Russia says airstrike on hospital was 'staged' as half of residents have left Kyiv

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Russia Says Airstrike On Hospital Was 'Staged' As Half Of Residents Have Left Kyiv Russia Says Airstrike On Hospital Was 'Staged' As Half Of Residents Have Left Kyiv
Kyiv's northwest suburbs such as Irpin and Bucha have been enduring shellfire and bombardments for more than a week, prompting a mass evacuation effort. (Photo by Aris Messinis / AFP) (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)
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What you need to know right now:

  • Talks between Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers failed to bring any respite for hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in besieged Ukrainian cities.
  • However, the Russian defence ministry said it would declare a ceasefire on Friday and open evacuation corridors from five cities.
  • After international condemnation of a Russian strike on a hospital in Mariupol and Moscow's claims the building no longer served as a healthcare facility, the Kremlin said it would investigate further. The defence ministry later denied hitting the hospital.
  • President Putin said sanctions on Russia would rebound against the West and Moscow would solve its problems and emerge stronger.
  • Britain imposed asset freezes and travel bans on Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich and Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russian oil company Rosneft.
  • European Union leaders agreed to phase out buying Russian oil, gas and coal, a draft declaration showed.
  • Over 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine so far, according to the latest UN tally, around half of them children.
  • Over 400,000 civilians have so far been evacuated inside Ukraine, mostly from active battle zones, the interior minister said.


10pm: Norwegian state oil company Equinor has stopped trading Russian oil as it winds down operations there in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, chief executive Anders Opedal said on Thursday.

A growing energy crisis from buyers steering clear of Russian oil will accelerate Europe's shift towards renewable power, while requiring more investment in oil and gas production, Opedal said in an interview at the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston.


9.45pm: Boris Johnson has again ruled out imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, despite Russia’s strike on a maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol.

“What’s happened in Mariupol in that maternity hospital really shows that Putin is prepared just to reject, to abandon, all norms of civilised behaviour,” he said.

“The difficulty is that there is a line beyond which, quite frankly, the UK and Nato would be deemed to be in conflict – direct conflict – with Russia.


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9.30pm: Ukraine told the UN nuclear watchdog on Thursday it has lost all contact with the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl next to the defunct power plant at the site of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986, which is now held by Russian forces.

"Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it had lost today all communications with the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), the day after the Russian-controlled site lost all external power supplies," the IAEA said in a statement, adding that before there was contact by email.


9.15pm: Meta Platforms will allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion, according to internal emails seen by Reuters on Thursday, in a temporary change to its hate speech policy.

The social media company is also temporarily allowing posts that call for death to Russian president Vladimir Putin or Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko in countries including Russia, Ukraine and Poland, according to a series of internal emails to its content moderators.

Meta did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


8.50pm: The Russian defence ministry will declare a ceasefire on Friday and open humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of Ukrainians from five cities, the RIA and Interfax news agencies reported on Thursday.

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The agencies quoted Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Defence Control Centre, as saying people could either travel to Russia or other cities in Ukraine.


8.35pm: Britain's foreign secretary will say on Thursday that the West should look at potential compensation for countries that are particularly dependent on Russian energy.

The United States on Tuesday announced a ban on Russian oil and gas imports, and Britain said it would phase out Russian oil imports by the end of 2022.


8.20pm: European Union leaders gathered on Thursday to agree on a joint response to the war in Ukraine, with differing views on how far to go with economic sanctions, how quickly to cut Russian energy imports, and whether or not to let Kyiv join their bloc swiftly.


8.10pm: The war in Ukraine and massive sanctions against Russia have triggered a contraction in global trade and sent food and energy prices sharply higher, and will force the International Monetary Fund to lower its global growth forecast next month, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said on Thursday.

Georgieva said the unprecedented sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine had caused an abrupt contraction of the Russian economy, and it faced a "deep recession" this year.

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She said the IMF had no program or policy relations with Russia at this point and its Moscow office was not operating. Members had condemned the war, but there was no discussion currently about ending Russia's membership in the global lender.


7.50pm: Walt Disney said on Thursday it will pause all business in Russia, including content and product licensing, Disney Cruise Line activities, National Geographic magazine and tours, local content productions and linear channels.

"Given the unrelenting assault on Ukraine and the escalating humanitarian crisis, we are taking steps to pause all other businesses in Russia," the media and entertainment company said.


7.30pm: The Russian defence ministry said on Thursday it had agreed to allow a Ukrainian repair team to access power lines in the area around the Chernobyl nuclear power station, Interfax news agency said, giving no further details.

The UN's nuclear watchdog said earlier that in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, communications with Chernobyl and another nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia had degraded, and the situation was concerning.


