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“Ukraine is the gateway to Europe for the Russian army – they want to break in. But barbarism must not pass,” Zelensky told the Italian parliament in a video address on Tuesday, as part of of his intense lobbying to convince world leaders who support Ukraine but are reluctant to become entangled in a wider conflict with Russia.

The state of the battlefield on Tuesday remained largely as it had been for weeks: the death toll soared as artillery shelling continued to hit several Ukrainian towns, destroying infrastructure and terrorizing civilians. This was especially true in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, which has seen some of the worst violence since hostilities began on February 24. But even as the Kremlin stepped up its attacks, the Ukrainian resistance seemed to be holding, at least for now.

In one interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the main spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, admitted that Russia had not yet achieved any of its military objectives in Ukraine. When asked what Putin has achieved so far, Peskov replied, “Well, first of all, not yet. He hasn’t succeeded yet. »

Peskov insisted that what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” was “taking place strictly in accordance with the plans and objectives that had been established beforehand”. He also repeatedly refused to rule out Russia using nuclear weapons if Moscow faced what it saw as an “existential threat.”

The claim that Makariv, some 40 miles from kyiv, was in Ukrainian hands appears to mark another setback for Russian forces, whose convoy outside the capital has been blocked for weeks by logistical challenges and the Ukrainian resistance. The Associated Press reported that territorial control allowed Ukrainian forces to retake a critical highway and prevent Russian troops from encircling the capital from the northwest.

“Thanks to the heroic actions of our defenders, the Ukrainian state flag has been raised over the city. … The enemy has been thrown back,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in a Facebook update on Makariv, which home to about 10,000 people.

According to video and images released by local officials, Ukrainian police have resumed patrols in the city, although the fighting has come at a heavy cost. City video released by Kyiv region national police chief Andriy Nebytov and Makariv police chief Alexander Omelyanenko showed severe damage to sites including the Makariv cultural center, the post police station and several residential buildings. A highway was marred by shell craters. The video has been verified by The Washington Post.

“There is no one on the streets. Every second house is damaged or destroyed,” Nebytov said.

The Pentagon seemed slightly more optimistic than in recent days, with a senior defense official noting that Ukraine had seen success in regaining ground. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the official declined to comment on specific locations, but said “we are starting to see indications” that Ukraine is “now able and willing to reclaim territory.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity under conditions set by the Pentagon.

Russian forces barely moved from their positions outside kyiv, the official said, saying some troops had suffered fuel problems, food shortages and even frostbite. The official said Russia had just under 90% of the combat power it had positioned in areas around Ukraine before the invasion began.

“We just haven’t seen much movement from them,” the official said. Near the southern city of Mykolaiv, the official said, there are signs the Russians are repositioning outside the city to the south after facing fierce resistance.

Officials have warned, however, that the outlook in Ukraine is far from rosy.

“This war will not end easily or quickly,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said. Yet, he added, “Whether Russia takes a town or city or takes more territory, she can never achieve the goal she set herself, which was to subjugate this country, to put this country in step, because the Ukrainian people have made it very clear that they will not be subject no matter what.

Russian forces began shelling Mariupol from the sea, the senior Pentagon official said, an escalation of Russia’s assault on the southern port city.

There were up to seven Russian warships in the Sea of ​​Azov, according to a tally by the official, who added that the city is an “anchor” for the Russian effort to take the area from Ukrainian forces.

A risky evacuation operation was underway in Mariupol, as residents tried to flee bombs, street fights and a crushing siege. Whole blocks now lie in smoldering ruins, and thousands of civilians are crammed into underground shelters, according to testimonies and videos verified by The Post.

Tales of civilian suffering have spread through fleeing residents and occasional social media posts, as Mariupol is largely cut off from the world. Perhaps the clearest picture of the toll comes from the harrowing reports of AP journalists, who themselves were forced to leave as Russian troops closed in.

The Mariupol City Council and a Ukrainian presidential adviser said on Telegram that buses traveled to areas near the Sea of ​​Azov on Tuesday to pick up residents who had fled the city.

“We will leave no one behind and will continue the evacuation every day…until we have transported everyone,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a video on Tuesday.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday called the war in Ukraine “unwinnable”, calling for an end to the fighting and serious negotiations at the “peace table”.

António Guterres told reporters that the fighting had only become more “destructive and unpredictable”. The people of Ukraine, he said, “are enduring a living hell – and the repercussions are being felt around the world with soaring food, energy and fertilizer prices threatening to escalate into a global crisis. of hunger”.

Biden will land in Brussels on Wednesday evening, seeking to hold together a Western alliance that is beginning to show cracks between allies who want to supply Ukraine with offensive weapons, like fighter jets, and others who fear deepening the crisis. confrontation with Moscow.

The president’s decision to visit Poland reflects the country’s position at the epicenter of an escalating refugee crisis, as an estimated 300,000 Ukrainians have sought refuge in Warsaw since the conflict began. Biden, who may visit a refugee camp while in Poland, is expected to pledge significant US aid for the crisis.

The World Health Organization has called on the European Union to help countries taking in waves of refugees from Ukraine as neighboring countries feel the brunt of the influx.

The priority is to ensure that “all countries involved in the humanitarian response have the necessary infrastructure and expertise to face this challenge, which puts a strain on resources, both human and financial”, said said Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, on Tuesday. in Moldova — a small country on the southern border of Ukraine that has taken in more than 360,000 refugees.

The UN human rights agency says it has documented the killing of 953 civilians and the injury of more than 1,500 others since the start of the invasion, although the true figure is believed to be exponentially higher. The WHO said on Tuesday that at least 62 health facilities were affected by attacks that left 15 dead and 37 injured.

As the war draws closer to a month, officials warn of fallout risks, such as an increased risk of radioactive contamination and miles of Ukrainian territory now strewn with explosives.

At least seven forest fires have broken out around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s parliament announced on Monday, raising fears they could spread radiation. Ukrainian officials and firefighters were unable to carry out their usual duties in the area to put out the fires due to Russian control of the plant.

Allam and Demirjian reported from Washington. Suliman and Francis reported from London. Annabelle Chapman in Warsaw; Annabelle Timsit in London; Amy Cheng in Seoul; Stefano Pitrelli in Rome; Miriam Berger in Jerusalem; Rachel Pannett in Sydney; and Paulina Firozi, Dan Lamothe and Matt Viser in Washington contributed to this report.