A Ukrainian MP has accused Russia of trying to starve the besieged port city of Mariupol into surrendering.
Dmytro Gurin was speaking soon after Ukraine rejected a Russian deadline demanding Mariupol’s defenders lay down their arms in exchange for safe passage out of the city.
Mariupol is a key strategic target for the Russian military.
Around 300,000 people are believed to be trapped there with supplies running out and aid blocked from entering.
Residents have endured weeks of Russian bombardment with no power or running water.
Mr Gurin said there was no question of Mariupol surrendering.
“Russians don’t open humanitarian corridors, they don’t let humanitarian convoys enter the city and we clearly see now that the goal of the Russians is to start to [create] hunger [in the city] to enforce their position in the diplomatic process and if the city does not surrender, and the city will not surrender, they won’t let people out. They won’t let humanitarian convoys into the city.”
Under the proposal, which Ukraine had until 05:00 Moscow time (02:00 GMT) to accept, Russian troops would have opened safe corridors out of Mariupol from 10:00 Moscow time (07:00 GMT), initially for Ukrainian troops and “foreign mercenaries” to disarm and leave the city.
After two hours, Russian forces say they would then have allowed humanitarian convoys with food, medicine and other supplies to enter the city safely, once the de-mining of the roads was complete.
But the deadline came and went.
Should Russia capture Mariupol, it would help it create a land corridor between the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, controlled by Russian-backed separatists and Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. So far though, Mariupol’s defenders have stood firm.