Explosive claims have come to light after a call between Ukrainian Prime Minister and another world leader, with allegations Zelensky was told to “surrender” to Putin.
A senior Ukrainian official has claimed President Volodymyr Zelensky was told to “surrender” to Vladimir Putin in order to end the war.
The explosive claims occurred during a phone call between Mr Zelensky and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in reports from US news site Axios.
Meanwhile, Russian forces have also begun to make attempts to storm Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, according to US intelligence, as high-level peace talks between Mr Putin and world leaders have stalled.
Since the beginning of the invasion, the city has been targeted by Russian military as a key battleground, with satellite images depicting a 64km convoy surrounding the city.
Follow our updates below.
Israeli PM reportedly tells Zelensky to ‘surrender’
A senior Ukrainian official claims Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has told President Volodymyr Zelensky to accept Putin’s conditions in order to end the conflict.
After Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, Mr Bennett was the first world leader to speak to Putin in person.
Axios reports the call between Mr Bennett and Mr Zelensky occurred on Tuesday, with Ukrainian officials rebuffing the Israeli Prime Minister’s suggestions.
“Bennett is basically telling us to surrender and we have no intention of doing that,” the senior Ukrainian official said.
“His initiative looks like an excuse for why he is not speaking out against Russia, not providing weapons to Ukraine and not sanctioning Russia,” they added.
However, the claims have been disputed by Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. The claimed the mediation talks were conducted on a private line and were only attended by Mr Zelensky and his close advisers.
They also said that recommendations had not been given during the talks, which are being focused on “stopping the bloodshed in Ukraine”.
Zelensky: Ukraine hits ‘strategic turning point’
The Ukrainian President has delivered a hopeful message to Ukrainian citizens urging that the military had reached a “reached a strategic turning point,” that would see them win against the Russian invasion.
He said that Ukraine‘s military wins had succeeded Russia’s losses and that they expected that the “occupant’s fights will be over sooner”.
“It is impossible to say how many days we still have (ahead of us) to free Ukrainian land. But we can say we will do it,” he said. “We are already moving towards our goal, our victory.”
He also called the invasion a “patriotic war” against “a very stubborn enemy” and once again accused Russia of pulling reservists and conscripts into battle.
Mr Zelensky then called on Ukrainian people to partake in “a full-fledged sowing campaign” to grow crops during the spring time in preparation for their victory.
“It is about life. Life is important. It is about our life, our dreams, our future and hence: our victory,” he said.
Woman ‘blown up’ while evacuating from Kyiv
The employees of a 31-year-old Ukrainian woman, said the trained medic was killed by a Russian tank while evacuating from a village near Kyiv.
Employees of USAID and Chemonics said Valeriia “Lera” Maksetska, her ill mother Irina and a driver named Yaroslav, were waiting for a Russian convoy to pass when the blast occurred. All three died in the attack.
In a tribute to her colleague, USAID administrator Samantha Power said Lera had remained in Kyiv during the invasion in order to help others but decided to evacuate when her mother ran out of medicine.
“She survived the shelling of Donetsk, moved to Kyiv, and started working with USAID – where she became beloved as ‘a brave woman with a kind heart,’” wrote Ms Power.
“As Lera wrote when Kyiv was attacked, she was angry at the awful violence ‘but so proud to be a Ukrainian & live someplace where beliefs matter’.”
‘More momentum:’ Kyiv siege advances
There are fears Russia is gaining ground on a potential assault on Ukraine’s capital.
During a press briefing on Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said intensifying attacks could signal Russia’s imminent assault on Kyiv.
“There‘s Russian bombardment and shelling going on quite violently as we speak,” Mr Kirby told reporters.
“And we do assess that the Russians are beginning to make more momentum on the ground towards Kyiv, particularly from the east.”
While Russia’s 64km convoy seems to have stalled in the past week, it’s believed Putin will attempt to overthrow Ukraine’s elected government in order to install a puppet regime should he capture Kyiv.
Kyiv: ‘City under siege’
Describing the situation, presidential Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called Kyiv a “city under siege”.
He tweeted that it was “ready to fight”, with checkpoints prepared and supply lines in place, adding: “Kyiv will stand until the end”.
This comes as Ukrainian military warned Russia was trying to “block” Kyiv by taking out defences to the west and north of the capital, adding that there was also a risk to Brovary in the east.
The northwest suburbs, including Irpin and Bucha, have already endured days of heavy bombardment but Russian armoured vehicles are also advancing on the northeastern edge.
Ukrainian soldiers described fierce fighting for control of the main highway leading into the capital, with AFP reporting missile strikes in Velyka Dymerka just outside Kyiv’s limits on Thursday.
Russia to ban Instagram, YouTube response amps up
Russia has dubbed Meta – which own Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – as an “extremist organisation,” after claims the conglomerate had relaxed their moderation policies.
Reuters reported that emails to sent to Facebook and Instagram moderators would allow posts which incited violence against Russian soldier, President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Content around violence against Russian civilians will continue to be banned.
The concession however, is only available for users in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.
However, Russia has retaliated against the alleged changes by banning Instagram and making an application which would officially recognise Meta as a “extremist organisation”. If approved this would see all of Meta’s platforms banned across the country.
Meanwhile, YouTube has also announced they would begin blocking global access to Russian state-funded media. Previously the Google-owned site had prevented accounts like RT and Sputnik from monetising their content, as well as being accessed in Europe.
In an announcement on Twitter, YouTube also said that content which “minimises or trivialises well-documented violent events” will also be removed.
While the changes were implemented immediately, the streaming site said it may “take time” for their systems to “ramp up”.
Putin not engaging is ‘serious diplomacy’
The first high-level talks between the two sides on Thursday failed to make a breakthrough, but Putin said negotiations are “now being held on an almost daily basis”.
However, US Vice President Kamala Harris said Putin showed “no sign of engaging in serious diplomacy” to end the war.
“That’s why we engaged in historic sanctions, with the effect of a free falling rouble, the Russian stock market is still not open, their credit ranking is now junk,” the Vice President said, warning of further sanctions against Russia’s “atrocious and outrageous conduct.”
The situation is particularly dire in the southern port city of Mariupol where local officials said Friday more than 1,500 people have been killed during 12 days of Russian siege.
– with AFP