1.45 million people have fled Ukraine since beginning of conflict, says UN agency

Ukraine Russia war LIVE Updates: The International Organization for Migration says the number of people who have left Ukraine since fighting began on 24 February has now reached 1.45 million

Ukraine Russia war LATEST Updates: MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi says, “We are deeply concerned about Indian students in Sumy, Ukraine. Have strongly pressed Russian and Ukrainian governments through multiple channels for an immediate ceasefire to create a safe corridor for our students.”

Russia had blockaded the strategic city, which proudly resisted a siege by Moscow-backed rebels during a 2014 conflict only to find itself again a target, and cut off electricity, food, water and heating in the dead of winter.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Saturday that 66,224 Ukrainian men had returned from abroad to join the fight against Russia’s invasion.

Mariupol, a southern city of about 450,000 people on the Azov Sea, will begin evacuations at 0900 GMT (2:30 pm IST), city hall announced on social media in a message that added, “it will be possible to leave the city by private transport.”

Russia’s defence ministry announced a ceasefire Saturday to allow residents of two besieged cities, including the strategic port town of Mariupol, to evacuate.

Invading Russian troops have blockaded the strategic Ukrainian port city Mariupol, its mayor announced Saturday, as Moscow and Kyiv aimed to hold new talks over the weekend.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed NATO on Friday for ruling out a no-fly zone over his country saying the Western military alliance knew further Russian aggression was likely.

Ukraine-returned Indian MBBS students who may not have been able to complete their mandatory 12-month internship due to the ongoing strife will be allowed to complete the remaining internship in India provided they have cleared the foreign medical graduate exam (FMGE) before applying for such internship here

Bloomberg News announced Friday it was suspending the work of its journalists in Russia and CNN said it will stop broadcasting in the country.

Ukraine’s strategic port city of Mariupol is under a “blockade” by Russian forces after days of “ruthless” attacks, its mayor said on Saturday, calling for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor.

Located on the Sea of Azov, the city of 450,000 people has been bombarded by shellings and cut off without water or electricity in the depths of winter.

“For now, we are looking for solutions to humanitarian problems and all possible ways to get Mariupol out of the blockade,” said Vadim Boychenko in a message posted to the mayor’s Telegram account.

Ukraine and its allies expressed fury on Friday after Europe’s largest atomic power plant was attacked and seized by invading Russian forces, which continued to shell major cities.

The six reactors at Zaporizhzhia, which can power up to four million homes, appeared undamaged by the fighting and a fire that broke out in a training facility.

But Kyiv accused the Kremlin of “nuclear terror”, and US envoy to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the attack was “incredibly reckless and dangerous”.

Moscow’s UN ambassador called accusations that Russian forces had shelled the plant part of “an unprecedented campaign of lies”.

According to Ukraine, thousands of civilians have died since President Vladimir Putin’s military invaded on February 24, claiming to be fighting a Western-leaning “Nazi” threat on its border.

In a Kyiv hospital, wounded soldiers told AFP of their grim battle against the Russian advance on the capital, and vowed to return to the frontline.

“We were on reconnaissance and came across an enemy column that had made a breakthrough,” said Motyka, 29, who was hit by shrapnel on his right side.

“We fought them and killed their soldiers on foot, but they showered us with mortar fire.”

On Friday, missile and bomb attacks on cities continued, the Ukrainian military said on Facebook, adding that the main focus of Russian troops was to encircle Kyiv.

It added that Russian artillery and multiple launch rocket systems were pounding residential buildings and infrastructure.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said the attack at the nuclear plant “could have stopped the story, the history of Ukraine, the history of Europe.”

“Russian tank commanders knew what they were firing at,” he said, adding: “The terrorist state now resorted to nuclear terror.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Friday told German chancellor Olaf Scholz that dialogue on Ukraine would be possible only if Russian demands are met, the Kremlin readout on a phone call between the two leaders said.

‘These include the neutral and non-nuclear status of Ukraine, its ‘denazification’, recognition of Crimea as part of Russia and of the ‘sovereignty’ of separatist territories in eastern Ukraine,” the Kremlin added.

Kyiv on Friday also said that it was planning to hold the third round of talks with Moscow this weekend.

The two sides held the first and second rounds of negotiations on 28 February and 3 March respectively.

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