‘Drive this evil out’: Ukraine remains defiant as 1.5 million refugees flee to safety


The number of Ukrainian refugees is expected to reach 1.5 million as Russia continues its attack 11 days after invading Ukraine.

Moscow and Kyiv traded blame over a failed ceasefire plan that would have let civilians flee Mariupol and Volnovakha, two southern cities besieged by Russian forces.

Another round of talks was tentatively planned for Monday as Ukrainians who could escape spilled into neighbouring Poland, Romania, Slovakia and elsewhere.

In a televised address on Saturday night, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on people in areas occupied by Russian troops to go on the offensive and fight.

“We must go outside and drive this evil out of our cities,” he said, vowing to rebuild his nation.

“My confidence in this is reinforced by the energy of our resistance, our protest.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier reiterated that he wanted a neutral Ukraine that had been “demilitarised” and “denazified,” and likened Western sanctions “to a declaration of war,” adding: “Thank God it has not come to that.”

Ukraine and Western countries have decried Putin’s reasons as a baseless pretext for the invasion he launched on February 24 and have imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at isolating Moscow and crippling its economy.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Ukraine-Poland border, said he expected new sanctions and weapons for Ukraine in coming days.

The United States has said it would give Ukraine more weapons and has repeatedly warned it could escalate sanctions, with President Joe Biden seeking $US10 billion ($A14 billion) in emergency funding to respond to the crisis.

Zelenskiy had asked for help securing aircraft from European allies in a video call with US lawmakers earlier on Saturday. He also called again for more lethal aid, a ban on Russian oil and a no-fly zone.

Zelenskiy confers with Biden

Biden spoke with Zelenskiy for about 30 minutes on Saturday evening in Washington as Sunday broke in Ukraine, the White House said. They discussed security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia, Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter.

NATO, which Ukraine wants to join, has resisted Zelenskiy’s appeals to impose a no-fly zone over his country, saying it would escalate the conflict outside Ukraine.

Seeking to mediate, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Putin at the Kremlin on Saturday and later spoke to Zelenskiy, Bennett’s spokesperson said.

“We continue dialogue,” Zelenskiy tweeted after the call.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a six-point plan to respond to Russia’s invasion ahead of meetings with leaders from Canada, the Netherlands and Central Europe in London next week.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is expected to talk with Putin on Sunday. Turkey, a NATO member, shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea.

Ukrainian negotiators said a third round of talks with Russia on a ceasefire would go ahead on Monday, although Moscow was less definitive.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said its forces were carrying out a wide-ranging offensive in Ukraine and had taken several towns and villages, Russian news agency Interfax said.

Concerns over nuclear dangers remained after Russia seized Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, with a top US official saying on Friday that Russian troops were 30km from Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility.

Russia was warning the EU and NATO again to stop the “pumping of state-of-the-art weapons systems” into Kyiv, foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, according to RIA.

Putin’s enemies list

Putin, in one of several decrees signed on Saturday, also gave his government two days to draw up a list of nations engaged in “unfriendly acts” towards Russia, its news agencies reported.

The International Monetary Fund warned the conflict would have a “severe impact” on the global economy, driving up energy and grain prices. It said it would weigh Kyiv’s request for $US1.4 billion ($A1.9 billion) in emergency financing as early as next week

Many Russians, reeling from a 30 per cent fall in the rouble’s value, money transfer curbs and the exit of a growing number of Western companies, have expressed fear for their economic future.

Both Visa and Mastercard on Saturday said their credit card operations would be suspended in Russia.

Elon Musk promised to deliver more Starlink satellite internet terminals to Ukraine next week, Zelenskiy said on Saturday, adding he had spoken to the SpaceX chief executive. That could help shore up Ukraine’s internet access but also poses potential security risks, experts say.


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