Russia-Ukraine updates: Ukraine defies Russian call to surrender Mariupol

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(NEW YORK) — Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are putting up “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The attack began Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation.”

Russian forces moving from neighboring Belarus toward Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, have advanced closer to the city center in recent days despite the resistance. Heavy shelling and missile attacks, many on civilian buildings, continue in Kyiv, as well as major cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol. Russia also bombed western cities for the first time this week, targeting Lviv and a military base near the Poland border.

Russia has been met by sanctions from the United States, Canada and countries throughout Europe, targeting the Russian economy as well as Putin himself.

For previous coverage please click here.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Mar 21, 5:21 am
No surrender in besieged Mariupol, Ukraine says

Ukrainian officials rejected Russia’s demand that they surrender the southern port city of Mariupol on Monday morning.

Officials instead called on Russia to allow residents to evacuate safely from the city.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an early morning video address said his government was preparing to send buses to Mariupol on Monday to continue the evacuation.

“In besieged Mariupol, Russian aircraft dropped a bomb on an art school. People were hiding there. Hiding from shelling, from bombing,” Zelenskyy said, according to an official translation from his office. “There were no military positions. There were about four hundred civilians. Mostly women and children, the elderly. They are under the debris. We do not know how many are alive at the moment.”

Some who’ve left Mariupol have described dire circumstances, with constant shelling and little access to essentials, including food, water, and medicine, according to a report published Monday by Human Rights Watch.

“Mariupol residents have described a freezing hellscape riddled with dead bodies and destroyed buildings,” Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “And these are the lucky ones who were able to escape, leaving behind thousands who are cut off from the world in the besieged city.”

Mar 20, 10:17 pm
Biden traveling to Poland Friday to discuss efforts to support Ukraine, humanitarian crisis

In addition to his trip to Brussels, President Joe Biden will also travel to Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, where he will hold a bilateral meeting with President Andrzej Duda.

“The President will discuss how the United States, alongside our Allies and partners, is responding to the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday.

Psaki’s statement did not specify if Biden will do anything else during his trip to Poland, which has taken in more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees since the start of the conflict with Russia.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Mar 20, 5:36 pm
Russia gives Ukrainian forces in Mariupol until morning to surrender: Reports

Russia has given Ukrainian forces in the besieged city of Mariupol until Monday at 4 a.m. local time to surrender, according to reports.

Gen. Col. Mikhail Mizintsev, a senior Russian commander, warned the city’s local authorities, including the mayor, that if they do not surrender they will face a “military tribunal,” according to Russian state media.

He called on the official authorities in Kyiv to “see reason” and to cancel orders given earlier that he said oblige Ukrainian fighters “to sacrifice themselves and to become the ’martyrs of Mariupol.’”

Russian forces have been trying to push deep into Mariupol, engaging in street-to-street fighting while indiscriminately bombarding the city. Ukrainian troops defending the city are believed to be under severe pressure right now.

Mizintsev said Russia has proposed opening humanitarian corridors beginning at 9 a.m. Monday to allow Ukrainian troops and civilians to leave Mariupol.

He claims Russia’s goals in the city are “purely humanitarian” and repeated Russia’s false claims that it was Ukrainian “nationalist” forces that have destroyed several major civilian buildings, which in reality have been struck directly by Russian air and missile strikes.

“We call on the units of the Ukrainian armed forces, the battalions of the Territorial Defense, foreign mercenaries, to cease military action, lay down their arms and to leave for the territories controlled by Kyiv via the humanitarian corridors agreed with the Ukrainian side,” Mizintsev reportedly said. “Moreover, the safe exit of all those laying down their arms is guaranteed and the sparing of their lives.”

Mar 20, 4:27 pm
Zelenskyy criticizes Israel for not providing arms to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed members of the Knesset, the legislature of Israel, on Sunday, criticizing the country for not doing more to help Ukraine.

During the address, Zelenskyy drew parallels between Ukraine and Israel’s challenges with their neighbors and questioned why Israel has not sent arms to Ukraine or imposed sanctions on Russia.

“Everyone in Israel knows that your missile defense is the best,” Zelenskyy said. “It is powerful. Everyone knows that your weapon is strong. Everyone knows you’re doing great. You know how to defend your state interests, the interests of your people. And you can definitely help us protect our lives, the lives of Ukrainians, the lives of Ukrainian Jews. One can keep asking why we can’t get weapons from you. Or why Israel has not imposed strong sanctions against Russia.”

Zelenskyy described the Russian invasion as “a large-scale and treacherous war aimed at destroying our people,” quoting former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was born in Kyiv.

“We intend to remain alive. Our neighbors want to see us dead,” Zelenskyy said. “This is not a question that leaves much room for compromise.”

During Zelensky’s speech, the Knesset’s cyber unit and the National Cyber Directorate fought off a number of cyberattacks aimed at interrupting the live-streamed speech, the Jerusalem Post reported, citing the Knesset.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

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