Meanwhile, Putin took advantage of a meeting with Russian crew members at an Aeroflot training center in Moscow to make his first comprehensive comments since the invasion nine days ago.
“The current leadership must understand that if they continue to do what they are doing, they will question the future of the Ukrainian state,” Putin said. “And if that happens, it will be completely on their conscience.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly urged NATO and Western officials to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a measure that could prevent Russian troops from launching airstrikes on their country.
But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that a no-fly zone is not an option being considered by the alliance.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that establishing such a zone could lead to a “full-fledged war in Europe”, but added that Washington would continue to work with its allies to give Ukrainians the means to self-defend. defend against Russian aggression.
Blocked evacuation efforts
But just hours after announcing to suspend the fire, a top regional official accused Russia of breaking its agreement.
“Due to the fact that the Russians do not respect the ceasefire regime and continue to shell Mariupol and its suburbs, the evacuation of the population has been postponed for security reasons,” Governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, announced on Twitter. at.
Ukraine’s Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, Iryna Vereshchuk, said on Saturday that about 200,000 people would be evacuated from Mariupol and another 15,000 from Volnovakha.
Kyrylenko said 400 people were evacuated from Volnovakha and the surrounding villages on Saturday, adding that while authorities “planned to evacuate a much larger number of people, the convoy had to stop moving when the Russians resumed the relentless shelling of Volnovakha.” and it was extremely dangerous to move there.”
Meanwhile, Mariupol’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko, said in a statement that just as the city was getting ready to begin evacuating its residents to Zaporizhzhya and Dnipro, Russian troops “started shelling along the corridor, where we were supposed to go. “
“This morning we received confirmation from the Russian Federation, from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, that the corridor from Mariupol to the cities of Zaporizhzhya and the Dnipro is safe. We have received a ceasefire guarantee regime … there is no ceasefire regime now,” he said.
“This does not give us a sense of security to go to Zaporizhzhya.”
Later Saturday, Boichenko painted a grim picture of life in the city in an interview on a YouTube channel.
Boichenko said the city, with a population of nearly 400,000, has been without power for five days. He said there were no mobile networks, and “since the attack on Mariupol we have lost our reserve water supply, so we are now completely out of water.”
He said that “the number of injured and dead in the last five days is in the tens. On the eighth day it was hundreds. Now we are talking thousands.”
He added: “These numbers are only going to get worse. But this is the sixth consecutive day of air strikes and we are unable to get out to recover the dead.”
Later on Saturday, General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said in a statement from the Russian news agency TASS that “no civilian could leave Mariupol and Volnovakha along the announced security corridors”, that Russian troops resumed their offensive and gave “the Ukrainian side” to blame.
At the same time, Ukrainians — including children and elderly men and women — managed to escape Kiev on Saturday by crossing a damaged bridge in the capital’s northwestern suburbs.
The bridge, which connects the suburb of Irpin to the center of Kiev, was blown up by Ukrainian troops to prevent Russian troops from using the bridge to enter the city. As a result, civilians fleeing a week of heavy bombardment were forced to scramble over accumulated rubble and twisted metal to find their way to the other side. Some seemed exhausted and visibly upset, struggling with their balance as they dragged their suitcases up the steep slope.
‘There are dead bodies around’
DailyExpertNews received a written report from a resident of a village near Volnovakha, whose husband has been trying to evacuate people from the city in recent days.
“The situation in the city is very frightening,” wrote Marina Gasanova. “There’s almost nothing left in the city. Every minute something comes in from all sides, it’s not clear what… and it’s not clear where it comes from. Scary, crazy!” she wrote.
“Every minute, every second everyone is shooting. From all sides. It’s just impossible! There are corpses lying around, torn arms, torn legs.”
Vereshchuk said that according to reports from her country’s military, Russian troops were using the break in the fire to continue their advance.
She emphasized that the corridors were used to evacuate civilians, including women and children, and to provide aid such as medicines and food.
“The whole world is watching this. I sincerely hope that such a first step, which I hope will end on a positive note and people will find shelter, but not be under the rubble for weeks, in basements without water, without communication and without food. , will continue,” she said.
Zelensky earlier on Saturday called for the evacuation corridors to save people, but he also said those “who can defend their city must keep fighting”.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) issued a statement on Saturday calling for evacuation corridors to be kept open. The statement included a report from an MSF worker in Mariupol who said the situation in the city was getting desperate.
“We collected snow and rainwater yesterday to have some tap water. We tried to get free water today, but the queue was huge…several supermarkets were destroyed by rockets and the remaining things were taken by people in desperate need,” the reading.
“Still no electricity, water, heating and mobile connection. Nobody has heard anything about an evacuation. Pharmacies no longer have medicines.”