Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has issued a chilling warning, claiming World War III “may have already started” as Russia’s ramps up its attack.
It has been three weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invade Ukraine on February 24.
Since then, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands injured in countless missile and artillery strikes.
The Russians are continuing to face “stiff Ukrainian resistance” on the outskirts of Kharkiv, with frustrated Moscow troops ramping up attacks on residential areas of Kyiv.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed to the US for more military help, while Mr Putin has taken aim at Western “scum” in a wild televised rant.
Read on for the latest updates.
Zelensky says WWIII may have ‘already started’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that World War III may have already begun, following fears from the West that enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine could escalate the situation even further.
Speaking to NBC News’ Lester Holt, Mr Zelensky said WWIII “may have already started”.
“Nobody knows whether it may have already started. And what is the possibility of this war if Ukraine will fall, in case Ukraine will? It’s very hard to say,” the Ukrainian President said.
“And we’ve seen this 80 years ago, when the second World War had started … nobody would be able to predict when the full scale war would start.”
Mr Zelensky’s comments come after he urged Mr Biden to become the “leader of the free world” and impose even more sanctions on Russia.
Mr Biden then announced an $800 million military assistance package, however, the US and its allies have said going as far to enforce a no-fly zone over the Ukraine could result in an all out war.
Putin’s wild rant to ‘scum’ West
Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a furious warning to the West and oligarchs, telling all “traitors” he will “spit them out like a midge”.
In a wild televised address from the Kremlin, the Russian leader claimed Western nations would use “those who earn their money here, but live over there” to divide society.
“I do not judge those with villas in Miami or the French Riviera. Or who can’t get by without oysters or foie gras or so-called ‘gender freedoms’,” Mr Putin said.
“The problem is they mentally exist there, and not here, with our people, with Russia. The West will try to bet on the so-called fifth column, on traitors … to divide our society. to provoke civil confrontation … to strive to achieve its aim. And there is one aim – the destruction of Russia.”
He insisted the military operation was going to plan in Ukraine, despite his troops being held off outside of Kyiv.
Mr Putin went on to claim the West have been attempting to have “global dominance” and have been using the conflict to impose tough sanctions because “they just don’t want a strong and sovereign Russia”.
“Any people, and especially the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish the true patriots from the scum and the traitors, and just to spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouths,” he said.
Heartbreaking message written on bombed theatre
Satellite images taken of the theatre in Mariupol before it was bombed by Russian forces show a short message was written beside building before the attack.
Hundreds of people were sheltering inside the The Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama when it was bombed.
Images before the attack shows the Russian word for “children” painted on the ground either side of the building in huge, white letters.
The number of people killed in the attack is not yet known, with Ukraine’s foreign ministry saying many people were trapped inside.
Russia, which has been accused of ramping up attacks on civilians, has denied bombing the theatre.
Russia’s defence ministry has instead blamed the attack on the Azov Battalion, a far-right Ukrainian militia.
Russia still stalled outside Kyiv
Russian forces have not made “any significant advances” towards the capital of Kyiv, a US defence official told reporters.
The official said troops are “generally stalled” in the north, northwest and east of the city, with troops still 30 kilometres away from the city centre.
“The bottom line is they haven’t made any appreciable progress coming to the east,” they said.
They added Ukrainians are “trying to develop lines of communication to the south and with some success”, with Chernihiv and Mariupol still isolated.
‘War criminal’: Putin and Biden’s war of words
President Joe Biden has branded Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” over his bloody invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
“I think he is a war criminal,” Mr Biden told reporters on Wednesday US time.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was “speaking from his heart” after seeing images on television of “barbaric actions by a brutal dictator through his invasion of a foreign country.”
“The President’s remarks speak for themselves,” she said.
Mr Biden initially answered “no” when asked if he thought Mr Putin was a war criminal, but immediately came back to the reporters to clarify what had been asked before giving his answer.
Mr Putin ordered a large scale invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago, saying Russia wants to force the disarmament of Ukraine’s military and topple the pro-Western government.
Ukraine’s military, backed by heavy flow of Western weapons, has fought back, largely stalling the Russian advance. Russian troops have turned increasingly to bombardments of civilians, prompting three million Ukrainians to become refugees.
Fears hundreds dead in ‘horror’ Russian attack
It’s feared hundreds of Ukrainians may have died in a single attack after Russian bombs destroyed a theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol where scores of people were sheltering.
It comes hours after 10 people were killed in the northern city of Chernihiv queuing for bread outside a grocery store when they were struck by artillery.
Early on Thursday Australia time, the Mariupol city council said the Drama Theatre in the centre of the city had been bombed.
Local politicians said the theatre had been used as a place of shelter for potentially hundreds – maybe thousands – of people who have been under bombardment from Russian
forces for weeks. There is no word yet on casualties.
The city council said a Russian plane had “purposefully and cynically” bombed the building, reported CNN.
“It is still impossible to estimate the scale of this horrific and inhumane act, because the city continues to shell residential areas.
“It is known that after the bombing, the central part of the Drama Theatre was destroyed, and the entrance to the bomb shelter in the building was destroyed,” the council said on its Telegram channel.
“It is impossible to find words that could describe the level of cruelty and cynicism with which the Russian occupiers are destroying the civilian population of the Ukrainian city by the sea. Women, children, and the elderly remain in the enemy’s sights. These are completely unarmed peaceful people,” it said.
“We will never forgive and never forget,” it added.
In another reported incident near the city, Ukraine armed forces have said a convoy of civilians escaping Mariupol was hit by Russian rockets. It’s not clear of any injuries.
Mariupol, in southern Ukraine, lies in a strategically important area for Russia. Capturing it would help give Moscow a land route from the Russian mainland to the annexed region of Crimea over which it has wielded power since 2014.
It’s estimated some 300,000 people remain in Mariupol with food and medical supplies running low.
– Benedict Brooke
Zelensky urges Biden to be ‘leader of peace’
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told President Joe Biden Wednesday that being the leader of the free world also means being “the leader of peace.”
In a sombre address to the US Congress appealing for more military help to fight off the Russian invasion, Zelensky said this war is not just about his country but about “the values of Europe and the world.”
“I am addressing President Biden. You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” Zelensky said, switching to English for the final passage of his speech.
He made yet another impassioned appeal for the United States and its allies to create a no-fly zone to protect his country from Russian air attacks.
“I have a dream, these words are known to each of you today I can say. I have a need, I need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help,” he asked in a virtual speech to the US Congress.
“Is this a lot to ask for, to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to save people? Is this too much to ask,” pleaded Zelensky, so that “Russia would not be able to terrorise our free cities.