7.15pm: In the scramble by some bankers and financial industry executives to leave Moscow, Dubai is turning out to be a favorite location to land.

Some bankers at Moscow offices of financial institutions such as JPMorgan Chase & Co, Rothschild & Co and Goldman Sachs Group have either left or are considering moving, as operating in Russia becomes increasingly difficult, several sources familiar with the matter said.


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6.50pm: Over 400,000 civilians have so far been evacuated in Ukraine, mostly from active battle zones, interior minister Denys Monastyrsky said on national television on Thursday.

"They have been evacuated primarily from areas where there is ongoing combat," he said.


6.30pm:  The White House said on Thursday it expected the increase in gasoline and energy prices fueled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine to be temporary.

"We do anticipate that gas prices and energy prices will go up. That is something that the president has conveyed very clearly to the American public. We also believe it will be temporary and not long-lasting," White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.

"There is also no question that inflation may be higher for the next few months than it would have been without ... president Putin and Russia's further invasion into Ukraine, particularly due to higher energy prices," she said.


6.15pm: Portugal said on Thursday it would not strip the citizenship of Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich for now because that measure was not part of EU sanctions against Russian oligarchs, but his nationality status could change depending on the outcome of an inquiry.


6pm: Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is meeting Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow for talks on ending the war in Ukraine, political news website Politico reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

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The visit comes after talks in Istanbul with a Ukrainian politician who is a member of the country's delegation for peace talks with Russia, the sources told Politico.


5.45pm: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy will address Israel's parliament about the Russian invasion of his country and has asked to deliver remarks by video to its main Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, officials said on Thursday.

The plans suggested efforts by Kyiv to win over Israel, after its government has taken a cautious public posture as it tries to mediate peace and coordinates with Russia on Syria.


5.30pm: British prime minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he feared Russia would deploy chemical weapons in Ukraine.

"The stuff that you're hearing about chemical weapons, this is straight out of their playbook," Johnson said in an interview with Sky News.

"They start saying that there are chemical weapons that have been stored by their opponents or by the Americans, and so when they themselves deploy chemical weapons, as I fear they may, they have a sort of ... fake story, ready to go."


5.20pm: Alphabet Inc's YouTube and Google Play store are suspending all payment-based services in Russia, including subscriptions, as Western sanctions start to pose banking challenges in the country.

Google will also pause ads for advertisers based in Russia across its properties and networks globally, the company said. This is in addition to the company's recent suspension of ads in Russia.

Google and YouTube had earlier stopped selling online advertising in Russia following similar pauses by Twitter Inc and Snap Inc after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.


5.10pm: Canadian prime minster Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that Russian president Vladimir Putin had made a choice to "specifically target civilians" and any further targeting of civilians in Ukraine is going to be met with the "severest of responses."

"Putin's callous disregard for human life is absolutely unacceptable. It is very clear that he has made the choice to specifically target civilians now," Trudeau told reporters in Warsaw.


5pm: Russia's defence ministry on Thursday denied having bombed a maternity and children's hospital in Ukraine's Mariupol the previous day, accusing Ukraine of a "staged provocation" there.

The ministry said that Russia carried out no air strikes on ground targets in that area on Wednesday, respecting an agreed "silent regime".

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier that Ukrainian forces had taken over the hospital, while the Kremlin said their was a need to establish clear facts.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy who has accused Russia of carrying out genocide, said on Thursday three people including a child were killed in Wednesday's air strike on the hospital.


4.30pm: Not a single civilian was able to leave the encircled Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Thursday as Russian forces failed to respect a temporary ceasefire to allow evacuations, Ukraine's Deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on national television.


4.15pm: It is important that Ukraine has applied for membership of the European Union, but there is no fast-track procedure for accession, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said on Thursday.

Ukraine applied for fast EU membership shortly after the Russian invasion two weeks ago.


4pm: Russia blocked Ukrainian civilians from evacuating territory under its control in the eastern Ukrainian town of Izyum on Thursday, regional governor Oleh Synegubov said.

Ukrainian authorities were able to help around 1,600 people flee the part of Izyum held by Ukraine, he said in televised comments.


3.45pm: Germans have offered up 300,000 private homes to house refugees from Ukraine following Russia's invasion of the country, Germany's interior ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry is cooperating with the non-profit gut.org and home rental company Airbnb Inc's non-profit arm Airbnb.org to assign refugees to housing offers.


3.25pm: Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia would ultimately emerge stronger and more independent after overcoming the difficulties caused by what he called the West's illegitimate sanctions.

Putin said there had been no alternative to what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine and that Russia was not a country which could accept compromising its sovereignty for some sort of short-term economic gain.

"These sanctions would have been imposed in any case," Putin told a meeting of the Russian government. "There are some questions, problems and difficulties but in the past we have overcome them, and we will overcome them."


3.10pm: Goldman Sachs Group Inc said on Thursday it was closing its operations in Russia, becoming the first major Wall Street bank to exit the country following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"Goldman Sachs is winding down its business in Russia in compliance with regulatory and licensing requirements," the bank said in an emailed statement.

In its annual filing earlier, the bank had disclosed a credit exposure to Russia of $650 million (€589 million).


2.55pm: Global food prices will rise further if western nations intensify economic pressure on Russia, a major global fertilizer producer, president Vladimir Putin said.

Russian agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev told a governmental meeting chaired by Putin that Russian food security was ensured and that Moscow would continue to service its export obligations for global agriculture markets.


2.40pm: Russia is adhering to its obligations on energy supplies, president Vladimir Putin told a government meeting, after the United States banned Russian oil imports.

Putin said Western sanctions against Russia were not legitimate, and Western governments were deceiving their own people. Russia would calmly solve its problems, he said.

Speaking at the same meeting, minister for finance Anton Siluanov said Russia had taken measures to limit outflow of capital and that the country would service its external debts in roubles.


2.25pm: Russia's energy ministry said on Thursday that Belarusian specialists had restored electricity supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Chernobyl lost power amid fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, after Russia invaded Ukraine


1.56pm: Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said he does not believe the conflict in Ukraine would spiral into a nuclear war but cautioned the United States and Europe that Moscow never again wanted to be dependent on the West.

Russia's economy is facing the gravest crisis since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union after the West slapped heavy sanctions on almost the entire Russian financial and corporate system following Moscow's February 24th invasion of Ukraine.

Asked by a Kremlin correspondent for Russia's Kommersant newspaper if he thought a nuclear war could be triggered, Mr Lavrov told reporters in Turkey: "I don't want to believe it, and I do not believe it."

Despite Mr Lavrov's comments, British foreign minister Liz Truss told CNN that Britain is very concerned about the potential use of chemical weapons by Russia in Ukraine.

"We are very concerned about the potential use of chemical weapons," Ms Truss said.

"We have seen Russia use these weapons before in fields of conflict, but that would be a grave mistake on the part of Russia, adding to the grave mistakes already being made by Putin."


1.15pm: EU leaders will offer to strengthen the bloc's bonds with Ukraine and deepen its partnership as the European Commission assesses if Kyiv is ready to become a candidate for full EU membership, a draft EU declaration showed.

Leaders of the 27-nation bloc are meeting in Versailles to discuss Ukraine's bid to become a member as the Russian war against the country enters its third week despite massive western sanctions against Moscow.

"Following the December 2016 decision by the EU Heads of State or Government, the European Council acknowledged the European aspirations and the European choice of Ukraine, as stated in the Association Agreement," said the draft declaration, which might still change.

"On 28 February 2022, the president of Ukraine submitted the application of Ukraine to become a member of the European Union. The Council has invited the Commission to submit its opinion on this application. Pending this and without delay, we will further strengthen our bonds and deepen our partnership," it said.

The leaders also say in the draft that they will make sure that sanctions against Russia over its invasion will be implemented and that they are ready to add more measures if needed and would keep pressure on both Russia and Belarus.


12.55pm: Poland's president Andrzej Duda has said Russian bombardments of hospitals and housing estates, and the resulting loss of civilian lives, were barbaric and resembled genocide.

Speaking the day after a Russian attack on a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Mr Duda told a news conference: "There are pregnant women, there are children, if you kill ordinary people you throw bombs, rockets, at housing estates, this is barbarism bearing the features of genocide."


12.12pm: The Russian government has banned exports of telecom, medical, auto, agricultural, electrical and tech equipment, among other items, until the end of 2022, in retaliation for Western sanctions on Moscow.

In total, over 200 items were included on the export suspension list, which also covered railway cars, containers, turbines and other goods.

Carmaker Stellantis, which produces and sells the Peugeot, Citroёn, Opel, Jeep, Fiat brands in Russia, was looking to start exporting locally-made light commercial vehicles to Western Europe before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has confirmed that three people including a child were killed in Wednesday's air strike on a maternity and children's hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

In a televised address, he said Russia's assertion that the hospital had no patients was not true. "Like always, they lie confidently," he said.


11.46am: Russian president Vladimir Putin, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Olaf Scholz discussed the situation in Ukraine in a phone call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying on Thursday.

It was not clear when the call took place.


