a military strike on a shopping center in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen carry a body at the site of a military strike on a shopping center in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen carry a body at the site of a military strike on a shopping center in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv

CCTV has captured an explosion near a shopping centre in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv late on Sunday night

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko tweeted about several explosions, 'in particular, according to information at the moment, some houses and in one of the shopping centres'

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko tweeted about several explosions, 'in particular, according to information at the moment, some houses and in one of the shopping centres'

Klitschko shared pictures of what appears to be an explosion in the distance in the city's Podil district

Klitschko shared pictures of what appears to be an explosion in the distance in the city's Podil district

Fireball is seen in distance after Russian rocket slammed into a shopping center in Kyiv on Sunday

Fireball is seen in distance after Russian rocket slammed into a shopping center in Kyiv on SundayRescuers work at a site of a shopping mall damaged by an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, today

Rescuers work at a site of a shopping mall damaged by an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, today

Ukrainian police officers stand near a warehouse that was hit by the debris of a downed rocket in Kyiv on Sunday

Ukrainian police officers stand near a warehouse that was hit by the debris of a downed rocket in Kyiv on Sunday

Olga, a 27-year-old Ukrainian woman seriously wounded while sheltering her baby from shrapnel blasts amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, holds her baby Victoria in Kyiv

Olga, a 27-year-old Ukrainian woman seriously wounded while sheltering her baby from shrapnel blasts amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, holds her baby Victoria in Kyiv

Olga holds her baby as her husband Dmytro stands by her side. The 27-year-old Ukrainian woman seriously wounded while sheltering her baby from shrapnel

Olga holds her baby as her husband Dmytro stands by her side. The 27-year-old Ukrainian woman seriously wounded while sheltering her baby from shrapnel

Psaki said: 'While he's there, his goal is to meet in person face-to-face with his European counterparts and talk about, assess where we are at this point in the conflict in the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

'We've been incredibly aligned to date. That doesn't happen by accident. The president is a big believer in face-to-face diplomacy. So it's an opportunity to do exactly that.'

The trip follows Kamala Harris's visit to eastern flank NATO countries of Poland and Romania last week to discuss with leaders the growing refugee crisis in eastern Europe and to underscore the US's support for NATO.

Poland's foreign minister Zbigniew Rau said Tuesday a visit by Biden to Poland was 'very probable' when he comes to Europe. 

More than 1.8million Ukrainians have fled to Poland since the start of the war, according to the UN. More than three million people have fled Ukraine since Russian launched its invasion.

Rau told Polish state TVP INFO: 'It would be hard to imagine a better place for the United States and for the entire alliance to stress their position than the brightest link on the eastern flank, that Poland is.'

Psaki said she did not have additional details about whether Biden would visit Poland during the trip.

The White House's announcement of Biden's visit to Brussels came on the same day leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia set out for Kyiv by train despite the security risks to show their support for Ukraine.

It was a visit EU officials said was not sanctioned by other members of the 27-nation bloc.The latest attacks come ahead of Biden's trip to Europe next week for face-to-face talks with European leaders about the Russian invasion, White House press secretary Jen Psaki (pictured)

 The latest attacks come ahead of Biden's trip to Europe next week for face-to-face talks with European leaders about the Russian invasion, White House press secretary Jen Psaki (pictured)Daniel Hamilton, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs, said Biden's trip to Europe comes as the White House looks to continue to maintain what's been a largely unified western opposition to Russia since the invasion.

'As the war continues, it's important that the president show he is not sitting comfortably across the Atlantic, but that he is part of the coalition meeting with European colleagues in Europe and that the United States is a European power,' said Hamilton, non-resident fellow at Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

Biden will travel to Poland on Friday to discuss the international response to 'the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia's unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created,' Psaki said.

In Poland, Biden will hold a bilateral meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda. But Biden will not visit Ukraine during his trip to Europe, Psaki said earlier Sunday after officials in Kyiv issued an open invitation to the president.

More than two million refugees have entered Poland from Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, the Polish border guard said on Friday.

The White House also said Biden will host a call Monday at 11 am EST with Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, Mario Draghi and Boris Johnson to discuss their coordinated responses to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

UN data showed as of Thursday about 3.2 million have fled abroad from Ukraine since last month, in what has become Europe's fastest growing refugee crisis since the Second World War. Seventeen-year-old Bogdan, with his arms in a splint and his face bloodied and bruised was pictured heavily injured following Friday's fighting in Brovary, east of the capital Kyiv

Seventeen-year-old Bogdan, with his arms in a splint and his face bloodied and bruised was pictured heavily injured following Friday's fighting in Brovary, east of the capital Kyiv 

Evacuees from the villages occupied by Russian soldiers arrive in the town of Brovary, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Evacuees from the villages occupied by Russian soldiers arrive in the town of Brovary, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Ukrainian firefighters and security teams at the scene of a building hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv

Ukrainian firefighters and security teams at the scene of a building hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv

 

Mariupol 'will NOT surrender': Besieged Ukrainian city where 300,000 are trapped vows to fight to the LAST soldier and rejects Russia's demand to lay down their arms or face 'humanitarian crisis' - as those who do make it out go to 'filtration camps' 

Chris PleasanceElmira Tanatarova, Stephen Wynn-davisand Chris Matthews for MailOnline

Ukraine has rejected Russian demands that troops in the Black Sea port Mariupol lay down their weapons and surrender in return for letting tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the heavily besieged city leave safely - saying promises of amnesty cannot be trusted and they are determined to fight 'to the last soldier'.

Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev laid out Moscow's offer late Sunday, saying Ukrainian troops and 'foreign mercenaries' who laid down their arms and raised white flags would be allowed to leave via 'humanitarian corridors'. Civilians would then be evacuated afterwards. He gave Ukraine until 5am to respond.

Daria Morozova, of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said that all of those who remained behind would face a military tribunal for 'all the crimes of the Ukrainian national battalions.' She said inspectors would be sent into the city once it had been 'completely cleansed' by Russian troops. 

But Mariupol rejected the demands within minutes, with Pyotr Andryushenko - an adviser to the city's mayor - saying that Russian promises of amnesty could not be trusted and that troops defending the city were determined to fight down to the last man.

Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk called on Russia to stop 'wasting time on eight pages of letters' and open humanitarian corridors for civilians to leave the city instead of using them as bargaining chips. Mariupol has been under siege for three weeks with little access to food or water and no power, with multiple attempts to evacuate civilians failing amid claims Russia had bombed and shelled the escape routes.  

