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In Ukraine, Russian forces continue to bear down on the defeated coastal city of Mariupol, with fears the city could soon fall into Russian hands.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that the shelling of the city will not end until Ukrainian troops surrender. He made the comments in conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, the BBC reported.

A man walks with his dog near an apartment building damaged by shelling from fighting on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, in territory under control of the separatist government of the Donetsk People’s Republic.Credit:AP

Russia later proposed a one-day ceasefire for Thursday, beginning at 10am Ukraine time, to allow people to travel westwards to Zaporizhzhia by way of the Russian-controlled port of Berdyansk.

Russian forces were “very, very close” to the city’s center, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

“The place is just being decimated from a structural perspective by the onslaught of Russian airstrikes.”

The port city, which had a prewar population of more than 400,000, has been a strategic focus of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began five weeks ago, and has suffered near-constant bombardment.

Mariupol has been targeted in an apparent attempt by Russia to create a land bridge between the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014, and pro-Russian separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

Nearly 5000 people have been killed, the mayor’s office estimated on Monday, and about 170,000 people remain trapped amid ruins without food, heat, power or running water. Many more have fled. Reuters has been unable to verify the figures.

Russian forces have taken half of the strategic port city, an adviser to Zelensky said on Wednesday. Russia’s defense ministry said it was prepared to observe a ceasefire in Mariupol on Thursday, Russian news agencies reported.

Kyiv has accused Russia of not fully respecting earlier commitments. Moscow denies targeting civilians.

The BBC has reported that Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Russian forces were still trying to take the city.

Safe evacuation corridors have only functioned sporadically at best.

Instead, residents who have been unable to leave the city hide in the basements of buildings and prepare what food they can find in the open.

“We cook what we find among neighbours. A bit of cabbage, a bit more of potatoes, we’ve found tomato paste, some beetroot,” said former steel worker Viktor. His group cooks using a rudimentary barbecue and they sleep in a basement, which Viktor termed their “peaceful oasis”.

“We have nowhere to take a shower, we are drinking water from God knows where,” said a woman named Lyudmila, who was in the basement with Viktor.

“Not a life for a retiree,” she said, smiling ruefully.

with agencies

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