11.17am: Russia is deliberately preventing the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol because it has failed to seize the strategic Black Sea port city, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has claimed.

Ukraine said earlier that an aid convoy to the city had to turn back because of fighting. Russia has denied targeting civilians in what it calls a "special operation" in Ukraine.

Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko meanwhile is to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Friday, according to the state-run Belarusian news agency which said the pair will discuss bilateral relations, economic cooperation under sanctions, and the situation in the region and Ukraine.


10.54am: Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said Russian president Vladimir Putin would not refuse a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss "specific" issues.

Mr Lavrov gave the comments at a news conference after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Turkey.

His comments came as a humanitarian convoy trying to reach the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol had to turn back because of fighting, Ukraine's deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, as the city council reported more Russian shelling, which they said were hitting houses.


10.18am: Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said no progress was made on achieving a ceasefire in talks on Thursday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, the first high-level talks between the two countries since Moscow invaded its neighbour.

Speaking after the talks in southern Turkey, Mr Kuleba told a news conference that the most difficult situation was in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, and that Mr Lavrov did not commit to a humanitarian corridor there.

US vice president Kamala Harris will meanwhile discuss issues with Poland that will force Russia to pay a price for its invasion of Ukraine, she said on Thursday during a visit to Warsaw, adding that Poland was doing "extraordinary work" with the refugees who have fled Ukraine.


9.41am: Russia has switched tactics to targeting civilians after its military advance on Ukraine slowed, an adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office said on Thursday.

Ukraine has accused Russia of genocide after officials said Russia bombed a children’s hospital in the port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, a charge Moscow dismissed as "fake news". Russia has also denied targeting civilians.

Adviser Oleksiy Arestovych also said Ukraine had enough troops to withstand Russian efforts to capture the capital Kyiv.

In the UK, Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovic has been sanctioned for his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin as the British government pressures Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

According to figures from the UN migration agency (IOM), more than 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine as of March 10th.


9.25am: Imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine would help bring the conflict there to a faster conclusion and save lives, the Polish ambassador to Kyiv said on Thursday, as Russia continued a relentless bombardment of several cities.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been pleading for Nato to impose a no-fly zone, but the alliance is wary of any step that might draw it into direct conflict with Russia.

Elsewhere, Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko has told his defence ministry that the Belarus army must prevent any attack on Russian forces from the rear, the state news agency BelTa said.

Russia used its ally Belarus as one of the launchpads for its invasion of Ukraine. Lukashenko was quoted as telling defence chiefs that they must prevent any attempt - presumably by Ukrainian forces - to cut off Russian supply lines and "strike at Russians from the rear".


8.53am: Britain is looking at easing its visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees, a minister said on Thursday, after the British government faced widespread condemnation for prioritising bureaucracy over the welfare of those fleeing war.

While households across Europe have taken in Ukrainian families forced to leave their homes, Britain has demanded they secure a visa first, meaning the country has accepted far fewer Ukrainians than the likes of France and Germany, or Ukraine's nearest neighbours.

Armed forces minister James Heappey said he believed the interior ministry, or British home office, was looking at ways to ease the system, after some refugees in the French port city of Calais were ordered to go to Paris or Brussels to fill out forms.


8.30am: Ukraine is opening seven "humanitarian corridors" on Thursday for civilians to leave cities besieged by Russian forces, including the southern port of Mariupol, deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

The Ukrainian government is also planning to create a food reserve big enough to feed the country's people and armed forces during the Russian invasion, prime minister Denys Shmygal said late on Wednesday, according to the government press service.

Ukraine is a major global food producer and exporter, but agriculture analysts have said the invasion by Russia could sharply reduce the area sown for 2022's grain harvest, creating shortages for the rest of the world as well as Ukraine.

This comes as Russia's defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konshenkov said Russian troops have destroyed 2,911 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities so far, adding that the Russian army had taken control of a number of neighbourhoods in besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Reuters was not immediately able to verify his statement.


7.42am: More than 10,000 people were evacuated from villages and cities around Kyiv on Wednesday, Kyiv regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on local television on Thursday.

Elsewhere, civilians started leaving the Ukrainian city of Sumy through a "humanitarian corridor" on Thursday following an agreement on a local ceasefire, the regional governor said.

Several thousand people have left the besieged city this week under agreements with Russia. People were also leaving the nearby settlements of Krasnopillya and Trostyanets, governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said. "The (evacuation) columns are leaving. The ceasefire has been agreed!" he added.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has arrived in Turkey for talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, Ukrainian has television reported.


7.29am: The UK's defence ministry has said the large Russian column northwest of Kyiv has made little progress in over a week and is suffering continued losses.