She told news outlet Ukrainska Pravda: 'There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this.' Mizintsev warned of a 'humanitarian catastrophe' that will be faced by all those who remain behind after Moscow's deadline for surrender elapsed.   

His offer was made just hours after a Russian missile strike hit a school sheltering some 400 people, though there was no immediate word on casualties. Last week, Russia had bombed a theatre in the city being used to shelter children - potentially trapping hundreds of people in underground bomb shelters. There is still no word on casualties from that strike either.

And it came as Ukrainian officials claimed that people are being forcibly evacuated from parts of the city under Russian control into parts of the country currently occupied by Putin's forces - or into Russia itself. 'Several thousand' people have so-far been taken, the city council claimed, before being processed through 'filtration camps' and sent to 'remote cities' in Russia where they will be obliged to stay for years and work for free.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday decried Russia's attack on the Ukrainian port city Mariupol as 'a massive war crime', as the bloc discussed imposing more sanctions on Moscow. '[They are] destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody,' Borrell said at a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Russia has also kept up its bombardment of other Ukrainian cities today, hitting a shopping mall and several apartments in the capital Kyiv in the early hours - reducing the former to rubble. Bombings in the surrounded city of Sumy also hit an ammonia plant, sparking an evacuation.Seventeen-year-old Bogdan, with his arms in a splint and his face bloodied and bruised was pictured heavily injured following Friday's fighting in Brovary, east of the capital Kyiv

Seventeen-year-old Bogdan, with his arms in a splint and his face bloodied and bruised was pictured heavily injured following Friday's fighting in Brovary, east of the capital Kyiv 

Evacuees from the villages occupied by Russian soldiers arrive in the town of Brovary, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Evacuees from the villages occupied by Russian soldiers arrive in the town of Brovary, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Ukrainian firefighters and security teams at the scene of a building hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv

Ukrainian firefighters and security teams at the scene of a building hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv

 

Mariupol 'will NOT surrender': Besieged Ukrainian city where 300,000 are trapped vows to fight to the LAST soldier and rejects Russia's demand to lay down their arms or face 'humanitarian crisis' - as those who do make it out go to 'filtration camps' 

Chris PleasanceElmira Tanatarova, Stephen Wynn-davisand Chris Matthews for MailOnline

Ukraine has rejected Russian demands that troops in the Black Sea port Mariupol lay down their weapons and surrender in return for letting tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the heavily besieged city leave safely - saying promises of amnesty cannot be trusted and they are determined to fight 'to the last soldier'.

Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev laid out Moscow's offer late Sunday, saying Ukrainian troops and 'foreign mercenaries' who laid down their arms and raised white flags would be allowed to leave via 'humanitarian corridors'. Civilians would then be evacuated afterwards. He gave Ukraine until 5am to respond.

Daria Morozova, of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said that all of those who remained behind would face a military tribunal for 'all the crimes of the Ukrainian national battalions.' She said inspectors would be sent into the city once it had been 'completely cleansed' by Russian troops. 

But Mariupol rejected the demands within minutes, with Pyotr Andryushenko - an adviser to the city's mayor - saying that Russian promises of amnesty could not be trusted and that troops defending the city were determined to fight down to the last man.

Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk called on Russia to stop 'wasting time on eight pages of letters' and open humanitarian corridors for civilians to leave the city instead of using them as bargaining chips. Mariupol has been under siege for three weeks with little access to food or water and no power, with multiple attempts to evacuate civilians failing amid claims Russia had bombed and shelled the escape routes.  

She told news outlet Ukrainska Pravda: 'There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this.' Mizintsev warned of a 'humanitarian catastrophe' that will be faced by all those who remain behind after Moscow's deadline for surrender elapsed.   

His offer was made just hours after a Russian missile strike hit a school sheltering some 400 people, though there was no immediate word on casualties. Last week, Russia had bombed a theatre in the city being used to shelter children - potentially trapping hundreds of people in underground bomb shelters. There is still no word on casualties from that strike either.

And it came as Ukrainian officials claimed that people are being forcibly evacuated from parts of the city under Russian control into parts of the country currently occupied by Putin's forces - or into Russia itself. 'Several thousand' people have so-far been taken, the city council claimed, before being processed through 'filtration camps' and sent to 'remote cities' in Russia where they will be obliged to stay for years and work for free.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday decried Russia's attack on the Ukrainian port city Mariupol as 'a massive war crime', as the bloc discussed imposing more sanctions on Moscow. '[They are] destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody,' Borrell said at a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Russia has also kept up its bombardment of other Ukrainian cities today, hitting a shopping mall and several apartments in the capital Kyiv in the early hours - reducing the former to rubble. Bombings in the surrounded city of Sumy also hit an ammonia plant, sparking an evacuation.

This satellite image illustrates what the Mariupol theatre looked like before it was reduced to rubble by Russian shelling 

New satellite images show the collapsed remains of Mariupol theatre which was sheltering hundreds of children and their families before being levelled in a Russian airstrike

This comes as authorities in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol say that the Russian military has bombed an art school where about 400 people had taken refuge.

Local authorities said on Sunday that the school building was destroyed and people could remain under the rubble, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

The Russian governor of Sevastopol, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, said on Sunday that Post Captain Andrei Paliy, deputy commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, had been killed during fighting in Mariupol.  

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 7,295 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Sunday, 3,985 of them from Mariupol. She said the government planned to send nearly 50 buses to Mariupol on Monday for further evacuations.

In this satellite photo from Planet Labs PBC, multiple civilian buildings burn amid Russian strikes on the Livoberezhnyi District of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 20

In this satellite photo from Planet Labs PBC, multiple civilian buildings burn amid Russian strikes on the Livoberezhnyi District of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 20

A man walks along a road past a tank of pro-Russian troops in Mariupol, Ukraine, as Russia's invasion which began last month continues

A man walks along a road past a tank of pro-Russian troops in Mariupol, Ukraine, as Russia's invasion which began last month continues 

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Force stand guard at a checkpoint in Kyiv, Ukraine today. The war in Ukraine has sparked the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Force stand guard at a checkpoint in Kyiv, Ukraine today. The war in Ukraine has sparked the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II

The last EU diplomat to evacuate the besieged Ukrainian port said: 'What I saw, I hope no one will ever see.'

Greece's consul general in Mariupol, Manolis Androulakis, left the city on Tuesday.

After a four-day trip through Ukraine he crossed to Romania through Moldavia, along with 10 other Greek nationals.

As he arrived in Athens on Sunday, Mr Androulakis said: 'Mariupol will become part of a list of cities that were completely destroyed by war; I don't need to name them- they are Guernica, Coventry, Aleppo, Grozny, Leningrad.'

