Defiant Ukrainian officials have rejected a Russian deadline for the beseiged city of Mariupol to surrender.
Moscow had given a deadline of 5am (2am GMT) today for Ukrainian soldiers in the port to lay down their arms in exchange for safe passage out.
Two corridors would provided east towards Russia or west to other parts of Ukraine, Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev said.
But Ukraine’s deputy prime minister and an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor Vadym Boichenko insisted the city would not surrender.
Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told news outlet Ukrainian Pravda: “There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms.
“We have already informed the Russian side about this. I wrote: ‘Instead of wasting time on eight pages of letters, just open the corridor’.”
Piotr Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mr Boichenko, also rejected the ultimatium in a Facebook post, saying he did not need to wait until morning to respond, and cursed at the Russians, according to news agency Interfax Ukraine.
At least 2,300 people are said to have been killed in Mariupol after relentless bombardment, Ukrainian officials say, with Russian forces yesterday accused of bombing an art school where 400 people were sheltering, leaving people trapped under rubble.
Meanwhile Ukrainian officials say 56 people have been killed in an attack on a care home in Luhansk, branding it “a horrific act of genocide”.
It come amid growing concerns for the safety of several thousand Mariupol residents who officials say have been forcibly deported from the besieged city to Russia.
Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Ludmila Denisova said some residents in Mariupol, which has been under siege from the Russians for more than two weeks, had been taken to filtration camps and transported to “economically depressed cities” in Russia after their phones and documents were checked.
President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Israel to take a stronger stand against Russia, as Moscow’s military forces continued to bomb civilians in his country.