Putin vows ‘uncompromising fight’ as Ukraine war enters second week

A Ukrainian man stands in the rubble in Zhytomyr following a Russian missile strike

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed no let-up in his invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, even as the warring sides met for ceasefire talks and Kyiv demanded safe passage for besieged civilians.

After the fall of a first major Ukrainian city to Russian forces, Putin appeared in no mood to heed a global clamor for hostilities to end as the war entered its second week.

Russian armored columns from Crimea pushed deep into the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson on the first day of their invasion Thursday, triggering fighting that left at least 13 civilians dead.

But Ukraine insisted on the need for humanitarian corridors, to get urgent supplies into cities and trapped civilians out, as negotiators met at an undisclosed location on the Belarus-Poland border.

A first round of talks on Monday yielded no breakthrough, and Kyiv says it will not accept any Russian “ultimatums”.

Macron said he feared that “worse is to come” in the conflict and condemned Putin’s “lies”, according to an aide.

The UN has opened a probe into alleged war crimes, as the Russian military bombards cities in Ukraine with shells and missiles, forcing civilians to cower in basements.

“You will reimburse us for everything you did against our state, against every Ukrainian, in full,” he said.

Zelensky claims thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed since Putin shocked the world by invading Ukraine, purportedly to demilitarise and “de-Nazify” a Western-leaning threat on his borders.

“Their exploits will enter into the history books, their exploits in the struggle against the Nazis,” Peskov told reporters.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov kept up the verbal barrage, accusing Western politicians of fixing on “nuclear war” after Putin placed his strategic forces on high alert.

Russian troops are also besieging the port city of Mariupol east of Kherson, which is without water or electricity in the depths of winter.

Ukrainian authorities said residential and other areas in the eastern city of Kharkiv had been “pounded all night” by indiscriminate shelling, which UN prosecutors are investigating as a possible war crime.

“One minute I saw her going into the bedroom. A minute later there was nothing,” Rubak, 32, told AFP amid the ruins in the bitter winter chill.

– Junk status –

“Protect civilians, for God’s sake, in Ukraine; let us do our job”, UN emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths told AFP in Geneva.

Putin now finds himself an international outcast, his country the subject of swingeing sanctions that sent the ruble into further freefall on currency markets on Thursday.

The unfolding financial costs were underlined as ratings agencies Fitch and Moody’s slashed Russia’s sovereign debt to “junk” status.

Swedish furniture giant Ikea became the latest to halt operations in Russia, as well as Belarus.

The UN General Assembly voted 141-5 to demand that Russia “immediately” withdraw from Ukraine. Only four countries supported Russia, and China abstained.

– Leaving everything behind –

“We left everything there as they came and ruined our lives,” refugee Svitlana Mostepanenko told AFP in Prague.

“My husband and son stayed… My husband already served in the army, and he had to return to duty,” she said, before boarding a train for Stuttgart where friends were waiting.

Russian authorities have imposed a media blackout on what the Kremlin euphemistically calls a “special military operation”.

But Russians have still turned out for large anti-war protests across the country, braving mass arrests in a direct challenge to the president’s 20-year rule.

Originally published as Putin vows ‘uncompromising fight’ as Ukraine war enters second week

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