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Ukraine war: Blasts overnight as country enters ‘crucial’ 24 hours

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xplosions has been reported in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities overnight as Russia’s military assault on its neighbour entered a fifth day.

Shells fell in the northern city of Chernihiv all night, according to the Ukrainian State Emergency Service, while blasts were also reported in the capital Kyiv and the second city Kharkiv.

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said missiles hit a radioactive waste disposal site in Kyiv. There were no reports of damage to the buildings or indications of a release of radioactive material.

Boris Johnson has said Britain will do all it can to get more arms to the beleaguered Ukrainian military as Russian forces continue to threaten Kyiv.

The Prime Minister spoke again on Sunday evening to President Volodymyr Zelensky who told him the next 24 hours would be a “crucial period” for his country.

A Ukrainian delegation is due to meet the Russians “without precondition” on Monday on the border with Belarus, although Mr Zelensky has indicated he sees little prospect of any meaningful dialogue.

An armored vehicle rolls outside Mykolaivka, Donetsk region, the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants, in eastern Ukraine, on Sunday

/ AP

It comes as Russian troops drew closer to the Ukrainian capital whose mayor warned the city was encircled, and President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear forces to be put on high alert.

In an interview with the Associated Press (AP) on Sunday, after a gruelling night of Russian attacks on the outskirts of the city, mayor Vitali Klitschko was silent for several seconds when asked if there were plans to evacuate civilians if Russian troops managed to take Kyiv.

“We can’t do that, because all ways are blocked,” he finally said.

“Right now we are encircled.”

A senior US intelligence official has also said Belarus is expected to send troops into Ukraine as soon as Monday to fight alongside Russian forces that invaded last week.

Belarus has been providing support for Russia’s war effort, but so far has not taken a direct part in the conflict.

In the port city of Mariupol, Ukrainians are trying to fend off a Russian advance.

An ambulance raced into a city hospital on Sunday, carrying a six-year-old girl who was mortally injured in Russian shelling.

She was pale. Her brown hair was pulled back with a rubber band. Her bloody pyjama pants were decorated with cartoon unicorns. She was brought in with her wounded father, his head bloodied and bandaged.

A medical team pumped her chest, fighting desperately to revive her. Her mother stood outside the ambulance, weeping.

“Take her out! Take her out! We can make it!” a hospital worker shouted, pushing a gurney to the ambulance.

The girl was raced inside and doctors and nurses huddled around her. One gave her an injection. Another tried to revive her with a defibrillator. A nurse wept.

A doctor in blue medical scrubs, pumping oxygen into her, looked straight at the camera of an Associated Press video journalist who had been allowed inside.

“Show this to Putin,” he said angrily. “The eyes of this child, and crying doctors.”

The girl, whose name was not immediately known, could not be saved.

In other developments:

– Russian commanders in Ukraine have been ordered to take either Kyiv or Kharkiv – the two biggest cities – by Monday, according to a Moscow report. A source said General Army Staff set the task of taking one or the other by Monday – “at any price”, reported Russian VCHK-OGPU Telegram channel which has close links to the security services. This edict – seen as ultimately coming from President Putin – was despite the objection of Russia’s paratroop command which feared a catastrophic bloodbath.

– The UK Government is fast-tracking plans to tackle “dirty money” and expose foreign oligarchs who launder their wealth through the UK’s property market in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

– The European Union said it would supply arms to Ukraine while imposing a fresh round of sanctions banning Russian aircraft from the EU airspace and barring the Kremlin-backed media, RT and Sputnik.

– BP announced it is selling its £10 billion stake in oil producer Rosneft, which it co-owns with the Kremlin, after pressure from the Government.

– The Football Association said England would not play Russia for the foreseeable future while FIFA said all Russia’s matches must be played in neutral countries without supporters.

Announcing his decision to raise the alert level of Russia’s nuclear forces, Mr Putin cited “aggressive statements” by Western powers and the punitive economic sanctions piling up on his country. Over the weekend the G7 nations agreed to impose sanctions on Russia’s central bank while excluding a number of Russian lenders from the crucial Swift system of global payments.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said UK officials were drawing up a “hit list” of oligarchs close to the Kremlin to be targeted with asset freezes and travel bans over the coming weeks.

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