Negotiations would end if Mariupol fighters are killed

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday that negotiations with Russia would come to a halt if the Ukrainians defending the port city of Mariupol are killed, the Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: “The destruction of all our boys in Mariupol” could “[put an end] to any format of negotiations,” Zelensky said in an interview with Ukrainian media, per WashPost.

  • Ceasefire and peace negotiations ended after airstrikes in cities such as Bucha and Borodyanka, an area northwest of Kyiv, earlier this month.
  • “There could be 10 Borodyankas there,” Zelensky said of Mariupol.

The bottom line: “I believe this is a big mistake if they definitely want to end the war as they say,” Zelensky said of Russia.

  • “This is a dead end because … we aren’t bartering using our territories and people. And we understand that the talks are needed to defend our country and end the war.”

What else he’s saying: “The situation in Mariupol remains as severe as possible,” Zelensky said in a virtual address Saturday night, according to a transcript posted to the Ukrainian presidential website in English.

  • “Just inhuman. This is what the Russian Federation did. Deliberately did. And deliberately continues to destroy cities. Russia is deliberately trying to destroy everyone who is there in Mariupol,” Zelensky continued.
  • “I want to be heard right now: there has not been a single day since the blockade of Mariupol that we have not sought a solution. Military or diplomatic — anything to save people,” he added. “But finding this solution is extremely difficult. So far, there is no one 100% valid option. This applies to both military options and the negotiation process.”

Of note: Zelensky appealed for more military support from allied countries — “all the necessary heavy weapons, planes, and, without exaggeration, immediately” in order to “reduce the pressure of the occupiers on Mariupol” and end the blockade.

What to watch: Russia’s defense ministry claimed Saturday that its forces had cleared the entire urban area of ​​Mariupol by Ukrainian forces, with a few fighters remaining in the Azovstal steel factory, Reuters reports.

  • The ministry again called on Ukraine’s forces to “lay down their arms and surrender” Mariupol — a demand Ukrainian officials have been rejecting since last month.
  • There was no immediate reaction from Kyiv to the statement by the Russian ministry, Reuters notes.

The big picture: Russian forces also increased attacks across Ukraine overnight into Sunday, intensifying strikes on Kyiv and the country’s west in particular while they escalating their offensive in the east, per AP.

go deeper… Dashboard: Russian invasion of Ukraine

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with later remarks from Zelensky and Russia’s defense ministry and further details of Russian military attacks.

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