According to the Greek Foreign Ministry, Androulakis was the last EU diplomat to leave MariupolThe Ukrainian flag has been projected onto the Russian Embassy in London as protesters outside called for an end to the war and violence

The Ukrainian flag has been projected onto the Russian Embassy in London as protesters outside called for an end to the war and violence

A woman walks out of a heavily damaged building after bombing in Satoya neighborhood in Kyiv, Ukraine, today, amid damaged buildings and debris

A woman walks out of a heavily damaged building after bombing in Satoya neighborhood in Kyiv, Ukraine, today, amid damaged buildings and debris

An injured local resident smokes at an area where a residential building was hit by the debris from a downed rocket, in Kyiv today as Russian forces try to encircle the Ukrainian capital

An injured local resident smokes at an area where a residential building was hit by the debris from a downed rocket, in Kyiv today as Russian forces try to encircle the Ukrainian capital

A resident stands with her dog next to a destroyed building, amid debris, after a bombing in Satoya neighborhood in Kyiv, Ukraine today

A resident stands with her dog next to a destroyed building, amid debris, after a bombing in Satoya neighborhood in Kyiv, Ukraine today

Three people were injured in a Russian air strike on Ukraine's western Zhytomyr region earlier today, emergency services have said

Three people were injured in a Russian air strike on Ukraine's western Zhytomyr region earlier today, emergency services have said

Thirteen buildings were damaged in the attack, which targeted the Korostensky district, north of the region's main city Zhytomyr, Ukraine's state emergency services said on Facebook

Thirteen buildings were damaged in the attack, which targeted the Korostensky district, north of the region's main city Zhytomyr, Ukraine's state emergency services said on Facebook

Ukraine's state emergency services said on Facebook that 'three people were injured', posting images of burning buildings and scattered charred debris

Ukraine's state emergency services said on Facebook that 'three people were injured', posting images of burning buildings and scattered charred debris

Photos shared by Ukraine's emergency services show damage done to the region
Discarded weapons appear amid the debris

Also on Sunday, Russia's defence ministry said its 'high-precision missiles' hit a training centre of Ukrainian special forces in Zhytomyr region, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) west of Ukraine's capital Kyiv

Photos of damaged buildings have today been captured after three were injured in air strike on western Ukraine, emergency services said

Photos of damaged buildings have today been captured after three were injured in air strike on western Ukraine, emergency services saidThree have today been injured in air strike on western Ukraine, emergency services said, as thirteen buildings were damaged in the attack, which targeted the Korostensky district north of the region's main city Zhytomyr.

'Three people were injured,' a Facebook post from Ukraine's emergency services added, posting images of burning buildings and scattered charred debris.

Also on Sunday, Russia's defence ministry said its 'high-precision missiles' hit a training centre of Ukrainian special forces in Zhytomyr region, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) west of Ukraine's capital Kyiv.

'More than 100 (Ukrainian) servicemen of the special forces and foreign mercenaries were destroyed,' in the attack, the ministry said.

Terrifying footage has emerged apparently showing Russia firing deadly thermobaric TOS-1A rockets, which can allegedly melt human organs.

Moscow defence sources claimed: 'The TOS-1A Solntsepek was used against Ukrainian nationalists by the people's militia of the Donetsk People's Republic with the support of the Russian army during a special operation in Ukraine.'

Earlier Zelensky also said Russia's siege of the port city was 'a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come'. 

His comments came after local authorities said Russian troops had forcefully deported several thousand people from the besieged city last week, after Russia had spoken of 'refugees' arriving from the strategic port. 

'Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents were deported onto the Russian territory,' the city council said in a statement on its Telegram channel late on Saturday. 

'The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhniy district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from the constant bombing.'

 Zelensky said the siege of Mariupol would 'go down in history of responsibility for war crimes'.

'To do this to a peaceful city... is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come.' 

Meanwhile, authorities in Ukraine's eastern city of Kharkiv say at least five civilians, including a nine-year-old boy, have been killed in the latest Russian shelling. 

This comes as Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba has on Twitter posted about protests in Energodar, a city in the country's north-west oblast, following claims that Russian forces have abducted its deputy mayor.

Mr Kuleba's tweet said: 'Brave Ukrainians in Energodar hold a peaceful protest demanding to release deputy mayor Ivan Samoidyuk who was abducted by Russian invaders. Russians thought they could impose their authoritarian rules in democratic Ukraine. Instead, they need to go home.'

Earlier this month President Zelensky demanded the release of Melitopol's mayor after his alleged kidnap by Russian troops, which sparked local protests.

The Ukrainian leader said the capture was an 'attempt to bring the city to its knees' and demanded the immediate release of Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the besieged city. 

Mr Fedorov is understood to have been released according to Ukrainian authorities, Sky News reports.  

Zelensky today also urged Israel to 'make its choice' and abandon its effort to maintain neutrality towards the invasion. 

The Ukrainian leader, who is Jewish, made the appeal during an address to Israeli lawmakers, the latest in a series of speeches by videoconference to foreign legislatures.

In remarks that at several points compared Russian aggression to the Holocaust, Zelensky said that 'Ukraine made the choice to save Jews 80 years ago.'

'Now it's time for Israel to make its choice.'

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has walked a careful diplomatic line since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

Stressing Israel's strong ties to Moscow and Kyiv, Bennett has sought to preserve delicate security cooperation with Russia, which has troops in Syria, across Israel's northern border.

He has held regular phone calls with Zelensky and Vladimir Putin, including a three-hour meeting with the Russian President at the Kremlin on March 5.

While Ukrainian officials have voiced appreciation for Bennett's mediation efforts, Zelensky today implied that this too had proven to be a misstep.

'We can mediate between states but not between good and evil,' the Ukrainian leader said. 

