Russia continues to step up its attacks in Ukraine amid reports that it is preparing to move into the capital, Kyiv, and a humanitarian catastrophe looms over several besieged towns more than two weeks after the unprovoked invasion of its neighbor by Moscow.
Live briefing: Russia invades Ukraine
RFE/RL Ukraine live briefing brings you all the latest news on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbour, Kiev’s response, the plight of civilians and the Western reaction. The Live Briefing presents the latest developments and analysis, updates throughout the day.
Ukrainian officials said on March 11 that they hoped some humanitarian corridors would be opened to allow civilians to flee the escalating fighting, particularly in the southern city of Mariupol, where people are deprived of water and food. electricity for more than a week and attempts to organize a local ceasefire and safe passage have repeatedly failed.
“We hope it will work out today,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a televised statement.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it would open humanitarian corridors from Kyiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Chernihiv. But similar moves in previous days had very limited success due to continued Russian shelling despite claims of a one-day ceasefire.
Vereshchuk said later on March 11 that Russian shelling prevented evacuees from leaving the port city of Mariupol again, while elsewhere Russian forces also stopped buses of people trying to flee the Kyiv area.
In a video address, Vereshchuk said some planned evacuations had been successful, including 1,000 people who were evacuated from the village of Vorzel in Kyiv region.
On March 11, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry accused Russian forces of kidnapping the mayor of Melitopol, a city in southeastern Ukraine that fell under Russian control during the invasion.
Russia has not commented on the fate of Mayor Ivan Fedorov. Ukraine claims Russian forces abducted him after falsely accusing him of terrorism.
The Red Cross said more than 400,000 people are trapped in Mariupol without humanitarian aid or evacuation corridors, and the city faces “apocalyptic” conditions.
“They have a clear order to take Mariupol hostage, mock him, bomb him and constantly bomb him,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address to the nation on March 10.
Russia pounded towns across the country and the attacks appeared to spread overnight, with reports of airstrikes on airports in the west of the country. Local authorities in Ivano-Frankivsk and Lutsk reported bomb explosions near their airports.
Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian planes fired on a Belarusian settlement near the border with Ukraine from Ukrainian airspace on March 11 in an attempt to drag Belarus into Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Air Force said the state border service had received information that Russian planes had taken off from an airfield in Belarus, crossed Ukrainian airspace and then fired on the village of Kopani .
WATCH: With infrastructure damaged and ruins still smoldering, residents remain wary as Russian armed forces maneuver near the Ukrainian capital. Current Time visited Pushcha-Vodytsya, a small spa town a few miles from Kiev, on March 10 and spoke to locals.
“This is a PROVOCATION! The goal is to involve the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus in the war with Ukraine!” The Ukrainian Air Force Command said in an online statement.
The Ukrainian military said two other Belarusian settlements were also targeted in the same operation.
Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Yevheniy Yenin said in an interview that Russia is doing everything possible to induce Belarus to open a new front in Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
“We also understand that the Belarusian government has done everything possible to avoid joining this war,” Yenin added.
Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Heraschenko said three Russian airstrikes hit the eastern industrial city of Dnipro on March 11, killing at least one person. State emergency services said the strikes were near a kindergarten and an apartment building.
For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces had “reached a strategic turning point”, although he did not elaborate.
“It is impossible to say how many more days we will need to liberate our land, but it is possible to say that we will,” he said via video from Kyiv.
Meanwhile, Russian troops were moving to encircle Kiev after days of slow progress towards the capital.
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed a 64 kilometer long line of vehicles, tanks and artillery outside Kyiv had been redeployed, with armored units seen in towns near Kyiv airport. ‘Antonov north of the city. Some vehicles moved through the forests, Maxar reported, with howitzers towed nearby in position to open fire.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said it appeared that after logistical problems stifled the advance of Russian troops in the days after the invasion began on February 24, Moscow was likely to renew its offensive in the next days.
“Russia is likely looking to reset and reposition its forces for renewed offensive activity in the coming days. This will likely include operations against the capital Kyiv,” he said.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said around 2 million people had left the city and surrounding areas.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement that Russian troops were advancing towards Kyiv from the northwest and east but were pushed back from Chernihiv as Ukrainian forces regained control of Baklanova Muraviyka.
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin declared on March 11 that he supported a plan allowing foreigners to fight alongside Russia in Ukraine, with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu declaring that “most of those who want and ask [to fight] are citizens of Middle Eastern countries and Syrians.”
Since 2015, Russian forces have supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against various groups opposed to his regime, including the Islamic State.
WATCH: The Ukrainian port city of Odessa has been transformed into a “fortress”, according to a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service.
International efforts to isolate and sanction Russia are underway, particularly after a deadly airstrike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol that Western and Ukrainian officials have labeled a war crime.
Ukraine has accused Russian forces of hitting another medical facility on March 11, this time a psychiatric hospital near the eastern Ukrainian town of Izyum.
The regional governor called the bombing “a brutal attack on civilians”. Emergency services said no one was injured as the patients had already taken refuge in the basement.
Russia said it was not targeting civilian facilities, but images, videos and testimonies showed persistent attacks on residential buildings and other non-military sites, prompting calls from Western and Ukrainian officials for a investigation of war crimes by Moscow.
Amid growing global outrage over the Mariupol hospital attack that claimed the lives of three people, including a young girl, senior diplomats in Moscow and Kyiv failed to advancing a possible ceasefire or even humanitarian corridors for civilians.
“From all we know and have seen, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin shows no sign of commitment to serious diplomacy,” US Vice President Kamala Harris said during a press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis during a visit to Bucharest on March 11.
WATCH: The devastating Russian military attacks on civilian residential areas northwest of the Ukrainian capital are pushing more and more people to make the arduous journey to Kiev.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden said on March 11 that in unison with the G7 group of wealthy nations, Washington would revoke Russia’s “permanent normal trade relations” status, commonly referred to as the world’s largest nation. favored, to punish President Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine.
“The free world is coming together to take on Putin,” Biden said in a speech at the White House.
European Union leaders meeting in France have said they are ready to impose tougher economic sanctions on Russia and could give Ukraine more arms funds. But they rejected Ukraine’s request to join the bloc.
On further sanctions, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “Nothing is ruled out. Nothing is taboo. We will do whatever we deem necessary to stop Russia.”
On March 10, the EU continued to tighten sanctions against those “involved in Russian aggression in Ukraine”, agreeing on new measures targeting 14 other oligarchs, 146 members of the upper house of the Russian parliament and their families.
WATCH: As Ukrainians flee the Russian invasion, Current Time spoke to people on the move in Kyiv and Lviv who hope to find safe refuge inside or outside the country.
The number of people who have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion continues to grow, with the head of the UN refugee agency estimating on March 11 that this figure had reached 2.5 million people.
“We also estimate that around 2 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine. Millions have been forced from their homes by this senseless war,” Grandi wrote on Twitter.
Paul Dillon, spokesman for the United Nations International Organization for Migration, said some 116,000 nationals of other countries were among the 2.5 million refugees.
Dillon also said more than 1.5 million refugees have made their way to neighboring Poland.