Ukraine has denied launching an air strike on Russian territory – as hopes of evacuation from Mariupol have faded after a humanitarian team moved into the besieged city.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had planned to deliver aid to the southern port city this afternoon, but said this afternoon that “its efforts were extremely complex and remained so.” It will try to operate again on Saturday.
This comes after news broke this morning that Ukrainian helicopters had destroyed a fuel depot in Belgorod, Russia, which Kyiv denied.
Follow live as Russia is estimated to have ‘lost 17,600 troops’ in Ukraine
আলোচনা Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine were to resume today
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Vladimir Putin has ordered 134,500 new recruits to the Russian army, although the defense ministry says it has nothing to do with the war and is part of its spring draft.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says Russian forces have killed 148 children in shelling and airstrikes since the offensive began in late February, although the numbers cannot be verified.
Thousands of people are still trapped in Mariupol
About 5,000 people were killed in Mariupol and one An estimated 170,000 are still trapped and struggling without food, water, or electricityAccording to the mayor.
The Red Cross said earlier that a group of three vehicles carrying nine workers had crossed the road, hoping to take about 54 Ukrainian buses and several private cars out of the city.
Ukraine had earlier said Russian forces had blocked several buses sent to evacuate people late on Thursday – and detained 12 lorries full of humanitarian supplies.
Russia has promised to open a humanitarian corridor in Zaporizhia, but Ukraine has said that did not happen.
As Russian troops build up outside Mariupol, Kiev says Ukrainian forces are still holding the city – a gateway to the Black Sea that connects Donbass and a strategic corridor between the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula.
Ukraine has denied airstrikes on Russian soil
Regional Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Ukrainian helicopters had crossed the border at low altitudes this morning, injuring two workers.
He added that some areas north of the border were being evacuated after the attack.
Footage posted online of a fire at a Belgorod depot has been geolocated by Sky News.
Ukraine has said it will not “confirm or deny” that it has carried out air strikes.
Security Council Secretary-General Alexei Danilov said in a statement that “for some reason they have said we did it, but to our knowledge it is not true.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “The incident certainly cannot be considered as creating a comfortable situation for the ongoing talks.”
Kyiv remains on high alert following the “partial” withdrawal of Russia
A spokesman for Ukraine’s military said Russian units had “partially” withdrawn from Kyiv and Chernihiv.
“But we can’t predict what will happen, and we’re not going to reduce our defenses,” they said. “Currently, Russian troops are not enough to attack the capital. That doesn’t mean they won’t exist in the future. “
It comes as British defense officials say Moscow is deploying troops to Ukraine from Russian-backed isolated areas of Georgia.
The UK Ministry of Defense says 1,200 to 2,000 of these Russian troops are organized into three battalion strategic teams.
“It is highly unlikely that Russia planned to build up reinforcements in this manner and this indicates that it suffered unexpected losses during the attack.”
The MOD also said that Ukrainian forces had recaptured the villages of Sloboda and Lukashevka, south of Chernihiv, and that they were located along one of the main supply routes between the city and Kiev.
It said Ukraine had carried out successful but limited counter-attacks east and northeast of Kiev.
Zelensky warns of ‘war ahead’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russia was moving towards a new push in the southeastern Donbass region instead.
He described the situation in the region – part of which is controlled by Russian-backed separatists – as “extremely difficult”, adding that “there is a war ahead.”
“We know that (Russian soldiers) are moving away from places where we are beating them to focus on others which is very important – where it can be difficult for us,” he said.
Russia has said it will focus on “liberating” Donbass, adding that the closure of the operation near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv had “increased mutual trust and created conditions for further negotiations”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that there had been a “movement” in the peace talks and that Moscow was preparing to respond to Ukraine’s offer.
“There are no definitive plans, of course negotiations should continue,” he said.
Mr Lavrov said Russia was “preparing our response” to suggestions that Ukraine could become a neutral country and cancel NATO membership.