Civilians trapped in Mariupol city under Russian attacks, are evacuated in groups under the control of pro-Russian separatists, through other cities, in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 20

Civilians trapped in Mariupol city under Russian attacks, are evacuated in groups under the control of pro-Russian separatists, through other cities, in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 20

Pro-Russian separatists seemed to be carrying out strip-searches on some of the fleeing Ukrainian civilians in Mariupol on Sunday

Pro-Russian separatists seemed to be carrying out strip-searches on some of the fleeing Ukrainian civilians in Mariupol on Sunday 

This man (left) was asked to remove both his trousers and his top, even though it seemed to be snowing

This man (left) was asked to remove both his trousers and his top, even though it seemed to be snowing 

Pro-Putin soldiers were wrapped up against the cold as they allowed civilians to leave Mariupol
The pro-Putin soldiers seemed to be in good spirits despite the brutal war and cold weather

Pro-Putin soldiers were wrapped up against the cold as they allowed civilians to leave Mariupol on Sunday, March 20

Pro-Russian separatists gave directions to civilians trying to escape the heavily bombarded city of Mariupol

Pro-Russian separatists gave directions to civilians trying to escape the heavily bombarded city of Mariupol 

Groups of Ukrainians fleeing the war left the city in the southeast of the country, where there has been intense fighting

Groups of Ukrainians fleeing the war left the city in the southeast of the country, where there has been intense fighting

Previous humanitarian corridors in the war-torn country had failed after Russia allegedly bombed civilians who were trying to leave

Previous humanitarian corridors in the war-torn country had failed after Russia allegedly bombed civilians who were trying to leaveChancellor Rishi Sunak has said that the West needs to have a 'degree of scepticism' about the prospect of a peace deal between Russia and Ukrainevas Kyiv looked to stand firm against giving up territory in a settlement. 

Speaking today, the Chancellor said it is 'encouraging' that discussions are under way but the West has to be on its guard.

Mr Sunak told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: 'You have to have some degree of scepticism about it given the track record of these things.

'I think the most important thing is that any talk of a settlement must be on Ukraine's terms.

'And the best thing we can do is just maintain the significant pressure that we are bringing to bear on Putin, but also providing support to the Ukrainians in the meantime - that's the best we can do and the Ukrainians will take the lead.'

An official in Mr Zelensky's office told the Associated Press that the main subject discussed between the two sides last week was whether Russian troops would remain in separatist regions in eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would lie.

But a Ukraine politician said while her country is open to further meetings with Russia, it is not prepared to give up land to the aggressor.

Olha Stefanishyna, deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, told Sky News that re-drawing Ukraine's borders is 'absolutely not' being considered.

'Ukrainian territory is a territory which has been fixed (since) 1991,' she said.

'That is not an option for discussion.'

According to reports, Kyiv has insisted on the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in the negotiations with the Kremlin and on legally binding security guarantees for Ukraine.

Asked whether the UK would act as a security guarantor to the Ukrainians as part of any peace deal, Mr Sunak - who confirmed his family will not be taking in a Ukrainian refugee - said it is 'probably a bit too early to get into the details' of what an agreement might look like. 

Elsewhere, Boris Johnson has urged China to get off the fence and join in global condemnation of Russia's invasion.

The Prime Minister, in comments made to the Sunday Times, said he believes some in Xi Jinping's administration are having 'second thoughts' about the neutral stance adopted by Beijing following Russia's actions against its neighbour. 

But today China's ambassador to the US defended his country's refusal to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Speaking with CBS's 'Face the Nation' Qin Gang said condemnation 'doesn't solve the problem'.

He said: 'I would be surprised if Russia will back down by condemnation.'

Mr Gang added: '(China) will continue to promote peace talks and urge immediate fire.

'And, you know, condemnation, you know, only, doesn't help. We need wisdom. We need courage and we need good diplomacy.'

Zelensky also said peace talks with Russia were needed although they were 'not easy and pleasant'. He said he discussed the course of the talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.

'Ukraine has always sought a peaceful solution. Moreover, we are interested in peace now,' he said.

Vladimir Putin has reportedly 'finally agreed' to meet in person with Zelensky for peace talks.

So far the negotiations have been between middle men on neutral ground but the war has continued into its fourth week.

The Russian tyrant will allegedly meet President Zelensky 'at some point', the Express reported. 

The two leaders have let their diplomatic teams conduct peace talks on the neutral ground since shortly after the start of the conflict on February 24, but a BBC correspondent has confirmed the two will meet in person.

Putin has come to terms with fact he will have to lead the negotiations at some time in the future, the BBC's Lysa Doucet said.

She said: 'The diplomats are talking, the negotiators are talking. We understand President Putin has finally agreed that he will meet, at some point, President Zelensky who has been asking for a meeting since January. 

'He hasn't said it in public, he says quite the opposite in public.'

She added: 'The Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is very busy, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is very busy. Footage filmed in Mariupol showed a Ukrainian regiment firing a BTR-4 30mm cannon on a Russian BTR-82A and a T-72B3 tank

Footage filmed in Mariupol showed a Ukrainian regiment firing a BTR-4 30mm cannon on a Russian BTR-82A and a T-72B3 tank

The Ukrainian cannon seemed to aim at the Russian tank's tracks in a bid to put the vehicles out of order

The Ukrainian cannon seemed to aim at the Russian tank's tracks in a bid to put the vehicles out of order

It seemed to shoot around a metre above the heads of soldiers on the ground, who had their rifles aimed at the tanks

It seemed to shoot around a metre above the heads of soldiers on the ground, who had their rifles aimed at the tanks

The tanks had been painted with a white 'Z', which has quickly become a symbol for Russia in its war with Ukraine

The tanks had been painted with a white 'Z', which has quickly become a symbol for Russia in its war with Ukraine

'They've said privately their understanding is that President Putin will meet President Zelensky when the time is right. But the time is not right now.' 

Meanwhile, Russia's military isn't even recovering the bodies of its soldiers in some places, Zelensky said.

'In places where there were especially fierce battles, the bodies of Russian soldiers simply pile up along our line of defence. And no one is collecting these bodies,' he said.

He described a battle near Chornobayivka in the south, where Ukrainian forces held their positions and six times beat back the Russians, who just kept 'sending their people to slaughter'. 

Russian news agencies, citing the country's defence ministry, have said buses carrying several hundred people - which Moscow calls refugees - have been arriving in Russia from Mariupol in recent days. 

An evacuation of civilians from secure corridors pictured in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 18

An evacuation of civilians from secure corridors pictured in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 18

Service members of pro-Russian troops drive an armoured vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 19

Service members of pro-Russian troops drive an armoured vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 19

A discarded pram pictured as an evacuation of civilians from secure corridors took place in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 18

A discarded pram pictured as an evacuation of civilians from secure corridors took place in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 18

Earlier on Sunday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia's siege of the port city of Mariupol was 'a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come'

Earlier on Sunday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia's siege of the port city of Mariupol was 'a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come'

Service members of pro-Russian troops in uniforms without insignia drive an armoured vehicle during Russia's invasion of Mariupol

Service members of pro-Russian troops in uniforms without insignia drive an armoured vehicle during Russia's invasion of MariupolThe Russian TASS news agency reported on Saturday that 13 busses were moving to Russia, carrying more than 350 people, about 50 of whom were to be sent by rail to the Yaroslavl region and the rest to temporary transition centres in Taganrog, a port city in Russia's Rostov region.

