Russian president Vladimir Putin has vowed to achieve all the aims of his "noble" war in Ukraine and said diplomacy on the conflict is at a "dead end", as Kyiv urged the West to send more arms and sanction Moscow's entire banking and energy sectors to end Kremlin aggression.
Ukrainian officials are calling on residents of the Donbas region to evacuate amid increasing artillery fire and fears of a major Russian assault on the eastern area, and they say evidence is mounting that Moscow’s forces have committed heinous crimes during an invasion that Mr Putin launched on February 24th.
“The aims are absolutely clear and noble,” Mr Putin said during a visit to a Russian cosmodrome on Tuesday.
Mr Putin again depicted Ukraine, a pro-western democracy, as a hotbed of "nationalism and neo-Nazism" that was being used by the West as a 'bridgehead" to threaten Russia. He also repeated unfounded claims that Russian speakers in the Donbas region were being subjected to "genocide" by the authorities in Kyiv.
“A clash with these forces was unavoidable for Russia . . . it was just a matter of time. What we are doing is helping people and saving them from genocide on the one hand, and on the other hand we are taking measures to ensure the security of Russia itself,” he said.
“It is clear that we had no other choice. It is the correct step and there is absolutely no doubt that the aims will be achieved.”
Russia’s autocratic leader of 22 years also accused Ukraine of creating a “dead-end situation” by changing its position in talks on the conflict, and insisted that sweeping western sanctions could not marginalise his vast country or force it to switch course.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy once again urged western allies to send more heavy weapons to his country and tighten sanctions on Russia's banks and its immense oil and gas sector, which supplies much of the European Union's energy.
He said the EU must use its next package of sanctions against Russia “to make really powerful decisions . . . It must include oil there. It must impose sanctions on Russian banks – on all of them, not just some.
“Specific deadlines must finally be set for each EU state to really abandon or at least significantly limit the consumption of Russian gas, oil, etc. Only then will the Russian leadership come to the conclusion that real peace must be sought, and that war is above all a catastrophe for them.”
Meanwhile on Tuesday US president Joe Biden has appeared to describe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as ”genocide” for the first time.
Mr Biden has previously criticised Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a war criminal after atrocities were uncovered in the town of Bucha.
However the White House had appeared reluctant to use the term “genocide”.
In a speech in Iowa on the US economy on Tuesday Mr Biden said that Americans’ ability to pay for gasoline should not hinge on whether a dictator “commits genocide” half a world away.
Afterwards, Mr Biden stood by his characterisation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “genocide”, saying the Russian president “is trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian.”
“I called it genocide because it has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian and the evidence is mounting,” Biden told reporters as he prepared to board Air Force One to return to Washington after an event on the economy in Iowa. “We’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me,” he said. – Additional reporting: Reuters