U.S. and Ukrainian officials urged Russia to end attacks on civilians as a third round of talks between Ukrainian negotiators and Russians resumed on Monday.
“Let the food and medicine in. Let the people out safely and end this war of choice against Ukraine,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a press conference with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs in Riga, while citing "relentless bombardment" and reports of attacks by Russian forces on agreed upon humanitarian corridors.
Ukrainian officials slammed Moscow’s proposed civilian evacuation routes to Russia and Belarus, and requested that civilians fleeing the battle zones be allowed to reach western Ukraine or European Union countries. Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak denounced Russia’s "large-scale violence against civilians” in a tweet, minutes before the latest talks.
Ukrainian and Russian delegations have met twice in Belarus since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
At the United Nations, the Security Council is meeting on Monday to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ukraine.
On the diplomatic front, Blinken met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Riga on Monday to “compare notes” and coordinate positions on the cease-fire efforts after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Blinken’s meeting with Lapid comes a day after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy separately in an effort to mediate a cease-fire.
Tuesday, Blinken is heading to Paris after his visit to the Baltic states. Blinken’s meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron would come after the latter’s diplomatic outreach to both Putin and Zelenskyy.
“There's certainly no change in our message to Moscow, our message to Russia, to President Putin: end the war, end it now,” urged Blinken.
Russian forces bombarded cities in northern and southern Ukraine Monday, as Ukrainian officials warned Russia may be moving closer to storming Kyiv.
Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces said Russian forces were focused on encircling Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mykolayiv. A statement Monday accused Russia of violating international humanitarian law by shelling civilians and of creating a humanitarian crisis in occupied areas.
A Russian Defense Ministry statement said that for “humanitarian purposes,” Russian forces would declare a “regime of silence” beginning Monday to open corridors for people to leave Kyiv, Kharkiv, Sumy and Mariupol. Some of the corridors would have people going to Russia or Russian ally Belarus. The statement added the move was in response to a direct request from French President Emmanuel Macron to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukrainian officials rejected Russia’s plan, in particular evacuation paths that would send people to Russia and Belarus.
More than 1.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine, according to data from the U.N. refugee agency, with more than 1 million of those going west to Poland. Data for Russia and Belarus was last updated late last week but showed just more than 50,000 people going to those countries.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of “deliberate murder” in a video address and said anyone who “committed atrocities” will be punished.
“There will be no quiet place on this Earth except the grave,” he said.
While Zelenskyy appealed for more international support for Ukraine, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said Monday that Russia’s “reckless aggression against Ukraine” shows it is a threat to European and NATO security.
Russian President Putin Sunday contended his military campaign in Ukraine was proceeding as planned and would not end until the Ukrainians stop fighting.
In a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who appealed for a cease-fire, Putin expressed readiness for dialogue with Ukraine and foreign partners but said any attempt to draw out negotiations would fail, according to a Kremlin statement.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday that Beijing “is willing to work with the international community to carry out necessary mediation when needed.”
He called Russia China’s “most important strategic partner” and said, “Friendship between the two peoples is iron clad.”
China has voiced opposition to sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and others in response to Russia’s invasion.
U.S. lawmakers are pledging to provide additional military aid to Ukraine, with the administration of President Joe Biden requesting $10 billion in humanitarian, military and economic support.
Despite generally bipartisan and robust support for Kyiv, members of Congress are drawing the line at another Ukrainian request: a no-fly zone for the country’s airspace to deter Russian aerial attacks.
Some lawmakers want the White House to do more to increase domestic production as oil prices surge and Americans pay more to fuel their vehicles.
U.S. gasoline prices jumped 11% over the past week to the highest since 2008, according to AAA, the American Automobile Association.
VOA Chief National Correspondent Steve Herman, National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin, Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb, Istanbul foreign correspondent Heather Murdock, White House correspondent Anita Powell, and senior diplomatic correspondent Cindy Saine contributed to this report.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.