'Mariupol's siege is now a city wide atrocity,' ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports on the horrific developments from Ukraine
Three hospitals were hit by Russian bombs in the past 24 hours in what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described as a war crime but dismissed by Russia as "pathetic shrieks" from Ukraine and the West.
Three people, including a little girl, were killed and at least a further 17 people, including women waiting to give birth, were hurt in an attack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol on Wednesday, which also left children buried under rubble, said officials.
It was the latest devastating blow to the besieged city, where for "nine days, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute Russia destroys and threatens the city," Mariupol's deputy mayor told ITV News.
Bombs also fell on two hospitals in another city west of Kyiv on Wednesday night, as Russia's forces intensified their attack on key areas in Ukraine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday it has confirmed 18 attacks on medical facilities since the Russian invasion began two weeks ago.
In Ukraine, 63 hospitals have been damaged and five healthcare workers killed since the invasion was launched, Ukraine’s health minister, Viktor Liashko, said. These figures could not be independently verified.
US Vice President Kamala Harris embraced calls for an international war crimes investigation of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine the following day, as she expressed outrage at the maternity hospital attack.
Mariupol's deputy mayor, Sergei Orlov, meanwhile, told ITV News Ukrainian officials are "absolutely sure" the hospital and maternity centres were Russian troops' targets, as he confirmed the "awful" number of casualties.
"We're absolutely sure that [the hospital] was their target... it is a war crime of the Russian army" - Mariupol's deputy mayor Sergei Orlov speaks to ITV News
However, he said the death toll would have been much higher had most patients not been hiding out in bomb shelters.
He explained how residents have been surviving without any electricity, water supply, heating, or sanitary systems.
"People go on the street collecting wood, making fire to prepare some food, the temperature is below zero but people are happy because they can collect snow to melt it to water," said Mr Orlov.
Local police have counted 1,207 killed in the city - but these are just bodies on the street, he said. "But I think the numbers are much more - three or four times more," he added.
'What target could have been crueller? Which people more defenceless?': Europe Editor James Mates reports on the maternity hospital attack
Mr Orlov said they are ready to evacuate thousands a day but there is "no opportunity" as he explained Russian troops shell the corridor out of Mariupol.
He said around 100 people tried to leave in private cars on Wednesday, but Russian troops began shelling near them as they reached the checkpoint "to push them to return and go back to the city".
On Thursday, Ukraine and Russia's foreign ministers met in Turkey in the highest-level talks between the countries since the Kremlin launched its invasion last month.
"The temperature is below zero but people are happy because they can collect snow to melt it to water"
Meanwhile Ukrainian parliament said that Russian forces had attacked the Institute of Physics and Technology, which has an experimental nuclear reactor located inside.
The shelling caused a fire in a neighbouring hostel, Ukraine said.
It comes a week after an attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, in the eastern city of Enerhodar, in which the the world "narrowly avoided nuclear catastrophe".
Dmytro Kuleba said talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov produced no breakthrough on ending the war in Ukraine and that Moscow is not ready to offer a cease-fire.
Mr Kuleba said: “They seek Ukraine’s surrender. This is not going to happen.”
But he said “the last thing” he wanted was to kill hope for Ukrainians seeking safe passage out of cities besieged by Russian bombardments and attacks.
The top diplomat said there are “other decision-makers” in Russia who need to be consulted, adding that he agreed with Lavrov to continue to seek a solution to humanitarian issues caused by the war.
'For the Russians to accept a ceasefire now or a peace deal would be painted as a massive defeat because they have not achieved any of their war aims': James Mates reports live from Kyiv
Lavrov earlier on Thursday dismissed reports of the hospital and maternity ward attacks as "pathetic shrieks" from Ukraine and the West and claimed the public are being "manipulated worldwide".
He did not deny responsibility for the attack but claimed the site had earlier been seized by Ukrainian far-right radical fighters who were using it as a base and that all patients and nurses were moved of the hospital before the assault.
This is despite images showing civilians wounded in the attack and Ukrainian authorities announcing the death toll.
Footage shows the injured being evacuated from the hospital which looked after some of the most vulnerable in society
Lavrov told a press conference: "It's not the first time we see pathetic shrieks concerning the so-called atrocities perpetrated by the Russian military."
When asked by journalists if the Kremlin plans to invade more countries, he said: "We do not plan to attack other countries. We did not attack Ukraine."
Lavrov said his country acted on a "direct threat to the Russian Federation," adding: "Despite our warnings for many years, our appeals, our warnings, no one listened to us."
Batting off the West's tough economic sanctions that are already harming Russia's economy and people, he said "we will cope with them" and issued a warning to those who supply Ukraine with arms that they "shall be held responsible for their actions".
The minister said Russia was ready for more negotiations but showed no sign of softening Moscow’s stance.
Putin said on Thursday that Western sanctions were illegitimate and that Russia would ultimately emerge stronger after overcoming difficulties caused by the economic measures.
"There are some questions, problems and difficulties but in the past we have overcome them and we will overcome them," the Russian leader told a government meeting.
How effective will UK sanctions against Russian oligarchs be in hindering the financing of Putin's invasion? Robert Peston explains
He added that Moscow - a major energy producer which supplies a third of Europe's gas - would carry on meeting its contractual obligations.
But warned that global food prices will surge even higher if Western countries step up their sanctions on Russia, which is a major global producer of fertiliser.
Listen to the latest analysis on the Ukraine crisis in ITV News' podcast:
Meanwhile, ITV News has obtained footage showing Russian forces are within 13 miles of the centre of Kyiv, raising fears the siege on the capital cold become more violent.
“Today we must be united in condemning this war crime of Russia, which reflects all the evil that the occupiers have brought to our land,” President Zelenskyy said.
“All of the destroyed cities and everything they've done.”
In Zhytomyr, a city of 260,000 to the west of Kyiv, bombs fell on two hospitals, one of them a children’s hospital, Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn said on Facebook. He said there were no injuries.
President Zelenskyy urged the West to impose even tougher sanctions, so Russia “no longer has any possibility to continue this genocide.”
“There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenceless,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be held “to account for his terrible crimes.”
According to an update from the British Ministry of Defence on Thursday, Russian forces north-west of Kyiv have made “little progress” and are “suffering continued losses.”