Russia's stranded troops face dying in tanks that become '40-ton iron freezers' during -20C cold snap - after warnings cornered Putin could detonate mini-NUKES in worst-case scenario as 'clusterf**k invasion' fury grows

 Russian troops stranded in the 40-mile long convoy of tanks and armoured vehicles stalled on the outskirts of Kyiv could face freezing to death in their vehicles this week as temperatures are set to plunge. 

A pronounced cold snap in Eastern Europe will see temperatures drop to -10C overnight in the middle of the week around Kyiv and Kharkiv – down to -20C when wind chill is taken into account.The icy conditions are expected to make a difficult situation even worse for the invaders, who have been stuck roughly 20 miles from Kyiv for days amid mechanical problems, fuel supply issues and solid Ukrainian resistance.

Former British Army Major Kevin Price said the occupiers' tanks will become nothing more than '40-ton freezers' as the mercury drops, commenting that the bitter conditions will destroy the morale of troops not prepared for Arctic-style warfare.

Price declared that life for Russian soldiers not expecting to be confronted with such low temperatures in March is set to become 'unbelievably tough', while Glen Grant, a senior defence expert at the Baltic Security Foundation, said a tank 'is just a fridge at night if you are not running the engine' - something the Russians simply cannot afford to do given the fuel scarcity.

Grant said that unless the convoy is quickly supplied and is able to get moving again, many of the Russian soldiers may be forced to give up to avoid freezing to death.

'You just can't sit around and wait because if you are in the vehicle you are waiting to be killed. They are not stupid,' he told Newsweek.

But the Arctic temperatures are also expected to make life miserable for Ukrainian refugees attempting to flee from war torn cities. 

Russian troops stranded in the 40-mile long convoy of tanks and armoured vehicles stalled on the outskirts of Kyiv could face freezing to death in their vehicles this week as temperatures are set to plunge (Russian convoy pictured March 7 near Kyiv)

Russian troops stranded in the 40-mile long convoy of tanks and armoured vehicles stalled on the outskirts of Kyiv could face freezing to death in their vehicles this week as temperatures are set to plunge (Russian convoy pictured March 7 near Kyiv)

The icy conditions are expected to make a difficult situation even worse for the invaders, who have been stuck roughly 20 miles from Kyiv for days amid mechanical problems, fuel supply issues and solid Ukrainian resistance

The icy conditions are expected to make a difficult situation even worse for the invaders, who have been stuck roughly 20 miles from Kyiv for days amid mechanical problems, fuel supply issues and solid Ukrainian resistance

A pronounced cold snap in Eastern Europe will see temperatures drop to -10C overnight in the middle of the week around Kyiv and Kharkiv – down to -20C when wind chill is taken into account (an elderly woman is coated in snow as she sits in a wheelchair after being evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022)

A pronounced cold snap in Eastern Europe will see temperatures drop to -10C overnight in the middle of the week around Kyiv and Kharkiv – down to -20C when wind chill is taken into account (an elderly woman is coated in snow as she sits in a wheelchair after being evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022)

The Arctic temperatures are also expected to make life miserable for Ukrainian refugees attempting to flee from war torn cities (couple pictured during the evacuation of Irpin, March 8)

The Arctic temperatures are also expected to make life miserable for Ukrainian refugees attempting to flee from war torn cities (couple pictured during the evacuation of Irpin, March 8)

Kremlin officials meanwhile are 'privately denouncing' Vladimir Putin's 'clusterf**k' invasion as US officials warned that the isolated Russian despot could lash out in anger at Ukraine's fierce resistance by using small nuclear weapons on some of its cities.

Russian journalist Farida Rustamova, who was well-connected in government circles before fleeing the country as the Kremlin launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent, has claimed that officials in Moscow never believed that Putin would go to war.

They are now allegedly making 'apocalyptic' forecasts about the weeks and months ahead as fighting grinds on and punitive sanctions bite.

When asked how Russian politicians were reacting to the crisis, one source told Rustamova: 'They're carefully enunciating the word clusterf**k. No one is rejoicing. Many understand that this is a mistake, but in the course of doing their duty they come up with explanations in order to somehow come to terms with it.'

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Kyiv estimates that 12,000 Russians have now died fighting and while that number cannot be verified, casualties are almost certainly higher than Putin bargained for when he gave the order to attack 13 days ago. Captured soldiers have complained of a lack of food, fuel, and overall battle plan – with conditions set to get worse in the coming days.

US intelligence chiefs on Tuesday branded Putin an 'angry', isolated leader grappling for global clout, frustrated about how his Ukraine invasion has not gone to plan, and lobbing provocative nuclear threats at the West. Some have even privately expressed concern that, in a worst-case scenario, he might order deployment of mini-nukes on a city.

CIA Director William Burns told US lawmakers that Putin is now likely to 'double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties'. At a congressional hearing on global threats, he said the despot has been 'stewing in a combustible combination of grievance and ambition for many years' and regarded the invasion of Ukraine a matter of 'deep personal conviction' for Putin.

'I think Putin is angry and frustrated right now. He's likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties,' Burns said.

The Russian strongman has encountered a tidal wave of opprobrium for the deadly invasion, leaving him isolated like never before. The US intelligence community warned of the potential for Putin to lash out, especially noting an elevated nuclear threat.

Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, said Russia under Putin has been working overtime to modernize its weaponry, particularly smaller-yield nuclear weapons.

Putin has 'invested in tactical nuclear weapons,' Berrier said. 'I believe that he thinks that gives him an asymmetric advantage.'

Putin took the shock step last month of putting Russia's nuclear forces on high alert. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said 'Putin's nuclear saber-rattling' has put the West on notice.

'We assess Putin feels aggrieved the West does not give him proper deference, and perceives this as a war he cannot afford to lose,' Haines told the panel. 'But what he might be willing to accept as a victory may change over time.'

Putin's invasion has produced 'a shock to the geopolitical order with implications for the future that we are only beginning to understand, but are sure to be consequential', it was heard.

The CIA's Burns also warned that with Putin under immense pressure, the 'system' the Russian president created of a circle of close advisors is getting 'narrower and narrower' – and that in such a system, 'it's not proven career enhancing for people to question or challenge his judgment'. 

It comes after a US military think tank dramatically warned on Monday night that Russian forces could launch their assault on Kyiv as early as tonight.

The Institute for the Study of War said the Russian military has been bringing reinforcements and supplies to its front lines, as well as carrying out air and artillery strikes on key Ukrainian military targets to weaken their position and to intimidate the city's defenders ahead of a large assault.

Three civilians died near Kyiv on Tuesday after stepping on a landmine, a six-year-old girl died from dehydration in Mariupol after water was cut off, and hundreds of people were pictured evacuating from the city of Irpin in bitter conditions whilst snow fell.

Irpin has been the scene of some intense clashes as Russian forces try to take it on their mission to surround and besiege Kyiv, with one commander reporting hand-to-hand fighting as Putin's men battle street-to-street.

Vitaliy Shichko, resident of nearby Bucha, said Russian forces have been attacking the town since last week – initially throwing in men 'they weren't afraid of losing' but increasingly moving in better armed and equipped troops to capture and hold ground.

Others said that Russians had cleared residents out of their homes so they could set up sniper positions, with some alleging that civilians had been fired at as they tried to flee. Ukrainian artillery is now being brought to bare on Russian forces as they set up the next phase of their attack, commanders said.

Ukraine's commanders have claimed that Putin's invasion has 'slowed significantly' in recent days, with American intelligence saying he has now committed all of the forces he built up along the border to the fight.

Kyiv's military, giving an overview of combat as the war entered its 13th day, said defensive operations continue in the north, east and south of Ukraine, with all major cities other than Kherson in Ukrainian hands. Russian troops are 'demoralised and increasingly tend to looting and violations of international humanitarian law', commanders added.

It has also emerged that another Russian commander – Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, first deputy commander of Russia's 41st army – was killed in Kharkiv on Monday, just the latest in an increasingly long line of senior military figures to lose their lives in Ukraine.Ukrainian artillery targeting Russian military trucks in Kozarovychi in the Kyiv Oblast

Ukrainian artillery targeting Russian military trucks in Kozarovychi in the Kyiv Oblast

Civilians continue to flee from Irpin due to ongoing Russian attacks as snow falls in Irpin, Ukraine, March 8, 2022

Civilians continue to flee from Irpin due to ongoing Russian attacks as snow falls in Irpin, Ukraine, March 8, 2022

Ukrainians cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing Irpin, in the outskirts of Kyiv, March 8, 2022

