Ukraine faced ‘escalating horror’ tonight as Vladimir Putin prepared for a brutal assault on his capital Kiev – and continued his ruthless assault on cities across the devastated country.
It was feared Russia was making final preparations to besiege Kiev after gaining ground in its outskirts, with troops believed to be within 15 miles.
But as the sirens of air raids and volleys of bombardment sounded over the city, Ukrainians vowed to stand up to Russia.
The country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has warned that Putin will only take Kiev if he razes it.
Its youngest deputy, Svyatoslav Yurah, 26, swore: “No one is going to surrender.
As they prepared to fight, experts warned that the battle for Kiev could lead the Russians to use “irregular weapons”.
But Britain last night offered some hope to Ukrainians fleeing their country.
The British government has announced a refugee settlement program with financial assistance for people in Britain who take them into their homes.
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Today is the 17th day of Putin’s senseless and relentless war…
- Intense fighting raged in several areas of the capital.
- Russian forces captured the eastern outskirts of beleaguered Mariupol, where mass graves were dug for more than 1,500 people.
- A strike on an ammunition depot in the satellite town of Vaslkyiv triggered hundreds of small detonations,
while the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Sumy were surrounded.
- Loud explosions were reported in the cities of Dnipro, Mykolaiv and Nikolaev.
- Further attempts to evacuate innocent civilians from hotspots of fighting were again hampered by constant shelling.
- Defiant President Zelensky claimed the Russian military had suffered its biggest loss “in decades”.
So far, 353 Russian tanks have been destroyed by Ukrainian soldiers. The number of Russian soldiers killed is estimated at more than 12,000.
In a rousing online speech, Mr. Zelensky promised that his country would fight to the end to defend Kyiv.
But he said: “If there are hundreds of thousands of people, who are now mobilized by Russia, and they come with hundreds or thousands of tanks, they will take Kiev. We understand that.”
Images from the press association)
Mr Yurah compared the impending battle to the bloodiest of World War II, in which 1.9 million German and Soviet troops died. He said, “It will be their Stalingrad if they want it to be. No one is going to surrender. I can certainly guarantee that.
Sources said Ukrainian soldiers today blew up a main Russian headquarters outside Kiev.
Putin’s troops, backed by mercenaries and fighters from Chechnya and Syria, have still failed to take control of a major urban area. But they were photographed moving rocket launchers into position outside the capital.
And former British Army Colonel Hamish of Bretton-Gordon has warned of an “escalation of horror”.
The chemical weapons expert, who advised the British government after the Salisbury poisonings, said Putin could order indiscriminate attacks on the city.
He said: “I fear what is about to happen in Kyiv is insurmountable. If things start to go wrong, the Russians will revert to irregular weapons.
“They will use thermobaric weapons, which are illegal to shoot in civilian areas, white phosphorus – a self-igniting chemical that can burn at over 2,500 degrees – and possibly napalm to set buildings on fire. It will be like Grenfell multiplied by a thousand.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Last night Russian troops were accused of shooting dead six women and a child as they attempted to leave the village of Peremoha via an agreed humanitarian corridor.
Ukrainian intelligence said after Friday’s attack that “the occupiers forced the remnants of the column back to Peremoha and won’t let them out.”
Conditions are desperate in decimated Mariupol, where a maternity hospital and a mosque have been bombed.
After several unsuccessful evacuation attempts, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the city as “the worst humanitarian disaster on the planet”.
President Zelensky urged Russia to respect a ceasefire. He also called for the release of the kidnapped mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov. In Ivano Frankivsk, anti-aircraft sirens sounded all day today. IT student Dima, 19, went into hiding with his girlfriend Alina, 16.
He told the Sunday Mirror: “To be honest, I’m very scared of what’s happening in Ukraine.”
The UN estimates that 2.6 million people have so far fled the country.
Under Michael Gove’s new Homes for Ukraine scheme, Britons who provide shelter to refugees for at least six months will receive £350 a month.
The Leveling Up secretary said, “I urge people across the country to join the national effort and offer their support to our Ukrainian friends.”
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden have said they would be happy to take in a refugee. A website will be launched this week.
But Britain has been criticized for buying Russian oil. Oleg Ustenko, economic adviser to President Zelensky, said: “It will be sold for money and this money was used by Putin to buy weapons and ammunition that kill Ukrainians.”
Meanwhile, British special forces veterans, helping to defend Ukraine as part of a project funded by a European country, have been ordered to stand down as British officials fear their presence could spark trouble policies.
It also emerged that Britons who volunteered to fight in Ukraine could be executed on the spot if captured.
In a 75-minute phone call today, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Putin to agree to an immediate ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Italy has seized the world’s biggest yacht, worth £443m, from Russian coal and fertilizer billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko. And the US was last night investigating whether a £536million super yacht moored in Italy belonged to Putin.