Russia's Defence Ministry said this month that Russia had prepared 200 busses to 'evacuate' citizens of Mariupol.

RIA Novosti agency, citing emergency services, reported last week that nearly 300,000 people, including some 60,000 children, have arrived in Russia from the Luhansk and Donbas regions, including from Mariupol, in recent weeks.

Russia's Defence Ministry said this month that more than 2.6 million people in Ukraine have asked to be evacuated.

The city council in the Azov Sea port city said Sunday that 39,426 residents, almost ten per cent of the 430,000 who live there, have safely evacuated from Mariupol in their own vehicles. It said the evacuees used more than 8,000 vehicles to leave via a humanitarian corridor via Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhia. 

Air raid sirens sounded across major Ukrainian cities early on Sunday but there were no immediate reports of fresh attacks.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been trapped in Mariupol for more than two weeks, sheltering from heavy bombardment that has severed central supplies of electricity, heating, food and water supplies, and killed at least 2,300 people, some of whom had to be buried in mass graves, according to local authorities. 

Ukrainian firefighters and security teams at the scene of a building hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 20

Ukrainian firefighters and security teams at the scene of a building hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 20 

Although the fires were put out, cars were left burnt out, with a residential blocks of flats damaged by the air strike

Although the fires were put out, cars were left burnt out, with a residential blocks of flats damaged by the air strike

A woman holding a pug walks away from the the scene of a building hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 20

A woman holding a pug walks away from the the scene of a building hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 20

The governor of the northeastern Sumy region, Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, said Sunday that 71 infants have been safely evacuated via a humanitarian corridor. 

Zhyvytskyy said on Facebook that the orphans will be taken to an unspecified foreign country. He said most of them require constant medical attention. Like many other Ukrainian cities, Sumy has been besieged by Russian troops and faced repeated shelling. 

Meanwhile, the Russian military says it has carried out a new series of strikes on Ukrainian military facilities with long-range hypersonic and cruise missiles. A man helps Ukrainian soldiers searching for bodies in the debris at a military school hit by Russian rockets, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine

A man helps Ukrainian soldiers searching for bodies in the debris at a military school hit by Russian rockets, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine

Saved: A Ukrainian recruit was rescued after 30 hours from debris of the military school hit by Russian rockets, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, on March 19

Saved: A Ukrainian recruit was rescued after 30 hours from debris of the military school hit by Russian rockets, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, on March 19

A Russian attack on a barracks for young Ukrainian recruits in the middle of the night that killed at least 50 young Ukrainian recruits was branded as 'cowardly'.

Russian rockets struck the military school in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, on Friday, killing dozens of young Ukrainian ensigns at their brigade headquarters. 

Ukrainian soldier Maxim, 22, who was at the barracks, said 'no fewer than 200 soldiers were sleeping in the barracks' at the time of the strike.

'At least 50 bodies have been recovered, but we do not know how many others are in the rubble,' he said.

Vitaly Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv, said Russia 'hit our sleeping soldiers with a rocket in a cowardly manner.'

Meanwhile Olga Malarchuk, a military official, said: 'We aren't allowed to say anything because the rescue operation isn't over and the families haven't all been informed.

'We are not yet able to announce a toll and I cannot tell you how many soldiers were present'.

Russia also said it had fired a second 'unstoppable' hypersonic Kinzhal missile at a fuel depot in Kostyantynivka, in the southern region of Mykolaiv.

A MiG-31K jet fired the aeroballistic missile at the warehouse as it was flying over Crimea.

Major General Igor Konashenkov, from the Russian Defence Ministry, said the target was the main supply of fuel for Ukrainian armoured cars in the south of the country. 

He claimed the missile had destroyed the depot. It is the second time Russia says it has used the missile in Ukraine, after a weapons storage site was destroyed in Deliatyn, in the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine, on Friday.

NATO deem the weapon so powerful it has been nicknamed The Sizzler.  

At least 200 soldiers were sleeping at the time of the attack, which was branded 'cowardly' by the governor of Mykolaiv

At least 200 soldiers were sleeping at the time of the attack, which was branded 'cowardly' by the governor of Mykolaiv

Russian forces carried out a large-scale air strike on Mykolaiv, killing at least 50 Ukrainian soldiers at their brigade headquarters

Russian forces carried out a large-scale air strike on Mykolaiv, killing at least 50 Ukrainian soldiers at their brigade headquarters

Ukrainian soldiers search for bodies in the debris at the military school hit by Russian rockets the day before, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, on March 19

Ukrainian soldiers search for bodies in the debris at the military school hit by Russian rockets the day before, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, on March 19

Russia has never before admitted using the high-precision weapon in combat.

Moscow claims the 'Kinzhal'- or Dagger - is 'unstoppable' by current Western weapons. The missile, which has a range of 2,000 kilometer (1,250 miles), is nuclear capable.

However, both hypersonic strikes so far have not been nuclear.

'The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region', the Russian defence ministry said Saturday. 

Russian Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov also said that the Russian forces used the anti-ship missile system Bastion to strike Ukrainian military facilities near the Black Sea port of Odessa.

Aerial footage released by the Russian military claimed to show the missile strike. Large, long buildings are shown in the footage in a snowy region, before one is obliterated by a huge explosion - sending flames, earth and debris high into the air. People can be seen on the ground fleeing as smoke pours from the site.

Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuri Ignat confirmed that a storage site had been targeted, but added that Kyiv had no information regarding the type of missile that was used.

Hypersonic missiles differ from ballistic ones in that they travel closer to the earth and as such can largely avoid radar detection

Hypersonic missiles differ from ballistic ones in that they travel closer to the earth and as such can largely avoid radar detection 'The enemy targeted our depots' but 'we have no information of the type of missile,' he said. 'There has been damage, destruction and the detonation of munitions. They are using all the missiles in their arsenal against us.'   

Russia reportedly first used the weapon during its military campaign in Syria in 2016 to support the Assad regime, although it was unclear if this was the same model. Some of the most intense bombing came in 2016 during the battle for Aleppo, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has termed the missile 'an ideal weapon' that flies at 10 times the speed of sound, which is 7672.69 miles per hour, and can overcome air-defence systems.

Russia also said it had fired a second 'unstoppable' hypersonic Kinzhal missile at a fuel depot in Kostyantynivka, in the southern region of Mykolaiv. The MiG-31K jet (pictured as it took off) fired the aeroballistic missile at the warehouse as it was flying over Crimea

Russia also said it had fired a second 'unstoppable' hypersonic Kinzhal missile at a fuel depot in Kostyantynivka, in the southern region of Mykolaiv. The MiG-31K jet (pictured as it took off) fired the aeroballistic missile at the warehouse as it was flying over Crimea

Major General Igor Konashenkov, from the Russian Defence Ministry, said the target was the main supply of fuel for Ukrainian armoured cars in the south of the country. He claimed the missile had destroyed the depot. Pictured: The Russian pilot flying the fighter jet

Major General Igor Konashenkov, from the Russian Defence Ministry, said the target was the main supply of fuel for Ukrainian armoured cars in the south of the country. He claimed the missile had destroyed the depot. Pictured: The Russian pilot flying the fighter jetDeliatyn, a picturesque village in the foothills of the picturesque Carpathian mountains, is located outside the city of Ivano-Frankivsk. The region of Ivano-Frankivsk shares a 30-mile long border with NATO member Romania. 

Konashenkov noted that the Kalibr cruise missiles launched by Russian warships from the Caspian Sea were also involved in the strike on the fuel depot in Kostiantynivka. He said Kalibr missiles launched from the Black Sea were used to destroy an armor repair plant in Nizhyn in the Chernihiv region in northern Ukraine.

Konashenkov added that another strike by air-launched missiles hit a Ukrainian facility in Ovruch in the northern Zhytomyr region where foreign fighters and Ukrainian special forces were based.

The British defense ministry said the Ukrainian Air Force and air defense forces are 'continuing to effectively defend Ukrainian airspace'.

'Russia has failed to gain control of the air and is largely relying on stand-off weapons launched from the relative safety of Russian airspace to strike targets within Ukraine', the ministry said on Twitter. 

'Gaining control of the air was one of Russia's principal objectives for the opening days of the conflict and their continued failure to do so has significantly blunted their operational progress.' 

A Ukrainian military official meanwhile confirmed to a Ukrainian newspaper that Russian forces carried out a missile strike Friday on a missile and ammunition warehouse in the Deliatyn settlement of the Ivano-Frankivsk region in western Ukraine.

But Ukraine's Air Forces spokesman Yurii Ihnat told Ukrainskaya Pravda on Saturday that it has not been confirmed that the missile was indeed a hypersonic Kinzhal.  

Russia also boasted in a chilling newly-released video how it is using adapted Israeli reconnaissance combat drone technology to kill in Ukraine.

The footage shows a Forpost-R destroying a battery of Ukrainian howitzers and military hardware.

Israel six years ago stopped supplying components for the drone - but Russia still has a force of around 100.

The Russian defence ministry said: 'Unmanned aerial vehicles of the Aerospace Forces carried out missile strikes on a self-propelled artillery battery of 122mm howitzers and military hardware of the Ukrainian armed forces.

'A battery of self-propelled artillery guns, armoured vehicles and vehicles were destroyed by airborne weapons.'

The import-substituted Forpost-R drone is a licensed version of the Israeli Searcher MkII.

The drone was supplied to Russia but was designed exclusively for reconnaissance.

It is an improved and indigenised model variant of the Forpost (Outpost), the Israeli Searcher Mk II UAV assembled by Yekaterinburg-based Ural Civil Aviation Plant.

From 2016, Israel stopped supplying components to Russia, apparently under pressure from the US, triggering the move by the Kremlin to adapt the drone.

The Forpost-R unmanned combat aerial vehicle was first seen a week ago deployed by Russia in the current conflict.

The video is believed to show the combat drone taking off from Gomel, in Belarus, and striking at targets in Ukraine.

Mariupol, a key connection to the Black Sea, has been a target since the start of the war on February 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what he calls a 'special military operation' to demilitarise and 'denazify' Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

As Russia has sought to seize most of Ukraine's southern coast, Mariupol has assumed great importance, lying between the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea to the west and the Donetsk region to the east, which is partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The U.N. human rights office said at least 847 civilians had been killed and 1,399 wounded in Ukraine as of Friday. The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said 112 children have been killed. 

Rescue workers on Sunday were still searching for survivors in a Mariupol theatre that local authorities say was flattened by Russian air strikes on Wednesday. Russia denies hitting the theatre or targeting civilians. 

Satellite images, released on Saturday, showed the collapsed remains of the building which was sheltering hundreds of children and their families before being levelled in a Russian airstrike.

More than 1,300 people, including women and babies, are still feared trapped in the bombed ruins of the theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol as rescue efforts are hampered by constant Russian shelling. 

Their prospects of survival are growing bleaker by the day, with no supplies and Russian troops firing at rescuers trying to dig through the rubble.

Last night a local MP said those inside were forced to dig from within the wreckage because rescue attempts had been thwarted by ongoing airstrikes.On Sunday the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine shared photographs of children's drawings about the ongoing war. This one includes a dead soldier and a Russian military truck with a 'Z' symbol on it that seems to be firing at the child, labelled 'Me', and their 'Papa' and 'Mama' as well as a pet, who are all inside a heart the colours of the Ukrainian flag

On Sunday the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine shared photographs of children's drawings about the ongoing war. This one includes a dead soldier and a Russian military truck with a 'Z' symbol on it that seems to be firing at the child, labelled 'Me', and their 'Papa' and 'Mama' as well as a pet, who are all inside a heart the colours of the Ukrainian flag

A Ukrainian girl called Victoria drew a picture of a female relative in camouflage, holding a rifle
This drawing by 10-year-old Sasha is a self-portrait of himself praying. His mother said: 'It's hard to imagine what our children have to endure. My son became an adult prematurely'

A Ukrainian girl called Victoria drew a picture of a female relative in camouflage, holding a rifle (left). Another drawing by 10-year-old Sasha is a self-portrait of himself praying (right). His mother said: 'It's hard to imagine what our children have to endure. My son became an adult prematurely'

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who branded Russia's attack as 'outright terror', last night vowed to continue the rescue mission.

'Hundreds of Mariupol residents are still under the debris. Despite the shelling, despite all the difficulties, we will continue the rescue work,' he said.

On Sunday the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine shared photographs of children's drawings about the ongoing war. 

One included a dead soldier and a Russian military truck with a 'Z' symbol on it that seemed to be firing at the child, labelled 'Me', and their 'Papa' and 'Mama' as well as a pet, who are all inside a heart the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

Another drawing by a Ukrainian girl called Victoria showed a female relative in camouflage, holding a rifle.

The mother of Sasha, a 10-year-old Ukrainian boy who draw a picture of himself praying, said: 'It's hard to imagine what our children have to endure. My son became an adult prematurely.' 

