West News Wire: Ukraine’s independence is in peril, and sanctions against Russia are tantamount to “declaring war,” according to Vladimir Putin.

It comes as Russian troops continue to shell cities that have been besieged.

On Saturday, a promised truce in Mariupol, which was supposed to allow people to evacuate peacefully, crumbled amid scenes of dread. As bleakness and despair pervaded, bereaved moms lamented their lost children, wounded troops were strapped with tourniquets, and physicians worked by the light of their cellphones.

Putin continued to blame the Ukrainian government for everything and lambasted their opposition to the invasion.

“If they continue to do what they are doing, they are calling into question the future of Ukrainian statehood,” he said. “And if this happens, it will be entirely on their conscience.”

He also hit out at Western sanctions that have crippled Russia’s economy and sent the value of its currency tumbling.

“These sanctions that are being imposed, they are akin to declaring war,” he said during a televised meeting with flight attendants from Russian airline Aeroflot. “But thank God, we haven’t got there yet.”

Ten days after Russian forces invaded, the struggle to enforce the temporary ceasefires in Mariupol and the eastern city of Volnovakha showed the fragility of efforts to stop the fighting across Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said Russian artillery fire and airstrikes had prevented residents from leaving before the agreed-to evacuations got underway. Putin accused Ukraine of sabotaging the effort.

A third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine will take place Monday, according to Davyd Arakhamia, a member of the Ukrainian delegation. He gave no additional details, including where they would take place.

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Previous meetings were held in Belarus and led to the failed ceasefire agreement to create humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of children, women and older people from besieged cities, where pharmacies have run bare, hundreds of thousands face food and water shortages, and the injured have been succumbing to their wounds.


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