Zelenskyy urges NATO to create no-fly zone after attack near Polish border kills 35

Russian forces extended their offensive in Ukraine on Friday by carrying out airstrikes in new areas in the west of the country, while Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the recruitment of “volunteers” from Syria and elsewhere to join the fight.

People carry their belongings after fleeing war from neighboring Ukraine, at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova, March 11, 2022. (AP)

The West has stepped up economic pressure on Russia, as the United States and its allies have downgraded Russia’s trade status – the latest in efforts to further isolate Russia for invasion. The war has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee Ukraine, while others seek refuge in cellars, metro stations and underground shelters. More evacuations were expected, although repeated attempts to allow people to flee the besieged southern port city of Mariupol failed under continued Russian bombardment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said via video from Kyiv: “It is impossible to say how many more days we will need to liberate our land, but it is possible to say that we will.”

In the besieged southern city of Mariupol, the city council said at least 1,582 civilians had been killed following Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade that left hundreds of thousands trapped without food, water, heating or electricity.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Black Sea port was now completely surrounded and Ukrainian officials accused Russia of deliberately blocking civilians from leaving and aid convoys from entering. Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian shelling prevented them from leaving. “The situation is critical,” said Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko.

Christi C. Elwood