Ukrainians cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing Irpin, in the outskirts of Kyiv, March 8, 2022

This handout video grab taken and released by the Russian Presidential Press Service on March 8, 2022 shows Russian President Vladimir Putin giving a speech for the International Women's Day, in Moscow

This handout video grab taken and released by the Russian Presidential Press Service on March 8, 2022 shows Russian President Vladimir Putin giving a speech for the International Women's Day, in Moscow

A children's playground is seen in front of an apartment building hit by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022

A children's playground is seen in front of an apartment building hit by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022

People help an elderly woman to walk in a street with an apartment building hit by shelling in the background in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, March 7, 2022

People help an elderly woman to walk in a street with an apartment building hit by shelling in the background in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, March 7, 2022

The fire at the warehouse after a Russian Kalibr missile debris was shot down over Kalynivka village, near Brovary, the eastern frontline of Kyiv region, Ukraine, 08 March 2022

The fire at the warehouse after a Russian Kalibr missile debris was shot down over Kalynivka village, near Brovary, the eastern frontline of Kyiv region, Ukraine, 08 March 2022

A Ukrainian firefighter in action trying to extinguish the fire at the warehouse in Kalynivka village, near Brovary, Ukraine, 08 March 2022

A Ukrainian firefighter in action trying to extinguish the fire at the warehouse in Kalynivka village, near Brovary, Ukraine, 08 March 2022

Heartbreaking pictures have emerged of Ukrainian children, trapped in the besieged port city of Mariupol, hiding in shelters from Russian bombs as the occupiers continued their indiscriminate bombing campaigns

Heartbreaking pictures have emerged of Ukrainian children, trapped in the besieged port city of Mariupol, hiding in shelters from Russian bombs as the occupiers continued their indiscriminate bombing campaigns

An elderly woman placed in a shopping trolley is carried over a destroyed bridge as she is evacuated from the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, as snow falls on Tuesday morning

An elderly woman placed in a shopping trolley is carried over a destroyed bridge as she is evacuated from the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, as snow falls on Tuesday morning

An elderly Ukrainian woman, placed inside a shopping trolley, is carried over a destroyed bridge on the outskirts of Irpin, near the capital Kyiv, which has been the scene of brutal street-to-street fighting

An elderly Ukrainian woman, placed inside a shopping trolley, is carried over a destroyed bridge on the outskirts of Irpin, near the capital Kyiv, which has been the scene of brutal street-to-street fighting

People flee the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, on Monday as Russian forces pummelled d Ukrainian cities from the air, land and sea

People flee the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, on Monday as Russian forces pummelled d Ukrainian cities from the air, land and sea

People carry a wounded woman during the evacuation by civilians of the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv

People carry a wounded woman during the evacuation by civilians of the city of Irpin, northwest of KyivA police officer says goodbye to his son as his family flees from advancing Russian troops as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in the town of Irpin

A police officer says goodbye to his son as his family flees from advancing Russian troops as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in the town of IrpinHeavy snow falls as Ukrainian civilians flee across a river in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, where heavy fighting is going on

Heavy snow falls as Ukrainian civilians flee across a river in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, where heavy fighting is going on

 

Ukrainian soldiers help an elderly woman to cross a destroyed bridge as she evacuates the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv

Ukrainian soldiers help an elderly woman to cross a destroyed bridge as she evacuates the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv

A person is carried on a stretcher during the evacuation by civilians of the city of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv

A person is carried on a stretcher during the evacuation by civilians of the city of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv

A woman carrying a swaddled baby walks down a motorway near the city of Irpin as she evacuates amid heavy snowfall

A woman carrying a swaddled baby walks down a motorway near the city of Irpin as she evacuates amid heavy snowfall

Russian troops continue to try and surround Kyiv ahead of what is expected to be an attack on the city, with intense fighting reported in the north west including hand-to-hand combat with Russian forces

Russian troops continue to try and surround Kyiv ahead of what is expected to be an attack on the city, with intense fighting reported in the north west including hand-to-hand combat with Russian forcesKyiv claimed today that 12,000 Russian troops have now died fighting in Ukraine, while 300 tanks have been destroyed along with more than 1,000 armoured vehicles, 48 planes, 80 helicopters and three boats. Moscow has acknowledged taking losses but has not given a recent update. Ukraine's losses are unknown.  

