KVIV: Ukraine accused Russian forces on Saturday of killing seven civilians in an attack on women and children trying to flee fighting near Kyiv, and France said Russian President Vladimir Putin had shown he was not ready to make peace.
The Ukrainian intelligence service said the seven, including one child, were killed as they fled the village of Peremoha and that “the occupiers forced the remnants of the column to turn back.”
Reuters was unable immediately to verify the report and Russia offered no immediate comment. Moscow denies targeting civilians since invading Ukraine on February 24 and blames Ukraine for failed attempts to evacuate civilians from encircled cities.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier that Moscow would send in new troops after Ukrainian troops pulled Russia’s 31 battalion-level tactical groups from operations, which he described as Russia’s biggest military loss in decades. His statement could not be verified.
He also said about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed so far and urged the West to get more involved in peace talks. The president has hinted that if Russian troops try to enter the capital, they will face a life-and-death fight.
“If they decide to carpet bomb (Kyiv) and simply erase the history of this area … and destroy us all, then they will go into Kyiv. If that’s their goal, let them in, but They’re going to have to live by themselves on this land,” he said.
Zelensky discussed the war with Prime Minister Olaf Scholz and President Emmanuel Macron, and the German and French leaders later spoke with Putin by phone and urged the Russian leader to order an immediate ceasefire.
The Kremlin’s statement on the 75-minute conference call did not mention a ceasefire, with a French presidential official saying: “We have not found Putin willing to end the war”.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused the United States of escalating tensions and said the situation had been complicated by convoys of Western arms shipments to Ukraine that Russian forces considered “legitimate targets”.
In comments reported by the Tass news agency, Ryabkov made no specific threat, but any attack on such convoys before they reached Ukraine would risk widening the war.
Responding to Zelenskiy’s call for the West to be more involved in peace negotiations, a US State Department spokesperson said: “If there are diplomatic steps that we can take that the Ukrainian government believes would be helpful, we’re prepared to take them.”
Crisis talks between Moscow and Kyiv have been continuing via a video link, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russia’s RIA news agency. He gave no details but Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv would not surrender or accept any ultimatums.