Ukrainians head to Kyiv in hope of evacuation as Zelenskyy urges Russian soldiers to 'go home'

"There are no words to describe the pain"

ITV News Reporter Ellie Pitt reports on the latest developments in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said efforts are under way to evacuate some 18,000 people from the capital Kyiv and embattled towns near it.

Multiple humanitarian routes were opened on Wednesday, as the leader warned Russian troops against violating the ceasefire - as has been the pattern in recent days.

"We have a short window of time at the moment (for evacuations). Even if there is a ceasefire right now, there is a high risk of shells falling at any moment," warned Yevhen Nyshchuk, Ukraine's former culture minister, now fighting with the territorial defence forces.

The first major evacuation from a Ukrainian city under attack appeared to be successful on Tuesday, after a safety corridor for civilians fleeing Sumy allowed thousands to leave.

Concerns remain, however, for several other key areas in the country - particularly Mariupol which is facing a worsening humanitarian disaster having been cut off from food, water, and medical supplies.

Listen to ITV News' latest analysis on the Ukraine crisis in our podcast:

On Wednesday afternoon, President Zelenskyy said a maternity hospital in Mariupol was bombed and appears to have taken heavy damage.

Calling once again for a no-fly-zone He tweeted: "People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror?

"Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity."

It comes as the World Health Organsation said it has documented 18 attacks on health facilities, workers and ambulances since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Zelenskyy issued an appeal, unusually in Russian, urging the invading forces to "go home."

"Our resistance for almost two weeks has shown you that we will not surrender, because this is our home. It is our families and children. We will fight until we can win back our land," he said. "You can still save yourselves if you just go home."

He also appealed again for foreign air support, saying "send us planes."

Western powers have sent military equipment and beefed up forces on Ukraine’s eastern flank, but have been wary of providing air support and getting drawn into a direct war with Russia.

The humanitarian crisis in Mariupol is 'catastrophic', said a UN official Credit: AP

The UK's Ministry of Defence said its latest intelligence suggested Ukrainian cities were continuing to suffer heavy shelling but Vladimir Putin’s assault on Kyiv had failed to make major progress.

"Fighting north-west of Kyiv remains ongoing with Russian forces failing to make any significant breakthroughs," the MoD said.

"The cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remain encircled by Russian forces and continue to suffer heavy Russian shelling.

"Ukrainian air defences appear to have enjoyed considerable success against Russia’s modern combat aircraft, probably preventing them achieving any degree of control of the air."

Footage shows a hospital being bombed in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv:

In Mariupol, an attempt to evacuate thousands and deliver badly needed food, water and medicine via a safe corridor failed on Tuesday, with Ukrainian officials reporting that Russian forces had fired on the convoy before it even reached the city.

There was some success, however, in the city of Sumy, where 5,000 civilians were safely evacuated in packed buses via a safe corridor.

More than two million people have now fled the war in Ukraine, according to the United Nations. UN estimates put the civilian death toll at nearing 500 - though the true figure is believed to be much higher.

ITV News Europe Editor James Mates reports on Tuesday's key developments as the first successful humanitarian corridor of the war opened in Sumy

Amid fears over civilian evacuation routes, Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company warned radioactive substances could be released from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant because it cannot cool used nuclear fuel after its power connection was severed, Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company has said.

Work to repair the connection and restore power to the plant, which has been occupied by Russian troops, has not been possible because fighting is underway, Energoatom said.

Late on Tuesday, President Zelenskyy released a video showing him standing near the presidential offices in Kyiv. Behind him were piles of sandbags, a snow-dusted tree and a few cars - dispelling rumours he had fled the country.

Earlier in the day, he was praised for his speech addressing MPs and peers in the Houses of Parliament, as he pleaded with the UK for more support in his country's fight against Russian invaders, vowing: "We will not give up and we will not lose."


In Kyiv, back-to-back air alerts on Wednesday morning urged residents to get to bomb shelters as quickly as possible over fears of incoming Russian missiles.

“Kyiv region – air alert. Threat of a missile attack. Everyone immediately to shelters,” regional administration head Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram.

Soon after an all-clear was given for the first alert, a second alert followed.

Although Kyiv has been relatively quiet in recent days, Russian artillery has pounded the outskirts - but Ukrainian officials say they have failed to make any significant breakthrough to seize the capital.

A man carries an elderly woman as people continue to leave Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv Credit: AP

But Kyiv regional administration head Oleksiy Kuleba said the crisis for civilians was growing in the capital, with the situation particularly critical in the city’s suburbs.

