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Ukrainian officals say Russian attack on Mariupol persists as peace talks fail

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Ukrainian officals say Russian attack on Mariupol persists as peace talks fail
A Ukrainian rescue team inspects damaged residential buildings that were shelled by Russian forces in the Zhytomyr region of Ukraine on Wednesday. Photo by Ukrainian State Emergency Service/UPI | License Photo

March 10 (UPI) -- Officials in Ukraine said Russian forces continued to attack the city of Mariupol on Thursday as negotiations among top diplomats from the two countries failed to produce results.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko told The Washington Post that Russian forces had been "firing continuously for 10 days," adding that more than 1,000 people had been confirmed dead as of Wednesday, when an airstrike on a maternity hospital killed three people including a child.

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"It is almost impossible to get an accurate estimate of the victims due to the constant shelling of the city. Some of the dead remain under the rubble or in houses," Boychenko said.

Mobile communication points were interrupted by Russian shelling, and damaged powerlines left the city without electricity, Boychenko said.

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"It is not possible to deliver food, drinking water and medicines to Mariupol. In addition, there are about 3,000 newborns and infants in Mariupol who need special nutrition and medical support," he said. "There is a risk that in the coming days the children will have nothing to [eat]."

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Mariupol's city council said Thursday that Russian forces shelled a theater and a university building a day after an airstrike at the maternity hospital.

"What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, is afraid of maternity hospitals and destroys them?" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late Wednesday.

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A senior U.S. defense official said Monday that Russian forces could be within 10 miles of central Kyiv Thursday after satellite images last month showed a convoy of tanks armored, vehicles and other equipment making their way toward the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine's deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereschuck, said in a news conference THursday that 80,000 people had used humanitarian corridors to flee Ukraine, including 60,000 civilians evacuated from the SUmy region and 20,000 from nortwest Kyiv,, including Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, wile 3,000 others fled Izyum in eastern Ukraine "with difficulty."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the descriptions of the attacks, saying it was "not the first time we see pathetic outcries concerning the so-called atrocities perpetrated by the Russian military."

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Lavrov also said the Russian delegation to the United Nations had offered evidence several days ago that the maternity hospital had been taken over by a group of Ukrainian fighters known as the Azov battalion "and other radicals," adding that "all the mothers about to give birth and nurses had been chased out" of the building.

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Photographs and videos taken after the attack showed pregnant women being evacuated, according to The New York Times.

Lavrov's comments came after the foreign ministers of both countries met in Turkey in the most significant talks since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. But as was the case in two prior rounds of talks, no real progress came from the negotiations.

The peace talks were held in Antalya, a coastal city in southern Turkey near the Mediterranean Sea about 225 miles southwest of the capital Ankara. Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also participated in Thursday's meeting.

While both sides agreed to continue talking, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters after the summit that a permanent cease-fire remains out of reach.

"I will be ready to meet again in this format if there are prospects for a substantial discussion and for seeking solutions," Kuleba said, according to The New York Times.

"We are ready for diplomacy, we are looking for diplomatic solutions, but as long as there are none we will ... defend our land, our people from Russian aggression," he added according to the Kyiv Post.

Lavrov said the two sides will meet "again soon" in Belarus and suggested that a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Zelensky was possible.

Ukrainian security forces remove an unexploded Russian bomb in a residential area in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine on Wednesday. Photo by Ukrainian State Emergency Service/UPI
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"President Putin has never refused to hold contacts, we only want to be sure that contacts aren't held for the sake of contacts but seek to formalize specific agreements," he said, according to the Russian state-run TASS news agency.

"We touched upon this issue today, Mr. Kuleba brought it up, and I reminded him that we always stand for meetings provided that we can achieve added value and resolve issues."

The major sticking points in the talks are core demands from each side -- an immediate end to the fighting from the Ukrainian side, and full disarmament and acceptance of neutral status from the Russian side, with neither side apparently willing to compromise.

The high-level talks came at a time of escalating Russian attacks inside Ukraine.

"Discussed the course of peace talks with [German] Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Stressed the importance of increasing defense support for Ukraine and sanctions pressure on Russia," he said in a tweet Thursday. "Raised the issue of Ukraine's membership in the EU on the eve of the informal summit of EU leaders."

Meanwhile, Ukraine's State Bureau of Investigation said it has opened more than three dozen cases of treason against local officials and law enforcement personnel who are accused of aiding Russian forces.

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"Investigators have launched proceedings against several police officers in Mariupol and Kherson," the bureau said in a Facebook post. "They committed treason under martial law and sided with the enemy."

Scenes from the Russian war on Ukraine

European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo

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