Strikes on civilian areas also continued Tuesday morning, with the city of Sumy - in the east - struck by bombs which the local mayor said killed 21 people including two children and left others wounded. Ukraine's parliament published a photo of a bloodied infant they said was hurt in the attack.

Russia again offered to open up 'humanitarian corridors' today to allow civilians to flee bombarded cities - but the move was swiftly dismissed by Kyiv, with President Volodymyr Zelensky accusing Moscow of 'cynicism', saying its troops have laid mines across the routes and blown up buses intended to be used as transports.

'There was an agreement on humanitarian corridors. Did that work? Russian tanks worked in its place, Russian Grads (multiple rocket launchers), Russian mines,' Zelensky said in a video posted on Telegram. 'They ensure that a small corridor to the occupied territory is open for a few dozen people. Not so much towards Russia as towards the propagandists, directly towards the television cameras.'

At least one of the corridors - out of Sumy - was operating today despite the fatal Russian strikes early in the morning. Ukraine's deputy prime minister announced this evening that more than 5,000 civilians were evacuated from the northern Ukrainian city under a temporary ceasefire that mostly held.

Regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said around 1,700 of the evacuees were foreign students studying at universities in Sumy, adding the ceasefire was broken only once by a shooting near a checkpoint.

But Ukraine's foreign ministry said the route out of Mariupol, which has been without water or electricity for the best part of a week, was shelled.

Mariupol is one of the Ukrainian cities worst hit since the invasion began, with Russian forces bringing widespread destruction to residential and administrative centres.

And each time Russia has agreed to open 'humanitarian corridors' allowing citizens to flee the city, its forces have broken their ceasefire agreement and continued shelling in what appear to have been targeted attacks on innocent civilians. 

Zelensky said people stuck in the blockaded urban centre are beginning to suffer from a lack of supplies as the city runs dangerously low on food, water and medicine.

Ukrainian territorial defence forces have been able to deliver vital supplies to some residents, but many more remain isolated and unable to access lifesaving rations.

In Bucha, to the northwest of Kyiv, the mayor said the city is under such heavy shelling that medics cannot get into the streets to retrieve the bodies of the dead - which are now being 'pulled apart' by stray dogs. 'It's a nightmare,' he added.

The United Nations said the number of refugees who have fled Ukraine has already reached 2 million - the fastest exodus Europe has seen since World War II. One million were children, UNICEF spokesman James Elder tweeted, calling it 'a dark historical first.' Most others were women. 

In Zhyotymyr, west of Kyiv, a fire at an oil depot was extinguished in the early hours of the morning while in Mykolaiv, in the south, several fires in residential areas had broke out due to Russian attacks - with four civilians killed and five others rescued from the rubble and taken to hospital

In Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, Russian shelling set nine floors and 27 apartment units of a residential building on fire - a blaze that took rescuers more than four hours to extinguish. At least four people were killed.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, speaking to the BBC today, said Russian forces are 'getting more desperate' and 'we are seeing the Russians just double down on brutality' as the attack stalls.

Stuck in the mud: Ukraine thaw could slow Russian advance

Having failed to make a decisive advance in the early phase of its Ukraine campaign, the Russian army is now facing a thaw that could make progression on key routes problematic due to mud.

Like the armies of Napoleon and Hitler before them, Russian mechanised divisions are likely to be slowed down or halted as unpaved roads become quagmires.

Locals have a word for the twice-yearly season of mudbound roads in the region: Rasputitsa, a term that refers to both to the seasons themselves, and the resulting muddy conditions that can last three to four weeks.

As President Vladimir Putin massed his army at the Ukrainian border, many Western experts expected him to abstain from marching in as the weeks passed, because time was running out before the great thaw.

'Early spring is a bad time to invade Ukraine if the main roads have been destroyed, a task well within Ukraine's irregular warfare toolkit,' wrote Spencer Meredith, a professor at the US National Defence University, in an article published a week before Putin gave the order for the invasion.

While some experts may have misread Putin's intentions, their assessment of weather conditions has been spot-on, as pictures of Russian tanks stuck in the mud have begun to appear frequently on social media. 

'There were already numerous episodes when Russian tanks and other equipment drove into the fields and got stuck. So the soldiers had to leave the equipment and go on foot,' said Mykola Beleskov, an Ukrainian military analyst. He added: 'The situation will worsen as the weather warms up and the rains start, it'll just chain them to the ground.' 