“Russia is artificially creating a humanitarian crisis in the Kyiv region, frustrating the evacuation of people and continuing shelling and bombing small communities,” he said.

Ukrainian officials say Russian shelling made it impossible to evacuate the bodies of five people who died when their vehicle was fired upon near Kyiv and the bodies of 12 patients of a psychiatric hospital there, where around 200 patients remain without food and medicine.

In the city of Malyn, to the west of Kyiv, at least five people, including two children, were killed in a Russian air strike, according to Ukrainian officials.


The city of Mariupol has been surrounded by Russian soldiers for days and a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the encircled city of 430,000.

Corpses lie in the streets of the city, which sits on the Asov Sea. Authorities in Mariupol started burying their dead in mass graves while the city endured steady bombardment.

Officials had been waiting for a chance to allow individual burials to resume but with morgues overflowing, and many corpses uncollected at home, they decided they had to take action.

A deep trench some 25 metres long has been opened in one of the city’s old cemeteries in the heart of the city, where social workers brought 30 bodies wrapped in carpets or bags on Wednesday, and 40 were brought on Tuesday.

No mourners were present, no families said their goodbyes.

The shelling has shattered buildings, and the city has no water, heat, working sewage systems or phone service.

Thousands huddle in basements, trembling at the sound of Russian shells pounding this strategic port city.

A girl sits in an improvised bomb shelter in Mariupol Credit: AP

Theft has become widespread for food, clothes, even furniture, with locals referring to the practice as “getting a discount,” as hungry people break into stores in search of food and melt snow for water. Some residents are reduced to scooping water from streams.

“Why shouldn’t I cry?” Goma Janna demanded as she wept by the light of an oil lamp below ground, surrounded by women and children.

“I want my home, I want my job. I’m so sad about people and about the city, the children.”

Tuesday brought no relief. An attempt to evacuate civilians and deliver badly needed food, water and medicine through a designated safe corridor failed, with Ukrainian officials saying Russian forces had fired on the convoy before it reached the city.

Mariupol, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, is in a “catastrophic situation.”

Natalia Mudrenko, the highest-ranking woman at Ukraine’s U.N. Mission, told the Security Council that the people of Mariupol have “been effectively taken hostage,” by the siege.

There is increasingly limited information available from inside Mariupol city, where 10,000 have reportedly been killed Credit: AP

Her voice cracked with emotion as she described how a six-year-old died shortly after her mother was killed by Russian shelling.

“She was alone in the last moments of her life,” she said.

With the electricity out, many people are relying on their car radios for information, picking up news from stations broadcast from areas controlled by Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists.

Ludmila Amelkina, who was walking along an alley strewn with rubble and walls pocked by gunfire, said the destruction had been devastating.

“We don’t have electricity, we don’t have anything to eat, we don’t have medicine. We’ve got nothing,” she said, looking skyward.

Ukraine’s military said its forces continued defence operations in the Mariupol suburbs.

The military said “demoralised” Russian forces were looting, commandeering civilian buildings and setting up firing positions in populated areas.

The battle for Mariupol is crucial because its capture could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.


One evacuation did appear successful in the embattled north-eastern city of Sumy, officials said.

On Tuesday, a convoy of buses packed with people fleeing the fighting moved along a snowy road from Sumy, a city of 250,000 people, according to video from the Ukrainian communications agency.

Ukrainian authorities said 5,000 civilians, including 1,700 foreign students, had been brought out via a safe corridor heading south west to the city of Poltava.

That corridor was set to reopen for 12 hours on Wednesday, with the buses that brought people southwest to the city of Poltava the day before returning to pick up more refugees, regional administration chief Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said.

Priority was being given to pregnant women, women with children, the elderly and the disabled.

Hours before the convoy reached Sumy, overnight strikes killed 21 people there, including two children, Ukrainian authorities said.


Ukrainian officials say two people, including a child, were killed by Russian firepower in the town of Chuhuiv just east of the country's second largest city of Kharkiv late on Tuesday.


In the encircled northern city of Chernihiv, Russian forces are placing military equipment among residential buildings and on farms, the Ukrainian general staff said.

It did not provide any details of new fighting.

Southern Ukraine

In the south, Russian troops have advanced deep along Ukraine’s coastline in what could establish a land bridge to Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian general staff said Russians dressed in civilian clothes are advancing on the city of Mykolaiv.

It did not provide any details of new fighting.