Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday his campaign in Ukraine was going according to plan and would not end until Kyiv stopped fighting, as efforts to evacuate the heavily bombarded city of Mariupol failed for a second day in a row.
He made the comments in a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who appealed for a ceasefire in the conflict that the United Nations says has created the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two.
Russian media said Putin also held almost two hours of talks on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has stayed in regular contact but, as with other international efforts, has yet to persuade Moscow to call off a campaign now in an 11th day.
Authorities in Mariupol had said on Sunday they would make a second attempt to evacuate some of the 400,000 residents, after the Ukrainian coastal city endured days of shelling that has trapped people in without heat, power and water.
But the ceasefire plan collapsed, as it had on Saturday, with each side blaming the other for the failure.
Putin told Erdogan he was ready for dialogue with Ukraine and foreign partners but any attempt to draw out negotiation would fail, a Kremlin statement said. Turkey said Erdogan had called for a ceasefire to ease humanitarian concerns.
Kyiv renewed its appeal to the West to toughen sanctions beyond existing efforts that have hammered Russia’s economy. It also requested more weapons, including a plea for Russian-made planes, to help it repel Russian forces.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Washington was “very, very actively” considering how it could backfill aircraft for Poland, if Warsaw decided to supply its warplanes to Ukraine, speaking on a trip to neighbouring Moldova.
Moscow calls the campaign it launched on Feb. 24 a “special military operation”, saying it has no plans to occupy Ukraine, which was once part of the Soviet Union under Moscow’s sway but which has now turned West seeking membership of NATO and the European Union.
“They’re destroying us,” Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko told Reuters in a video call, describing the plight of the city of 400,000. “They will not even give us an opportunity to count the wounded and the killed because the shelling does not stop.”
Russia, which denies attacking civilian areas, has poured troops and equipment into Ukraine. A huge Russian convoy on a road north of Kyiv has made limited visible progress in recent days, although Russia’s defence ministry released footage on Sunday showing some tracked military vehicles on the move.
In the capital, Ukrainian soldiers bolstered defences by digging trenches, blocking roads and liaising with civil defence units as Russian forces bombarded areas nearby.
“Positions are prepared, we’ve fitted them out and we are simply waiting to meet them here,” said a soldier in a video released by Ukraine’s armed forces. “Victory will be ours.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian rockets had destroyed the civilian airport of the central-western region capital of Vinnytsia on Sunday. He also said Russia was preparing to bombard another southern city, Odessa.
“Rockets against Odessa? This will be a war crime,” he said.
The World Health Organization said there had been several attacks on Ukrainian healthcare facilities during the conflict. The attacks caused deaths and injuries, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a Twitter message, but gave no details.
“Attacks on healthcare facilities or workers breach medical neutrality and are violations of international humanitarian law,” he said.