He says 'Russia has still not been making its advances, it's day 13. That northern column that we have often talked about is still pretty much stuck, I mean really stuck, so that's not advancing.'

He said the UK would be increasing the amount of lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine, details of which he would announce in Parliament on Wednesday, and is helping organise delivery of aid through Nato and other EU countries. 

On the subject of Poland possibly supplying jets for the fight in Ukraine, he said there was a debate going on at the moment about whether Poland would.

'The UK could not supply jets directly to Ukraine, we don't have the same type of fighter jets they fly, Mig-29s and others... Our view would be that it is for Poland on a bilateral basis to decide whether to support Ukraine,' adding the UK would support Poland as an old ally.

Meanwhile Russia has threatened to turn off the main gas pipeline supplying Europe if the West goes ahead with sanctions on its oil sector - a move that Moscow says would push the price up above $300 per barrel. 

Germany and the UK have ruled out penalising Russia's energy sector - one of the nation's only economic lifelines - arguing that the European economy needs more time to adjust before the taps are turned off. 

But the US today announced plans to ban imports of Russian oil, sending the average price of gasoline in the US to a record $4.17 per gallon. 

 The national average rose by 10 cents per gallon in one day, and is up 55 cents since last week, according to American Automobile Association data. 

The previous high was set 13 years ago when the national average price hit $4.10 per gallon. 

The price of benchmark US crude also jumped 8 per cent Tuesday to more than $129 per barrel.

Americans can expect the current trend at the pump to continue as long as crude prices climb, the AAA said. 

'We will not be part of subsidizing Putin's war,' Biden declared, calling the new action a 'powerful blow' against Russia's ability to fund the ongoing offensive.

The US imports about 100,000 barrels a day from Russia, only about 5 per cent of Russia's crude oil exports, according to Rystad Energy. Last year, roughly 8 per cent of US imports of oil and petroleum products came from Russia.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine well into its second week, a steady rain of shells and rockets continues to fall on population centres like Bucha. 

The mayor of the Kyiv suburb, Anatol Fedoruk, said military fire had been heavy and constant.

'We can't even gather up the bodies because the shelling from heavy weapons doesn't stop day or night,' Mr Fedoruk said. 

In one of the most desperate cities, the encircled southern port of Mariupol, an estimated 200,000 people - nearly half the population of 430,000 - are still hoping to flee, but Ukrainian authorities have been reluctant to accept Russia's offer of humanitarian corridors, arguing that previous ceasefire arrangements had been broken with many civilians killed as a result.

The Russian UN ambassador on Monday night forecast a potential cease-fire for the morning and appeared to suggest that humanitarian paths leading away from Kyiv and other cities could give people choice in where they want to go - a change from previous proposals that offered only destinations in Russia or Belarus.A destroyed Russian tank is seen by the side of a road in Luhansk, in images captured by Ukrainian soldiers in the region

A destroyed Russian tank is seen by the side of a road in Luhansk, in images captured by Ukrainian soldiers in the region

Ukrainian soldiers in Luhansk, in the country's east, captured images showing destroyed Russian military vehicles

Ukrainian soldiers in Luhansk, in the country's east, captured images showing destroyed Russian military vehicles

Russia has today offered to reopen 'humanitarian corridors' for civilians to flee besieged cities which has been dismissed as little more than a PR stunt by Kyiv because routes, most of which lead to Russia, have been attacked

Russia has today offered to reopen 'humanitarian corridors' for civilians to flee besieged cities which has been dismissed as little more than a PR stunt by Kyiv because routes, most of which lead to Russia, have been attackedA child injured in a Russian airstrike on the city of Sumy overnight, which the major said killed more than 10 people with infants among the dead. Ukraine's forces say Russia is increasingly resorting to 'war crimes' as its invasion slows

A child injured in a Russian airstrike on the city of Sumy overnight, which the major said killed more than 10 people with infants among the dead. Ukraine's forces say Russia is increasingly resorting to 'war crimes' as its invasion slows

Injured in result of shelling civilian woman is seen at a hospital in Eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

Injured in result of shelling civilian woman is seen at a hospital in Eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

Smoke rises into the night sky over Sumy, eastern Ukraine, as the besieged city was hit by Russian airstrikes which the mayor said killed more than 10 people including children

Smoke rises into the night sky over Sumy, eastern Ukraine, as the besieged city was hit by Russian airstrikes which the mayor said killed more than 10 people including children

