Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to kill ‘every b*stard’ who targeted civilians fleeing from the country’s war-ravaged areas after harrowing images emerged of a family lying dead on a road as Vladimir Putin’s invading forces continued to shell the region.
The country’s leader said the family of four were ‘just trying to escape’ the town of Irpin, which sits on the outskirts of Kyiv, when they were killed in an attack by Putin’s forces.
He vowed to hunt down ‘every b*stard’ that shot at Ukraine’s cities and its people and ‘punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war’ before adding the country ‘will not forget’.
In a televised address Mr Zelensky said: ‘A man, a woman and two children. Right on the road. … when they were just trying to get out of town. To escape.
‘The whole family. How many such families have died in Ukraine! We will not forgive. We will not forget.’
Ukraine’s president continued: ‘We will punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war. On our land. We will find every b*stard. Which shot at our cities, our people. Which bombed our land. Which launched rockets. Which gave the order and pressed ”start”.
‘There will be no quiet place on this Earth for you. Except for the grave.’
The stark warning comes after horrifying images showed four members of the same family, including two children, lying motionless on a pavement alongside their suitcases after they tried to flee Irpin, a town 12 miles from Kyiv, on Sunday.
It also comes after images emerged of the grieving Ukrainian parents of an 18-month-old boy weeping over their son’s dead body after the toddler was killed by Russian shelling in the the southern city of Mariupol.
The toddler’s death came after Russian forces shelled Ukraine’s second city just minutes into an agreed ceasefire on Saturday.
Today Kyiv rejected Moscow’s offer to open ‘humanitarian corridors’ when it emerged that some of the routes led straight to its territory.
Hundreds of civilians were pictured trying to flee the city of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv, which has been the scene of heavy Russian bombardment in recent days.
Locals were seen being helped across a partially-destroyed bridge by members of the Ukrainian military who had blown it up days earlier to slow the Russian advance
It came after Ukraine rejected Russia’s offer to open up ‘humanitarian corridors’ from the besieged cities of Sumy, Mariupol, Kharkiv and Kyiv – which have been hammered by artillery strikes for days with Mariupol cut off from electricity and water supplies – because the routes led either to Russian territory or its ally, Belarus.
That is after two attempts to open up similar corridors at the weekend failed after less than an hour because Russian troops resumed shooting. Red Cross workers trying to use one corridor out of Mariupol said the route had been booby-trapped with landmines.
The images emerged as the EU’s top diplomat, Joseph Borrell said as many as five million refugees could flee in to the bloc if Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine continues. The UN said today that 1.7million have fled the conflict in the first 11 days, which is the fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War.
With the offer of evacuations off the table, Russian forces then resumed their attacks on Gostomel – site of a key strategic airfield north of Kyiv – Kharkiv in the east, Sumy in the northeast, Chernihiv in the north and Mykolayiv in the southwest.
It came as Russian and Ukrainian delegates sat down for a third round of peace talks after Moscow told the country it will stop its onslaught ‘in a moment’ if Kyiv meets a raft of extraordinary Kremlin conditions.
As the two sides met for a third round of talks in Belarus today, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said all of Russia’s demands had been formulated and handed over during the first two rounds of talks between delegations, which took place last week.
‘We hope that all this will go OK and they will react in a suitable way,’ Peskov said.
Putin’s hopeless peace deal offer demands Ukraine cease military action, change its constitution to enshrine neutrality so it cannot join the EU or NATO, acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory and recognise the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent territories.
It is the most explicit Russian statement so far of the terms it wants to impose on Ukraine to halt what it calls its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, that is now in its 12th day and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.
A Kremlin spokesman insisted Russia was not seeking to make any further territorial claims on Ukraine, despite the advance of Moscow’s troops.
‘We really are finishing the demilitarisation of Ukraine. We will finish it. But the main thing is that Ukraine ceases its military action. They should stop their military action and then no one will shoot,’ he said.
It is not clear how many civilians have been killed in the fighting so-far. Ukraine said last week that 2,000 had died but has not updated the figure since. The UN has confirmed 406 civilian deaths but cautions that it likely a vast undercount. Russia completely denies hitting civilian targets, despite reams of evidence to the contrary.
Moscow’s representatives at the International Court of Justice at The Hague today skipped a hearing into whether or not war crimes are being committed.
Ukrainian officials accused Moscow of resorting to ‘medieval siege’ tactics in some places, and in one encircled city, Mariupol, there was no sign yet of an evacuation.
Russian forces continued to pummel some Ukrainian cities with rockets even after the new announcement of corridors and fierce fighting continued in some areas, indicating there would be no wider cessation of hostilities.
Efforts to set up safe passages for civilians to leave besieged areas over the weekend fell apart. But the Russian Defence Ministry announced a new push on Monday, saying civilians would be allowed to leave the capital of Kyiv, the southern port city of Mariupol, and the cities of Kharkiv and Sumy.
The two sides met for a third round of talks on Monday, according to Russian state media, though hopes for any breakthrough were dim. The countries’ foreign ministers are also scheduled to meet in Turkey on Thursday, according to that country’s top diplomat.
In Mariupol, where an estimated 200,000 people hoping to flee were becoming increasingly desperate, Red Cross officials waited to hear when a safe humanitarian corridor would be established. The city is short on water, food and power, and mobile phone networks are down. Shops have been looted as residents search for essential goods.