Russian troops have now reached the city centre and civilians remain hiding in bunkers while fighters battle on the streets.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said: 'Tanks and machine gun battles continue. There's no city centre left. There isn't a small piece of land in the city that doesn't have signs of war.'

The devastating losses across Ukraine have sparked a poignant protest in Lviv, where 109 empty prams were arranged in solemn rows to mark the number of children killed since Russia invaded.

Local authorities said more than 130 survivors have emerged from the rubble of the Mariupol theatre which was being used as the ravaged port city's biggest civilian bomb shelter.

But they said that those saved represented just one tenth of the civilians still trapped within the refuge which miraculously withstood the blast.

Ukraine's human rights commissioner Lyudmyla Denisova said: 'According to our data there are still more than 1,300 people there who are in these basements, in that bomb shelter. We pray that they will be alive but so far there is no information about them.'

More than 1,300 people including women and babies are still feared trapped in the bombed ruins of a theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol (pictured)

More than 1,300 people including women and babies are still feared trapped in the bombed ruins of a theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol (pictured)

The helpless casualties were yesterday forced to spend a third night entombed in the basement of the destroyed Drama Theatre which was hit by Vladimir Putin's forces on Wednesday
The helpless casualties were yesterday forced to spend a third night entombed in the basement of the destroyed Drama Theatre which was hit by Vladimir Putin's forces on Wednesday

The helpless casualties were yesterday forced to spend a third night entombed in the basement of the destroyed Drama Theatre which was hit by Vladimir Putin's forces on Wednesday

Residents are seen on the street after emerging from bomb shelters, gathering their belongings as they prepare to flee the city

Residents are seen on the street after emerging from bomb shelters, gathering their belongings as they prepare to flee the city

109 empty baby carriages on display in Lviv city center for the 109 babies killed so far during Russia's invasion of Ukraine

109 empty baby carriages on display in Lviv city center for the 109 babies killed so far during Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Former governor MP Serhiy Taruta said he fears many survivors will die because the city's emergency services have been destroyed by Russian troops.

'Services that are supposed to help are demolished, rescue and utility services are physically destroyed. This means that all the survivors of the bombing will either die under the ruins of the theatre, or have already died,' he wrote on Facebook.

He said those trapped had been left to dig their way out of the collapsed three-storey building.

'People are doing everything themselves. My friends went to help but due to constant shelling it was not safe.'

However Mariupol MP Dmytro Gurin insisted that while the rescue mission had been hampered by constant Russian attacks, efforts were still under way.

One woman said the strike had taken place while those sheltering beneath the theatre were cooking and only around 100 had time to flee.

Nick Osychenko, the CEO of a Mariupol TV station, said as he fled the city with six members of his family, aged between 4 and 61, he saw dead bodies on nearly every block.

'We were careful and didn't want the children to see the bodies, so we tried to shield their eyes,' he said. 'We were nervous the whole journey. It was frightening, just frightening.'

Russia has denied responsibility for the devastating strike which was branded a 'war crime' and sparked global outrage.

After an agonising first night of uncertainty following the bombing, Ukrainian officials revealed on Thursday that they were hopeful that the majority within had survived.

Rescuers said that while the entrance to the basement had caved in, the relatively modern shelter had remained intact.

But Miss Denisova said that while some had survived, the situation remained unclear.

She said there was 'currently no information about the dead or wounded under the rubble' and called the attack 'an act of genocide and a terrible crime against humanity'.

Ukraine's Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov branded the Russian pilot behind the bombing a 'monster'.

But the Kremlin's UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya yesterday denied that Russia had targeted the shelter. 

Pictured: The aftermath of a theatre in the encircled Ukrainian port city of Mariupol where hundreds of civilians were sheltering on Wednesday March 16

Pictured: The aftermath of a theatre in the encircled Ukrainian port city of Mariupol where hundreds of civilians were sheltering on Wednesday March 16

A woman and her baby are pictured fleeing the city of Mariupol along a humanitarian corridor that was opened on Thursday, though previous attempts have failed after Russians shelled the routes

A woman and her baby are pictured fleeing the city of Mariupol along a humanitarian corridor that was opened on Thursday, though previous attempts have failed after Russians shelled the routes

Local residents seeking refuge in the basement of a building are seen in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol

Local residents seeking refuge in the basement of a building are seen in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol

Russia's defence ministry previously said its forces were 'tightening the noose' around Mariupol and that fighting had reached the city centre. 

Long columns of troops that bore down on the capital Kyiv have been halted in the suburbs.

Ukraine's military said Russian forces did not conduct offensive operations on Saturday, focusing instead on replenishing supplies and repairing equipment. It also said Ukrainian air defences shot down three Russian combat helicopters.

Zelensky said the Ukrainian front line was 'simply littered with the corpses of Russian soldiers'. 

In Syria, some paramilitary fighters say they were ready to deploy to Ukraine to fight in support of their ally Russia but have not yet received instructions to go. 

Russia said on Saturday its hypersonic missiles had destroyed a large underground depot for missiles and aircraft ammunition in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region. Hypersonic weapons can travel faster than five times the speed of sound, and the Interfax agency said it was the first time Russia had used them in Ukraine.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force Command confirmed the attack, but said the Ukrainian side had no information on the type of missiles used. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow expected its operation in Ukraine to end with the signing of a comprehensive agreement on security issues, including Ukraine's neutral status, Interfax reported.

An aerial view shows smoke rising from damaged residential buildings following an explosion in Mariupol on Friday

An aerial view shows smoke rising from damaged residential buildings following an explosion in Mariupol on Friday

An aerial view shows residential buildings which were damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol

An aerial view shows residential buildings which were damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol

A woman weeps after seeing the ruins of her destroyed block of flat in Mariupol, which is under bombardment by Russia

A woman weeps after seeing the ruins of her destroyed block of flat in Mariupol, which is under bombardment by Russia

Women seek refuge in the basement of a building in Mariupol, which has been under Russian bombardment for weeks

Women seek refuge in the basement of a building in Mariupol, which has been under Russian bombardment for weeks

A heavily bombed building is seen in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, after being destroyed by Russian shelling of the city

A heavily bombed building is seen in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, after being destroyed by Russian shelling of the city

The haunting spectacle shows the human tragedy at the centre of the conflict: Families torn apart by war

The haunting spectacle shows the human tragedy at the centre of the conflict: Families torn apart by war

In its sunlit cobbled central square, one Ukrainian city hosts a poignant protest at the innocent lives lost in the fighting

In its sunlit cobbled central square, one Ukrainian city hosts a poignant protest at the innocent lives lost in the fighting

Evacuees fleeing Ukraine-Russia conflict sit in a damaged car as they wait in a line to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol

Evacuees fleeing Ukraine-Russia conflict sit in a damaged car as they wait in a line to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol

Kyiv and Moscow reported some progress in talks last week toward a political formula that would guarantee Ukraine's security, while keeping it outside NATO, though each sides accused the other of dragging things out.

