President Zelenskyy vows 'even if they bring a million Russians, they can’t occupy Ukraine'

ITV News Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports on the latest from the invasion, as footage shows Russian tanks firing on an apartment block in Mariupol

Ukraine's President has said Russia will only take the capital Kyiv "if they kill us all" as he remained defiant in the face of continued attacks across the country.

"If that is their goal, let them come," President Zelenskyy said. "If they carry out carpet bombings and wipe off the historic memory of the entire region, the history of Kyivan Rus, the history of Europe, they could enter Kyiv but they will have to leave on that land alone, certainly without us."

"Even if they bring a million Russians here, they can’t occupy Ukraine," he added.

It comes as the leader accused Russia of employing “a new stage of terror” in its invasion of the country, as he said 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have died since fighting began on February 24.

Why are British officials less optimistic about a diplomatic solution following European leaders' phone call with President Putin? ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo explains?

Earlier in the day President Zelenskyy said Russia had kidnapped the mayor of the southern port city of Melitopol - equating their actions to so-called Islamic State “terrorists”.

“They have transitioned into a new stage of terror, in which they try to physically liquidate representatives of Ukraine’s lawful local authorities,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address.

"Yesterday the invaders captured the mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov," he added.

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"The city's community is demanding his release. And this is very important. I am grateful to every Melitopol resident for this resistance, for this position," President Zelenskyy continued.

"The invaders must see that they are strangers on our land, on all our land of Ukraine, and they will never be accepted.

"Throughout the night and today we constantly talk to our partners about this situation with our mayor. The demand is simple - to release him from captivity immediately."

A kidnapped mayor

Kirill Timoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, posted a video on the social media site Telegram which he said showed a group of armed men carrying the mayor across a square.

The prosecutor’s office of the Luhansk People’s Republic, a Moscow-backed rebel region in eastern Ukraine, said on its website that there was a criminal case against Mr Fedorov.

The prosecutor’s office accused him of “terrorist activities” and of financing the nationalist militia Right Sector to “commit terrorist crimes against Donbass civilians”.

The office said it was looking for Mr Fedorov and has appealed for information about his whereabouts. Moscow captured the city, which has a population of 150,000, on February 26.

An explosion is seen in an apartment building after it was hit by fire from a Russian army tank in Mariupol, Ukraine Credit: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

Mariupol crisis worsens

Meanwhile, authorities warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the port city of Mariupol, which has been cut off from deliveries of food and medicine.

Ukraine’s military said on Saturday that Russian forces captured its eastern outskirts.

It came after the Ukrainian government said that a mosque sheltering more than 80 people in the besieged city had been bombed by the Russian military.

An unverified Instagram post by a man claiming to be the mosque association’s president said the building was spared when a bomb fell about 700 metres away.

About 80 residents, including children, were reportedly hiding inside.

Video from the city on Saturday shows a Russian tanks firing shells at an apartment block.

The footage also shows a tank emblazoned with a giant Z crashing into destroyed buses before letting loose a shell.

It was not possible to determine if the Russian positions had been fired on from the targeted locations before they opened fire.

The encircled city of 446,000 people has suffered some of the greatest misery from the invasion, with unceasing barrages thwarting repeated attempts to bring in food and water, evacuate trapped civilians and bury the dead.

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

Mariupol officials said on Friday that 1,582 people had been killed overall since the siege began.

“There is a humanitarian catastrophe in the city and the dead aren’t even being buried,” Mariupol’s mayor’s office said in a statement calling for Russian forces to lift the siege.

On Saturday, Ukrainian officials reported that heavy artillery damaged a cancer hospital and several residential buildings in Mykolaiv, a city 489 kilometres west of Mariupol, with shelling from heavy artillery.

Amid reports of indiscriminate attacks, Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of shelling evacuation routes and preventing civilians from escaping the city of 430,000 people.

Has Russia allowed evacuation routes out of Ukrainian cities?

Despite repeated evacuation failures this week, there was a cautious optimism that some civilians would be able to escape from besieged cities.

The Ukrainian government on Saturday said Russian forces had opened fire on an evacuation convoy, killing seven people included one child.

Which Ukrainian areas are under Russian control?

Moscow has extended its attacks on cities with new targets and more bombings in recent days.

Concerns of a major offensive against the strategically important Ukrainian capital are now mounting as Russian troops are said to be taking up positions around Kyiv.

Air raid sirens have been sounding since 6am in the city, with pictures appearing to show the aftermath of an airstrike on an oil depot which was hit close to the capital overnight.

Can a diplomatic solution be reached?

Three British officials told ITV News on Saturday they were less optimistic than they were, even just 24 hours ago about hopes of an end to the invasion.

One warned the most likely course of action from President Putin would be a "lashing out" in response to sanctions facing him, warning of an escalation.

France and Germany's political leaders held a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin who gave no indication he intends to stop the fighting in Ukraine.

The office of French President Emmanuel Macron described the conversation, alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, as "very frank and also difficult."

European leaders are working on what they describe as a punishing new set of "massive" economic sanctions against Moscow in the hope of getting Moscow to change its mind.

President Zelenskyy on Saturday said he was open to talks with President Putin in Israel ,but only if there is a ceasefire in place.

Ukraine's leader said he had told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he would be ready to meet Putin in Jerusalem. President Putin has ignored numerous previous offers of talks from President Zelenskyy.

Russia takes aim at new targets

Meanwhile, Russian forces have also apparently targeted the central city of Kropyvnytskyi, where ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers says has had its flight academy hit by multiple air strikes.

The Ukrainian chief prosecutor’s office said that at least 79 children have been killed and nearly 100 have been wounded since the start of the Russian invasion seventeen days ago.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Prosecutor General’s Office said that most of the victims were in the Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Sumy, Kherson and Zhytomyr regions.

The prosecutor's office also said that more than 280 educational institutions have been hit and nine of them have been completely destroyed, depriving large numbers of students of access to education.