Russian forces this weekend failed to make any major gains on the ground in their attempt to take key Ukrainian cities, and were on Monday reportedly regrouping ahead of a new offensive. Troops were said to be preparing renewed attacks against Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mykolayiv, according to the US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
The Ukrainian government said that Russia was preparing large-scale attacks on Monday after suffering losses and advancing slower than expected on Saturday and Sunday. Kyiv said civilians are being targeted. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday asked the international community to ramp up its military assistance by sending military aircraft, and also to intensify the economic sanctions by boycotting Russian gas, oil and other exports, said the news agency Reuters.
Several Ukrainian cities came under heavy fire on Saturday and Sunday. Irpin, a city 15 miles northwest of Kyiv, was hit by intense artillery on Sunday; the capital remains under siege, and the strategic port city of Mariupol was facing disaster on Sunday after a second attempt at a ceasefire to evacuate thousands of civilians failed. Bombs were also heard before dawn in Mykolayiv, a coastal town on the Black Sea that lies on the Russian army’s path to the strategic city of Odessa. On Sunday, Zelenskiy said in a video address that if Russia bombs Odessa, a city of one million people, it will be a “war crime,” The Washington Post reported.
Despite widespread international condemnation of the invasion and growing sanctions against Russia by states, private companies and social activists, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday that the friendship between both countries is “rock solid.” The minister said his country would be prepared to participate in a “mediation” for peace.
Russian and Ukrainian delegates were scheduled to meet for a third round of talks on Monday, but expectations for a breakthrough deal were low after two previous meetings yielded no results.
Russian officials said they are prepared to open humanitarian corridors in several cities, according to the Interfax news agency, which quoted the Russian Defense Ministry. The statement came a day after the failure of a second attempt to halt the fighting in Mariupol to let civilians flee and allow essential supplies to be shipped in.
But Ukraine on Monday said that a Russian proposal for humanitarian corridors was “completely immoral” after Moscow suggested it would allow people to leave Ukrainian cities provided they went to Belarus or Russia, according to Reuters.