Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has called urgently for “meaningful and fair” peace talks over Russia’s invasion amid further attacks, including a claim by Moscow that it had used a hypersonic missile for the first time, hitting a depot in the west of the country.
In a video address early on Saturday, Zelenskiy said: “It’s time to meet. Time to talk. It is time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise Russia’s losses will be so huge that several generations will not be enough to rebound.”
“The war must end,” he added. “Ukraine’s proposals are on the table.”
As the war entered its 24th day, Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, proposed a total ban on EU trade with Russia, and there was hope of some relief for stricken civilians as Ukrainian authorities said 10 humanitarian corridors had been agreed.
A corridor was said to have been agreed with Russia for the besieged city of Mariupol, although the authorities’ previous efforts to evacuate civilians there under a temporary ceasefire have mostly failed, with both sides blaming each other. Several corridors were also said to have been agreed in Kyiv and in the self-proclaimed republic in Luhansk.
However, aid agencies were still being prevented from reaching people trapped in Ukrainian cities surrounded by Russian forces, the UN’s World Food Programme warned.
Hours after Zelenskiy’s call for talks, Russia said it had used a hypersonic weapon for the first time, destroying an underground military depot in western Ukraine. Hypersonic missiles are fast enough that they can evade detection by missile defence systems.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Saturday it had destroyed a large underground depot for missiles and aircraft ammunition in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, state media reported.
rdment on Friday. Russia said its forces were “tightening the noose” around the city, where an estimated 80% of the city’s homes have been damaged.
About 9,000 people have managed to flee Mariupol, while work continues to reach the hundreds of civilians believed to be trapped in a shelter under the city’s theatre, which was destroyed by Russian bombing on Wednesday. About 130 people have been rescued from the rubble, some seriously injured. There is no word yet on a death toll.
Zelenskiy said the advance of Russian forces had ground to a halt across Ukraine, a view echoed by western intelligence agencies. The continued targeting of civilians in Mariupol was said by the British military to be a sign of Russia’s failures in the first three weeks of the war.
Lt Gen Jim Hockenhull, the chief of defence intelligence, said: “The Kremlin has so far failed to achieve its original objectives. It has been surprised by the scale and ferocity of Ukrainian resistance, and has been bedevilled with problems of its own making.
“Russian operations have changed. Russia is now pursuing a strategy of attrition. This will involve the reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower. This will result in increased civilian casualties, destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure, and intensify the humanitarian crisis.
“Putin has reinforced his control over Russian domestic media. The Kremlin is attempting to control the narrative, hide operational problems and obscure high Russian casualty numbers from the Russian people.”
In other developments:
Zelenskiy said he would continue to appeal to world leaders to call for peace in Ukraine, with plans to address Switzerland, Italy, Israel and Japan. He has spoken with Ukrainian ambassadors around the world “to intensify the supply of humanitarian goods” for displaced people in Ukraine.
Joe Biden in a two-hour call with China’s Xi Jinping “described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians”, the White House said, without giving further details. The Chinese account of the conversation reported by the state news agency, Xinhua, said it was “candid and in-depth”.
The UN has reported 816 confirmed civilian deaths. Kyiv officials said 222 people had been killed in the capital, including 60 civilians and four children. It said more than 3.2 million people had fled, with 2 million displaced inside the country.
Putin has praised national “unity” during a rare public speech at a rally in a Moscow stadium to mark the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “The country hasn’t seen unity like this in a long time,” Putin said, addressing a large flag-waving crowd on Friday from a stage decked out with slogans such as: “For a world without Nazism” and “For our president”. Moscow police said more than 200,000 people were in and around the Luzhniki Stadium. Zelenskiy referred to the rally in his own address, urging viewers to imagine the stadium filled with Russia’s 14,000 war dead and tens of thousands more injured.