Destroyed houses are seen in Sumy, eastern Ukraine, which has come under heavy Russian bombardment even as Moscow offers to open a 'humanitarian corridor' - dismissed as a 'cynical' stunt by Kyiv

Destroyed houses are seen in Sumy, eastern Ukraine, which has come under heavy Russian bombardment even as Moscow offers to open a 'humanitarian corridor' - dismissed as a 'cynical' stunt by Kyiv

Buildings flattened by Russian artillery are pictured in the city of Sumy, in eastern Ukraine, as Kyiv's commanders say the invasion has 'slowed' with Putin's men increasingly resorting to 'war crimes'

Buildings flattened by Russian artillery are pictured in the city of Sumy, in eastern Ukraine, as Kyiv's commanders say the invasion has 'slowed' with Putin's men increasingly resorting to 'war crimes'

Volodymyr Zelensky has openly defied Russian forces trying to encircle Kyiv, posting his location and saying he is 'not afraid' of soldiers attacking the Ukrainian capital

On Monday, Moscow again announced a series of demands to stop the invasion, including that Ukraine recognise Crimea as part of Russia and recognise the eastern regions controlled by Moscow-supported separatist fighters as independent. It also insisted that Ukraine change its constitution to guarantee it won't join international bodies like Nato and the EU. Ukraine has already rejected those demands.

Mr Zelensky has called for more punitive measures against Russia, including a global boycott of its oil exports, which are key to its economy.

'If (Russia) doesn't want to abide by civilized rules, then they shouldn't receive goods and services from civilization,' he said in a video address.

Addressing the Security Council, the UN's top humanitarian official Martin Griffiths said civilians must be allowed to leave in the direction they wish. 

At least 406 civilians have died since the start of Russia's assault on its ex-Soviet neighbour, according to the UN, although it believes the real figures to be 'considerably higher'.

Ukrainian forces said Tuesday they had repulsed a Russian attack on Izium city in the Kharkiv region, and outgunned troops have been trying to hold back a Russian push up from the east and south in an attempt to encircle Kyiv.

Russian forces 'suffered losses and retreated' in Izium after they 'reigned terror in the city by bombing civilian premises and infrastructure,' the military said.

AFP journalists witnessed thousands of civilians on Monday fleeing fighting via an unofficial escape route from Irpin, a suburb west of Kyiv, towards the capital.

Children and the elderly were carried on carpets used as stretchers on the route, which leads over the makeshift bridge and along a single path secured by the army and volunteers.

Desperate people abandoned pushchairs and heavy suitcases to cram on buses out of the war zone.

'We had no light at home, no water, we just sat in the basement,' Inna Scherbanyova, 54, an economist from Irpin, told AFP.

'Explosions were constantly going off... Near our house there are cars, there were dead people in one of them... very scary.'

Refugees trying to escape the city using agreed escape routes were left stranded as the road they were directed towards was mined, the ICRC said on Monday.

One Ukrainian paratrooper told of 'hand-to-hand' combat in Irpin, saying 'we are trying to push (Russian soldiers) out, but I don't know if we'll be fully able to do it'.

An international legion of volunteers has descended on Ukraine to fight the Russians. 

Ukrainians pick their way through the rubble of a destroyed street in Kharkiv, in the east of Ukraine, after shelling by Russia

Ukrainians pick their way through the rubble of a destroyed street in Kharkiv, in the east of Ukraine, after shelling by Russia

A woman walks past an apartment building hit by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine

A woman walks past an apartment building hit by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine

A view shows buildings damaged by recent shelling during Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Kharkiv, Ukraine

A view shows buildings damaged by recent shelling during Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Destroyed residential building after shelling is seen in Eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

Destroyed residential building after shelling is seen in Eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

Destroyed after shelling residential building is seen in Eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

Destroyed after shelling residential building is seen in Eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

President Zelensky winks to the camera as he reveals that he is still in Kyiv, while welcoming in the first day of spring

President Zelensky winks to the camera as he reveals that he is still in Kyiv, while welcoming in the first day of spring

A Russian military vehicle explodes after being struck by Ukrainian artillery near Kyiv, as commanders say Moscow's forces continue to suffer heavy losses across the country

A Russian military vehicle explodes after being struck by Ukrainian artillery near Kyiv, as commanders say Moscow's forces continue to suffer heavy losses across the country

