As fighting raged northwest of Kyiv and other cities were encircled, Ukrainian officials said heavy shelling and threats of Russian air attacks were endangering attempted evacuations.
The governors of two Ukrainian regions, Kyiv and Donetsk, said in separate statements Russian attacks were continuing in areas where Ukraine was trying to evacuate people and bring aid through humanitarian corridors.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said people trapped in the besieged southern city of Mariupol were desperate, adding “there are reports of looting and violent confrontations among civilians over what little basic supplies remain in the city”.
Russian forces have shelled a mosque in Mariupol, where more than 80 adults and children, including Turkish citizens, have taken refuge, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said, without saying if there were any deaths or injuries.
Polish helpers welcome refugees
Helpers at the Polish border town Medyka welcomed refugees from Ukraine with drinks and food on Saturday (March 12), bringing joy to children queuing for the bus with free lollipops.
Handing out sweets to young children and other refugees on a cold morning, volunteers also helped the refugees carrying their suitcases or supported elderly refugees in wheelchairs.
According to the Polish Border Guard 1.5 million people have entered Poland from Ukraine since Russia began its invasion on February 24.
United Nations agencies said on Friday (March 11) that more than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine, with a further 2 million people inside Ukraine fleeing to different parts of the country.
Humanitarian agencies are scrambling to provide refugees with needed necessities, as thousands of refugees are waiting at freezing temperatures at border crossings.
France, UK and Germany say Iran deal could collapse on Russian demands
France, Britain and Germany warned Russia on Saturday that its demands to have its trade guaranteed with Iran risked the collapse of an almost-completed nuclear deal.
“Nobody should seek to exploit JCPOA negotiations to obtain assurances that are separate to the JCPOA,” France, Britain and Germany – the so-called E3 European parties to the 2015 JCPOA accord with Iran – said in a joint statement, referring to Russia’s last-minute demands.
Israel, Ukraine deny report Bennett recommended yielding to Russian demands
A top Ukrainian adviser and an Israeli official on Saturday pushed back against a media report suggesting Israel tried to nudge Ukraine into caving to Russian demands during talks.
Israel has been engaged in diplomatic efforts to try to end the war in Ukraine. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
A report carried by Israel’s Walla news, the Jerusalem Post and US news site Axios had suggested, citing an unidentified Ukrainian official, that Bennett had urged Ukraine to give in to Russia.
Israel, “just as other conditional intermediary countries, does NOT offer Ukraine to agree to any demands of the Russian Federation,” Ukrainian adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter.
“This is impossible for military & political reasons. On the contrary, Israel urges Russia to assess the events more adequately.”
A senior Israeli official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, called the report “patently false”.
“At no point did Prime Minister Bennett advise President Zelenskiy to take a deal from Putin – because no such deal was offered to Israel for us to be able to do so,” the official said.
“Bennett has at no point told Zelenskiy how to act, nor does he have any intention to.”
What we know about the Russia-Ukraine conflict