Some 100,000 people are stuck in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol with no food or water, Ukraine’s president has said.
In a speech overnight, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “As of today, there are about 100,000 people in the city, in inhumane conditions, in a complete blockade.
“No food, no water, no medicine.
“Under constant shelling, under constant bombing.”
On Tuesday, the city council said relentless Russian air strikes were turning besieged Mariupol into the “ashes of a dead land”.
Russia’s RIA news agency said that Russian forces and Russian-backed separatists have taken about half of the port city, which lies on the Sea of Azov.
Gaining total control would allow Russia to link areas in the east held by pro-Russian separatists with Crimea, which was taken by Moscow in 2014.
Mr Zelenskyy said that almost all attempts to organise safe passage for Mariupol residents out of the city have been disrupted by Russian troops “by shelling or deliberate terror”.
• A US defence official told Reuters that Russia’s combat power in Ukraine has declined below 90% of its pre-invasion levels for the first time since the attack began, suggesting heavy losses
• Russian forces are still stalled around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, but they have made some progress in the south and east of the country
• Ukraine has accused Russia of deporting residents of Mariupol and separatist-held areas, including more than 2,000 children. Moscow denies this, saying it is taking in refugees
• The United Nations said it has recorded 953 civilian deaths and 1,557 injuries among Ukrainians, while millions of people have fled their homes
• Russian troops are preventing supplies from reaching the city of Kherson, Ukraine has said. Ukrainian foreign ministry
spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said some 300,000 people there face a “humanitarian catastrophe”
Talks continuing to ‘force Russia to peace’
The Ukrainian president also said overnight that talks between his country and Russia – which have shown little progress since the invasion began on 24 February – are continuing “to force Russia to peace”.
“It’s very difficult, sometimes scandalous, but step by step we are moving forward.”
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden will visit Europe this week, meeting leaders from organisations including NATO in Brussels on Thursday, before travelling to Poland on Friday.
On Tuesday evening, NBC reported that Mr Biden could announce an increase in troop numbers in NATO countries near Ukraine.
The news outlet cited sources as saying that Poland is among the possible locations for the additional forces.
The US is also expected to confirm sanctions on more than 300 members of Russia’s lower house of parliament this week, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Russia, increasingly isolated from the rest of the world through financial sanctions, is also struggling to make military progress in Ukraine.
It is bogged down by supply problems, low morale among troops, and – perhaps most importantly – fierce resistance from Ukrainians.
It has increased fears that Russia could resort to more desperate measures, such as chemical weapons or even nuclear war.
Russia would only use nuclear weapons if there is an ‘existential threat’
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN that Russia’s security policy dictates it would only use nuclear weapons if its existence was threatened.
He said: “If it is an existential threat for our country, then it (the nuclear arsenal) can be used in accordance with our concept,” he said.
Earlier he told TASS news agency that “no one” had ever thought the operation in Ukraine would take just a couple of days, insisting that the campaign was going to plan.