Defiant Ukrainians stay put as Russian troops close in on key city

Residents in Mariupol tell ITV News' John Irvine why they intend to stay despite Russia's advancement

"A coward dies many times," a defiant Ukrainian told ITV News, vowing to stay in Mariupol despite Russia's advancement on the city.

The man, stood in a long queue for a partially-stocked supermarket, insisted he would be staying in the coastal city "for now".

"No more running," he said, explaining he had been forced out of Ukraine's Donetsk region by Russian-backed separatists seven years ago.

"There's a saying, 'a brave person dies once but a coward dies many times."

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In the same, somber queue, a mother-of-three joined growing calls for the West to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. If this were to be enforced, Nato forces would engage directly with any Russian planes spotted in this airspace, shooting at them if necessary.

"Please, help us. Help us! Close sky, please!" the woman pleaded, her voice breaking.

Meanwhile, artillery exchanges continued on the outskirts of Mariupol. The ordnance occasionally landed closer to the centre, however, injuring civilians.

Mariupol residents queue for the supermarket as supply shortages are reported across the country.

On Tuesday, ITV News reported on a doctor in the city who cursed Putin as his team lost their fight to save a six-year-old girl.

Medics should not swear, Dr Oleksandr Belash insisted on Wednesday. He reasoned that, in such a desperate moment, he struggled to muster any other words.

Dr Belash said: "As medical professionals, we see death all the time, but then this child came into the emergency room... I was looking into her eyes. I could see the dilated pupils in that lovely face."

He added that he saw his colleague's tears landing on the little girl's chest as they tried to resuscitate her.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said it has seen an increase in Russian air and artillery strikes on populated urban areas in the past few days. Mariupol was one of three cities - along with Kharkiv and Kherson - encircled by Russian forces, the ministry said.

An industrial centre on the Azov Sea, Mariupol is seen as a key target for Russian forces for its economic value and its location, which would help Russia establish a land corridor between the Crimean Peninsula and the Russian mainland.