Russia is preparing to hold peace talks with Ukraine as fierce fighting continued into a fifth day without a breakthrough into a major city.
Satellite images showed a more than three-mile-long Russian military convoy nearing Kyiv as Ukraine’s president warned of a “crucial” 24 hours.
There were more Russian air attacks and fierce clashes between the two sides overnight as Russian forces continued to close in on the Ukrainian capital.
However, its forces have met an outgunned but determined resistance in Kyiv and other cities including Kharkiv, with Russian President Vladimir Putin putting Russia’s nuclear deterrent on high alert on Sunday in the face of a barrage of Western-led reprisals for his war on Ukraine.
• Blasts heard overnight in Kyiv and Kharkiv
• The curfew imposed last week in Kyiv has been lifted but police remain on high alert
• Ukraine and Russia to hold negotiations on Belarusian-Ukrainian border
• Ukrainian President Zelenskyy says next 24 hours “crucial”
• Russian bank run as rouble plunges to all-time low
• ‘Russian saboteurs’ shoot dead schoolgirl and her parents
Preparations for peace negotiations
As the conflict entered day five on Monday, a Ukrainian delegation arrived at the border with Belarus to meet the Russians “without preconditions” to discuss the crisis.
The key issue of the talks is an “immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine”, the Ukrainian president’s office said in a statement.
The negotiations come as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the next 24 hours will be “a crucial period” for his country.
Russia frustrated by ‘logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance’
He was speaking to Prime Minister Boris Johnson who praised the “heroic” resistance of the Ukrainian people in the face of the Russian attack and told the Ukrainian leader that Britain would do all it could to get more arms to his military.
Satellite imagery released by Maxar Technologies taken on Sunday showed a 3.25 mile (5km) long convoy of Russian ground forces including tanks about 40 miles (64 km) away heading towards Kyiv.
Ukrainian forces have so far appeared to slow the invasion by Russian Armed Forces, with the UK Ministry of Defence saying in an update “logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance” and that for the first time in the conflict Russia has been “forced to acknowledge suffering casualties”.
Heavy fighting continues around Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second largest city – and Chernihiv, but both cities remain under Ukrainian control.
The bulk of Russian ground forces remain more than 18 miles (30km) to the north of Kyiv – slowed by Ukrainian forces defending Hostomel airfield, a key Russian target, the UK MoD added.
NATO partners are providing air-defence missiles and anti-tank weapons, as well as humanitarian and financial aid, its Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.
Russian bank run as rouble slumps to record low
At one point the rouble was trading at a record low of 105.27 roubles to the dollar, down from about 84 roubles per dollar late on Friday.
Britain’s chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Monday the measures “demonstrate our determination to apply severe economic sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.
Photos showed Russians queueing to withdraw money in some cities, worried about cash shortages, despite the Russian Central Bank calling for calm.
‘Russian saboteurs’ shoot dead girl and her parents in family car
Meanwhile, the number of civilian deaths is growing by the day.
Ukraine’s health ministry said on Sunday that 352 civilians, including 14 children, had been killed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It also said that 1,684 people, including 116 children, had been wounded.
The first fatality to be named is a girl from Kyiv called Polina, who was in her final year of primary school.
She and her parents were shot dead by a Russian sabotage and reconnaissance group who opened fire on the family car, the city’s deputy mayor Volodymyr Bondarenko said in a Facebook post.
He added that Polina’s brother is receiving treatment at Okhmatdyt children’s hospital and her sister is in intensive care at a second hospital.
‘Bombs dropping in Kyiv’
A UK expat who fled the country with his family and is now in Poland said they could hear “bombs dropping in Kyiv” as they left.
Stuart McKenzie told Sky News he initially wanted to stay and “support Ukraine” but decided with his wife that “if there was any danger to our children – that is the point we would have to leave the city”.
He said: “My brother has seen someone who has passed away because they were elderly and just died of cold. It is a terrible situation.”