Ukraine: Russia to 'double down' on brutal force to push troops

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Ukrainians are resisting the Russian military as best they can with president Volodymyr Zelensky leading by example from the streets of Kyiv. As Russia seeks territorial progress in the east and south of Ukraine, the cities of Kharkiv and Mariupol have been targeted by Russian missiles.

This week, Russian tactics have turned to target civilians while destroying infrastructure – attacking residential buildings and hospitals.

Mariupol’s city council says Russia has bombed an art school where 400 civilians – including many children and elderly people – were sheltering.

It is unknown how many casualties there are inside the destroyed G12 art school in the city’s Left Bank district, however, Mariupol city council said many people remain under the rubble.

For over two weeks the city has been under siege with some 400,000 people trapped.

Buses travelling to evacuate residents have been stopped and the city’s port cut off from the sea of Azov by Russian forces.

Mariupol city council has said thousands of residents have been taken against their will to Russia and “redirected” to remote cities.

The fall of Mariupol would link Crimea – annexed by Russia in 2014 – to eastern territories controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the siege of Mariupol would go down in history for what he dubbed “war crimes” committed by Russian troops.

In a video address to the nation on Sunday morning (March 20), he said: “To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come.”

Elsewhere in the south of Ukraine, Russian forces have made advances on Mykolaiv.

The New York Times reported an attack on Mykolaiv’s marine barracks on Friday (March 18) that killed at least 40.

If confirmed, this would be one of the deadliest attacks on Ukrainian forces yet.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence has said Russian forces have made “limited progress” in their invasion and have changed tactics to shell Ukrainian cities “indiscriminately”.

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Russian forces have attempted to surround and cut off Kyiv, but large areas towards the south of the capital city remain under Ukrainian control.

Troops in the northwest of Kyiv, in the suburbs of Bucha and Irpin, are just 25km (15 miles) from the city centre but are yet to cross the Irpin River.

Earlier this week, Justin Bronk, a defence analyst at Rusi, told the BBC that, due to a lack of ground forces, he doubts Russia could take Kyiv.

A similar attempt to encircle Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv has also been repelled by the Ukrainian military with reports of Russian forces being in short supply of ammunition.

Towards the east of the country, fighting continues in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Meanwhile, in the west, more than three million refugees have fled the war, creating a humanitarian crisis.

Refugees are seeking aid in neighbouring countries including Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.

The United Nations Migration Agency estimates a further 6.5 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced by the war.

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