Ukraine peace talks over if Russia kills last defenders of Mariupol, warns Zelensky

Russia claims to have full control of besieged city’s urban areas

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that peace talks with Russia could be over if the last defenders of Mariupol are killed.

Kyiv has insisted that its troops were still holding out in the southern port city but Russia claimed on Saturday that all urban areas in Mariupol have been cleared of Ukrainian fighters.

“I want to say that the elimination of our army, our guys, will put an end to all negotiations,” Mr Zelensky told Ukrainian media outlets.

“That will be an impasse as we don’t negotiate neither our territories nor our people,” he added.

Referring to a town that has been devastated by shelling outside Kyiv, Mr Zelensky said: “The more places like Borodyanka there are, the harder [negotiations] will be.”

The Russian defence ministry said on Saturday that a “remnant” of the Ukrainian forces “are currently completely blockaded on the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant”.

“Their only chance to save their lives is to voluntarily lay down their arms and surrender,” the ministry said.

A local resident looks at a damaged during a heavy fighting apartment building near the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant, the second largest metallurgical enterprise in Ukraine, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol

The strategic port of Mariupol has been among the hardest hit cities so far in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It would be an important gain for the Kremlin because it would connect Russian-anexed Crimea with Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

In Kyiv, mayor Vitali Klitscho said that Ukrainians who had fled the city in recent weeks should not return home.

Mr Klitscho, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, said on Telegram: “Those Kyivites who left earlier and are already going to return to the capital, I ask you to refrain from this and stay in safer places.”

Service members of pro-Russian troops ride an armoured personnel carrier during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol

Russia stepped up airstrikes in the Kyiv region on Saturday. Officials in the capital and in the western city of Lviv reported explosions.

Russian officials also claimed to have hit a military hardward facility in Kyiv.

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