Ukrainian soldiers keep their spirits up by singing in a trench near Irpin, on the western outskirts of the capital Kyiv

Ukrainian soldiers keep their spirits up by singing in a trench near Irpin, on the western outskirts of the capital Kyiv

Ukrainian soldiers stand ready to defend against Russian forces in Irpin, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers stand ready to defend against Russian forces in Irpin, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers take cover from incoming artillery fire in Irpin, near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

Ukrainian soldiers take cover from incoming artillery fire in Irpin, near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

A Ukrainian soldier takes cover from incoming Russian artillery fire in Irpin, which has been under heavy bombardment

A Ukrainian soldier takes cover from incoming Russian artillery fire in Irpin, which has been under heavy bombardment

Ukrainian volunteers help remove a dead body as Russian forces continue to besiege residential areas of Irpin, near Kyiv

Ukrainian volunteers help remove a dead body as Russian forces continue to besiege residential areas of Irpin, near Kyiv

A pedestrian walks amid debris in a street following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv

A pedestrian walks amid debris in a street following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv

A member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces looks at destructions following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv

A member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces looks at destructions following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of KharkivFirefighters extinguish a fire of a damaged residential building after Russian troops shelled the area in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

Firefighters extinguish a fire of a damaged residential building after Russian troops shelled the area in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

A rescuer is seen next to a residential building damaged by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Mykolaiv

A rescuer is seen next to a residential building damaged by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Mykolaiv

The booster section of a Russian Smerch rocket is seen embedded in the side of a car in Kharkiv, Ukraine

The booster section of a Russian Smerch rocket is seen embedded in the side of a car in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Members of Ukrainian military together with other people carry an elderly woman in a wheelchair to cross the destroyed bridge as people flee from the frontline town of Irpin, Kyiv region

Members of Ukrainian military together with other people carry an elderly woman in a wheelchair to cross the destroyed bridge as people flee from the frontline town of Irpin, Kyiv region

Rescuers carry a civilian injured during shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine

Rescuers carry a civilian injured during shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken disembarks his plane as he arrives for his visit to Tallinn, Estonia

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken disembarks his plane as he arrives for his visit to Tallinn, Estonia

A burning Russian tank is seen in the midst of night as fighting takes place outside the Ukrainian city of Sumy

A burning Russian tank is seen in the midst of night as fighting takes place outside the Ukrainian city of Sumy

Hanna Bespalko, 54, holds the hands of her dead son Denys during his funeral service in the village of Bila Krynytsia, Ukraine

Hanna Bespalko, 54, holds the hands of her dead son Denys during his funeral service in the village of Bila Krynytsia, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers pictured carrying the coffin of 24-year-old Ukrainian soldier Denys Hrynchuk during his funeral in Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers pictured carrying the coffin of 24-year-old Ukrainian soldier Denys Hrynchuk during his funeral in Ukraine

But the Pentagon said Monday that Moscow was on a recruiting mission for its own foreign fighters - Syrians who fought for President Bashar al-Assad.

'We do believe that the accounts of them - the Russians - seeking Syrian fighters to augment their forces in Ukraine, we believe there's truth to that,' Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. 

The World Bank on Monday approved an additional $489-million package in support for Ukraine, to be made available immediately and dubbed 'Financing of Recovery from Economic Emergency in Ukraine,' or 'FREE Ukraine.'

It came as Zelensky renewed calls for the West to boycott Russian exports, particularly oil, and to impose a no-fly zone to stop the carnage.

NATO countries have so far rebuffed Kyiv's demand for a no-fly zone, fearing a widening war against nuclear-armed Russia.

Western allies have instead imposed unprecedented sanctions against businesses, banks and billionaires in a bid to pressure Moscow to halt its assault.

But the leaders of Germany, Britain and the Netherlands warned Monday against a ban on Russian oil, saying it could put Europe's energy security at risk.

US President Joe Biden's spokeswoman said no decision had been taken, while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak warned any oil ban would have 'catastrophic consequences' on prices that have already headed towards a 2008 record high.

Putin has equated sanctions with a declaration of war and put nuclear forces on alert, pledging the 'neutralisation' of Ukraine 'either through negotiation or through war'.

Despite harsh punishments for those voicing dissent, protests in Russia against the Ukraine invasion have continued, with more than 10,000 people arrested since it began.