Ukraine-Russia talks make little headway with Russian troops massing for attack on Kyiv

Humanitarian crisis deepens as evacuations fail and EU told to expect five million refugees

Ukraine and Russia failed to agree a ceasefire as Moscow's forces continued to bombard Ukrainian cities and allegedly began massing to storm Kyiv, while the European Union was urged to prepare for an influx of five million refugees from the war.

Plans to open humanitarian "corridors" to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from badly damaged Ukrainian cities collapsed on Monday after Moscow said several of the routes would lead to Russia or to its ally in the invasion, Belarus.

Ukraine called the proposal "completely immoral" and French president Emmanuel Macron said the Kremlin's "moral and political cynicism" were "intolerable", as Russia's forces pounded its neighbour's towns and cities on the 12th day of a war that has killed thousands of people and driven some 1.7 million to seek safety in EU states.

After a third round of tentative ceasefire talks on Monday , Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak noted "some positive results in terms of the logistics of humanitarian corridors . . . We will get more effective assistance to people who are suffering today from Russian aggression".


“In terms of the key political track – which includes a ceasefire, a truce, and an end to hostilities in general . . . there are no results that significantly improve the situation. However, consultations will continue and we will get a result.”

Targeting civilians

Russian delegate Vladimir Medinsky said the talks were "not easy" and complained the Ukrainians were not willing to sign any of the "concrete agreements, plans and proposals" that his side brought to the table.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the war would end "in a moment" if Ukraine stopped fighting, changed its constitution to enshrine military neutrality, recognised occupied Crimea as Russian territory and accepted the self-declared independence of parts of eastern Ukraine held by Moscow-led militants.

Ukraine rejects any such deal and accuses Russia of targeting civilians, destroying hospitals, schools and housing blocks, and of committing war crimes in what the Kremlin calls a mission to “demilitarise” the pro-western democracy of 41 million people.

Russian troops have only entered one major Ukrainian city – Kherson in the south – and continue to face daily protests from its hostile residents.

Ukraine’s military said it shot down two Russian warplanes over Kyiv on Monday evening, after noting that “the Russian army has switched to building up resources for an assault” on the city of three million, which it has been stuck outside for a week.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc "must prepare to receive around five million people" fleeing the war, and would "need more schools, more reception centres, more of everything".

Nato has rejected Ukraine's pleas to create a no-fly zone over the country, while sending additional forces to eastern member states to ease their security fears.


"The United States is more committed than ever to standing with you," US secretary of state Antony Blinken said during a tour of Baltic countries. "We will defend every inch of Nato territory if it comes under attack," he insisted, describing the bloc's mutual defence past as "sacrosanct".

Meanwhile, a man remained in custody last night after he reversed a truck through the gates of the Russian embassy in Dublin.

The embassy had initially accused the Government of violating international law for allowing the incident to happen, and claimed members of the Garda “stood idle” as the incident happened.

In a follow-up statement, however, the embassy said: “We would like to inform that additional measures have been undertaken by the Garda to ensure safety and security of the embassy and its personnel. The embassy appreciates co-operation by the Irish authorities in this matter.”

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe