On Friday, Russia said its forces were “tightening the noose” around the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol, raising fears of mass civilian casualties as the US warned China against assisting Moscow in its invasion.
Russia’s advance in Ukraine has largely stalled, and its troops have blasted residential areas to rubble after being frustrated by fierce Ukrainian resistance. Missiles landed near Lviv, a western city where thousands have sought refuge, on Friday.
Officials in Mariupol, which had been heavily bombarded, estimated that 80 percent of the city’s homes had been damaged and that 1,000 people may still be trapped in makeshift bomb shelters beneath a destroyed theatre.
Nearly 5,000 Ukrainians were evacuated from Mariupol on Friday, officials said, and residents reported seeing dead bodies along the roadside as they fled the city.
“We were careful and didn’t want the children to see the bodies, so we tried to shield their eyes,” said Nick Osychenko, the CEO of a Mariupol TV station who fled the city with six members of his family.
“We were nervous the whole journey. It was frightening, just frightening.”
Ukraine said it had rescued 130 people from the basement of a Mariupol theatre that was flattened by Russian strikes two days ago. Russia denied hitting the theatre and says it does not target civilians.
China is the one big power that has yet to condemn Russia’s assault, and Washington fears Beijing may be considering giving Moscow financial and military support, something that both Russia and China deny.
In a video call that lasted around two hours, U.S. President Joe Biden warned China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday of “implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia” in Ukraine, the White House said.
The White House later said that sanctioning Beijing, the world’s largest exporter, was an option, though it did not detail what constituted material support.
Chinese state media quoted Xi as saying: “The Ukraine crisis is something that we don’t want to see,” adding that the call was requested by the U.S. side.
NATO should hold talks with Russia to resolve the factors behind the conflict, Chinese state media quoted Xi as saying, without assigning blame to Russia for the invasion.