Authorities in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol said an evacuation of civilians planned for Saturday had been postponed as Russian forces encircling the city were not respecting an agreed ceasefire.
The statement comes mere hours after Russian defense officials announced a temporary ceasefire in the southeastern city of Mariupol and the eastern city of Volnovakha, in order to allow civilians to evacuate the city.
Mariupol’s city council further asked residents to return to shelters in the city and wait for further information on evacuation.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, said the evacuation effort was stopped because the city of Mariupol remained under fire on Saturday.
“The Russian side is not holding to the ceasefire and has continued firing on Mariupol itself and on its surrounding area," he said. "Talks with the Russian Federation are ongoing regarding setting up a ceasefire and ensuring a safe humanitarian corridor,” he added.
"We are simply being destroyed," Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said.
Russia's Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said no one made use of two humanitarian corridors set up near Mariupol and Volnovakha, and accused Ukrainian "nationalists" of preventing civilians from leaving, RIA news agency reported.
In remarks that contrasted starkly with comments from Ukrainian officials, the ministry said that the Russian forces had come under fire after it had set up the humanitarian corridors during a partial ceasefire.
NO TO NO-FLY ZONES
Ukraine also says Russian forces have focused efforts on encircling Kyiv and Kharkiv, the second-biggest city, while aiming to establish a land bridge to Crimea.
Kyiv, in the path of a Russian armored column that has been stalled outside the Ukrainian capital for days, was again under attack, with explosions audible from the city center.
But British intelligence said on Saturday the overall rate of Russian air strikes and artillery over the past 24 hours had been lower than in previous days although Russian forces were believed to be advancing in the south of Ukraine.
Ukrainian media outlet Suspilne cited authorities in Sumy, about 300 km (190 miles) east of Kyiv, as saying that there is a risk of fighting in the city's streets, urging residents to stay in shelters.
At a meeting on Friday, NATO allies rejected Ukraine's appeal for no-fly zones, saying they were increasing support but that stepping in directly could make the situation worse.
"Please close the sky ... because people are dying," said Solomiya Zdryko, 18, who fled from Lviv in western Ukraine.
Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said 66,224 Ukrainian men had returned from abroad to join the fight against Russia's invasion. "These are 12 more combat and motivated brigades! Ukrainians, we are invincible," he said in an online post.
Ukraine's military said armed forces "are fighting fiercely to liberate Ukrainian cities from Russian occupiers," counterattacking in some areas and disrupting communications.
"Units of the invaders are demoralized, soldiers and officers of the occupying army continue to surrender, flee, leaving weapons and equipment on Ukrainian soil," it said, adding that at least 39 Russian planes and 40 helicopters had been destroyed.
Russia said it had destroyed 82 Ukrainian aircraft, 708 armored vehicles, 74 multiple rocket launchers and 56 drones.
Russian forces have made their biggest advances in the south, where they captured their first sizeable Ukrainian city, Kherson, this week. Bombing has worsened in recent days in the northeast cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv.
Russia's parliament passed a law on Friday imposing a prison term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally "fake" news about the military. Russia is blocking Facebook for restricting state-backed channels and the websites of the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America.