As casualties mount, Russian president Putin will be forced to draw from across Russian armed forces and other sources to replace the losses, the UK ministry said in a statement.

There has also been a notable decrease in overall Russian air activity over Ukraine in recent days, it said.


6.57am: Russia said on Thursday a Ukrainian claim that it bombed a children's hospital in Mariupol was "fake news" because the building was a former maternity hospital that had long been taken over by troops.

"That’s how fake news is born," Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia's first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said on Twitter.

Mr Polyanskiy said Russia had warned on March 7th that the hospital had been turned into a military object from which Ukrainians were firing.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of carrying out genocide after Ukrainian officials said Russian aircraft bombed the children's hospital on Wednesday.


6am: Russia's war in Ukraine entered the third week on Thursday with none of its key objectives reached despite thousands of people killed, more than two million made refugees, and thousands forced to cower in besieged cities under relentless bombardment.

Ukrainian forces including citizen-soldiers who only last month never dreamed of firing a weapon in anger were holding out in Kyiv and other frontlines, while Russian troops, tanks and artillery made slow progress from the north, south and east.

Moscow's stated objectives of crushing the Ukrainian military and ousting the pro-West elected government of president Volodymyr Zelenskiy remained out of reach, with Mr Zelenskiy unshaken and lethal Western military aid pouring across the Polish and Romanian borders.

Western-led sanctions designed to cut the Russian economy and government from international financial markets were beginning to bite, with the Russian share market and rouble plunging and ordinary Russians rushing to hoard cash.

Mr Zelenskiy accused Russia of carrying out genocide after Ukrainian officials said Russian aircraft bombed a children's hospital on Wednesday, burying patients in rubble despite a ceasefire deal for people to flee the besieged city of Mariupol.

The attack, which authorities said injured women in labour and left children in the wreckage, underscored US warnings that the biggest assault on a European state since 1945 could become increasingly attritional after Russia's early failures.

The White House condemned the hospital bombing as a "barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians".

Evacuations

Russian had earlier pledged to halt firing so at least some trapped civilians could escape the port city, where hundreds of thousands have been sheltering without water or power for more than a week. Both sides blamed the other for the failure of the evacuation.

"What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, is afraid of maternity hospitals, and destroys them?" Mr Zelenskiy said in a televised address late on Wednesday.

Mr Zelenskiy repeated his call for the West to tighten sanctions on Russia "so that they sit down at the negotiating table and end this brutal war". The bombing of the children's hospital, he said, was "proof that a genocide of Ukrainians is taking place".

The Donetsk region's governor said 17 people were wounded in the attack.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked by Reuters for comment, said: "Russian forces do not fire on civilian targets." Russia calls its incursion a "special operation" to disarm its neighbour and dislodge leaders it calls "neo-Nazis."

Rubble

Ukraine's foreign ministry posted video footage of what it said was the hospital showing holes where windows should have been in a three-storey building. Huge piles of smouldering rubble littered the scene.

The UN Human Rights body said it was verifying the number of casualties at Mariupol. The incident "adds to our deep concerns about indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas," it added through a spokesperson.

Among more than 2 million total refugees from Ukraine, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday that more than 1 million children have fled the country since the invasion started on February 24th. At least 37 had been killed and 50 injured, it said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said houses had been destroyed all across Ukraine. "Hundreds of thousands of people have no food, no water, no heat, no electricity and no medical care," it said.

Foreign ministers from Russia and Ukraine will meet in Turkey on Thursday in the first high-level talks between the two countries since Moscow invaded its neighbour, with Ankara hoping they could mark a turning point in the raging conflict. Read full story

"I will say frankly that my expectations of the talks are low," Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a video statement on Wednesday.

Ukraine is seeking a ceasefire, liberation of its territories and to resolve all humanitarian issues, Kuleba said.

Moscow demands that Kyiv take a neutral position and drop aspirations of joining the Nato alliance.

Mr Zelenskiy told VICE in an interview on Wednesday that he was confident Russian president Vladimir Putin would at some stage agree to talks. "I think he will. I think he sees that we are strong. He will. We need some time," he said.

Russia has been hit by Western sanctions and the withdrawals of foreign firms, the latest including Nestle, cigarette maker Philip Morris and Sony.

Rio Tinto on Thursday became the first major mining company to announce it was cutting all ties with Russian businesses, while the US House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to rush $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, sending the legislation to the Senate.

A majority of the US House of Representatives also voted to impose a ban on imports of Russian oil and other energy products in retaliation for Moscow's ongoing attack on Ukraine.

The World Bank's chief economist said Moscow was edging close to defaulting on its debt.

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