As preparations to evacuate 200,000 people from the brutally shelled city of Mariupol went wrong for the second day in a row, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his operation in Ukraine was progressing according to plan and would not end unless Kyiv ceased fighting.
According to Ukrainian authorities, the majority of civilians besieged in the port city are sleeping in bomb shelters to avoid more than six days of near-constant shelling by encircling Russian forces, which has cut off food, water, power, and heating supplies.
According to the United Nations on Sunday, the civilian death toll from fighting in Ukraine since Moscow launched its invasion on February 24 stands at 364, including more than 20 children, with hundreds more injured.
The use of “explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, as well as missile and air strikes,” according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Moscow has denied striking civilian areas on several occasions.
According to media witnesses, men, women, and children fleeing armed fighting in the area were forced to take cover as missiles struck nearby in Irpin, a town about 25 kilometres (16 miles) northwest of Kyiv.
Soldiers and locals assisted the elderly in rushing to a bus full of terrified people, some of whom cowered as they waited to be driven to safety.
The invasion drew nearly unanimous condemnation around the world, drove more than 1.5 million Ukrainians from their homes, and prompted strong Western sanctions aimed at pinching Russia’s economy.
“War is lunacy; please put an end to it,” Pope Francis said in his weekly address to crowds in St Peter’s Square, adding that “rivers of blood and tears” flowed in Ukraine’s conflict.
In a phone discussion with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Putin demanded that Kyiv quit the fighting. Erdogan had asked for a truce. Putin told Erdogan that he was willing to talk to Ukraine and other foreign partners, but that any attempt to prolong the talks would fail, according to a Kremlin statement.
Putin met with French President Emmanuel Macron for about two hours on Sunday, according to Russian media. Macron expressed alarm to Putin about a possible imminent attack on the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa, according to Macron’s office.
Anti-war demonstrations occurred around the world, including in Russia, where police detained over 4,300 individuals, according to an independent protest monitoring group. According to the interior ministry, 3,500 demonstrators were detained, with 1,700 in Moscow and 750 in St Petersburg.
According to recordings released on social media by opposition activists and bloggers, tens of thousands of protestors screamed “No to war!” and “Shame on you!” The footage and photos on social media were unable to be independently verified by media.
After jailed Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny called for worldwide rallies against the war, demonstrations were held in Western capitals, as well as in India and Kazakhstan.
Authorities in Mariupol, which is under siege, announced on Sunday that they would make a second attempt to evacuate part of the city’s 400,000 residents. But, as on Saturday, the truce proposal crumbled, with each side blaming the other for the failure.
The failed attempt to evacuate 200,000 people highlighted “the lack of a detailed and working agreement between the parties to the conflict,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.