Zelensky has said Ukraine could accept international security guarantees that stopped short of its longstanding aim to join NATO. That prospect has been one of Russia's primary stated concerns.

The Ukrainian president, who makes frequent impassioned appeals to foreign audiences for help, told an anti-war protest in Bern on Saturday that Swiss banks were where the 'money of the people who unleashed this war' lay and their accounts should be frozen.

Ukrainian cities 'are being destroyed on the orders of people who live in European, in beautiful Swiss towns, who enjoy property in your cities. It would really be good to strip them of this privilege', he said in an audio address.

Neutral Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, has fully adopted EU sanctions against Russian individuals and entities, including orders to freeze their wealth in Swiss banks.

The EU measures are part of a wider sanctions effort by Western nations aimed at squeezing Russia's economy and starving its war machine.

U.S. President Joe Biden warned his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Friday of 'consequences' if Beijing gave material support to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China stood on the right side of history over the Ukraine crisis.

'China's position is objective and fair, and is in line with the wishes of most countries. Time will prove that China's claims are on the right side of history', Wang told reporters, according to a statement published by his ministry on Sunday.                       

Feared Chechen special forces are fighting house-to-house in besieged Mariupol while 'hundreds' of women and children remain trapped in the rubble of a city theatre destroyed by Russian invaders
Feared Chechen special forces are fighting house-to-house in besieged Mariupol while 'hundreds' of women and children remain trapped in the rubble of a city theatre destroyed by Russian invaders

Feared Chechen special forces are fighting house-to-house in besieged Mariupol while 'hundreds' of women and children remain trapped in the rubble of a city theatre destroyed by Russian invaders

The propaganda video then cuts before showing some of the Chechen fighters emerging from the building with children in their arms while supposedly 'liberating' civilians
The propaganda video then cuts before showing some of the Chechen fighters emerging from the building with children in their arms while supposedly 'liberating' civilians

The propaganda video then cuts before showing some of the Chechen fighters emerging from the building with children in their arms while supposedly 'liberating' civilians

Video released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers

Video released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers

Vladimir Putin has given a tub-thumping address to tens of thousands of Russians gathered at Moscow's world cup stadium, celebrating his invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and drumming up support for his new war

Vladimir Putin has given a tub-thumping address to tens of thousands of Russians gathered at Moscow's world cup stadium, celebrating his invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and drumming up support for his new war

Putin spoke in front of a crowd tens of thousands strong at the Luzhniki World Cup stadium in Moscow, one of the few times he has been seen in public since launching his invasion 23 days ago

Putin spoke in front of a crowd tens of thousands strong at the Luzhniki World Cup stadium in Moscow, one of the few times he has been seen in public since launching his invasion 23 days agoPutin used the rally to peddle falsehoods about why the war started and to shill a narrative of Russia's battlefield success, speaking of 'how our guys are fighting during this operation, shoulder to shoulder, helping each other'

Putin used the rally to peddle falsehoods about why the war started and to shill a narrative of Russia's battlefield success, speaking of 'how our guys are fighting during this operation, shoulder to shoulder, helping each other'

Putin called the rally to mark the eighth anniversary of 'annexing' Crimea, speaking of 'de-Nazifying' the peninsula and of debunked claims of 'genocide' in the Donbass

Putin called the rally to mark the eighth anniversary of 'annexing' Crimea, speaking of 'de-Nazifying' the peninsula and of debunked claims of 'genocide' in the Donbass

Zelensky has also ordered to suspend activities of 11 political parties with links to Russia.

The largest of them is the Opposition Platform for Life, which has 44 out of 450 seats in the country's parliament. The party is led by Viktor Medvedchuk, who has friendly ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is the godfather of Medvedchuk's daughter.

Also on the list is the Nashi (Ours) party led by Yevheniy Murayev. Before the Russian invasion. the British authorities had warned that Russia wanted to install Murayev as the leader of Ukraine.

Speaking in a video address early Sunday, Zelenskyy said that 'given a large-scale war unleashed by the Russian Federation and links between it and some political structures, the activities of a number of political parties is suspended for the period of the martial law.' He added that 'activities by politicians aimed at discord and collaboration will not succeed.'

Zelenskyy's announcement follows the introduction of the martial law that envisages a ban on parties associated with Russia.

Meanwhile feared Chechen special forces are fighting house-to-house in the besieged port city.

Video said to have been released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers.

The propaganda video then cuts before showing some of the Chechen fighters emerging from the building with children in their arms while supposedly 'liberating' civilians.

Russia's defence ministry said on Friday that its troops have now entered the city and are fighting in the centre, amid fears that it could soon fall into Putin's hands after three weeks of shelling weakened the defences. If the city does fall, it will be the largest captured so-far - albeit at the cost of near-totally destroying it. 

Svitlana Zlenko, who said she left the city with her son on Tuesday this week, described how she spent days sheltering in a school building - melting snow to cook pasta to eat while living in constant terror of Russian bombs which flew overhead 'every day and every night'.  

She described how a bomb hit the school last week, wounding a woman in the hip with a piece of shrapnel. 'She was lying on the first floor of the high school all night and prayed for poison so that she would not feel pain,' Svitlana said. '[She] was taken by the Red Cross within a day, I pray to God she is well.'

She added: 'There is no food, no medicine, if there is no snow with such urban fights, people will not be able to go out to get water, people have no water left. Pharmacies, grocery stores - everything is robbed or burned.

'The dead are not taken out. Police recommend to the relatives of those who died of a natural death, to open the windows and lay the bodies on the balcony. I know you think you understand, but you will never understand unless you were there. I pray that this will not happen again in any of the cities of Ukraine, or of the world.'

Despite the pleas, shelling was well underway in other Ukrainian cities on Friday - with Lviv, in the west of the country, the capital Kyiv, and Kharkiv, in the east, coming under fire.  

The war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin ground into its fourth week as his troops have failed to take Kyiv - a major objective in their hopes of forcing a settlement or dictating the country's future political alignments.

But back home in Moscow, Putin today gave a tub-thumping speech to tens of thousands of banner-waving Russians in an attempt to drum up support for his stalled invasion.  

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