A pair of children orphaned during the siege of Mariupol and snatched away into Russian-held territory received a visit from President Zelensky in their Kyiv hospital.
Ilya Matvienko, ten, and Kira Obedinska, 12, both suffered injuries and lost their parents in Russian bombings of their homes.
Russian forces then rounded them up and took them out of the city to enemy territory, according to the President’s official website.
Ukrainian authorities managed to return the children from Russian clutches to the Okhmatdyt National Children’s Specialized Hospital and the arms of their grandparents.
A video posted to Volodymy Zelensky’s Facebook page showed Ilya Matvienko clearly delighted to receive an iPad from his beaming president on his birthday as his grandmother and doctors watched on.
Ilya Matvienko receives an iPad from President Zelensky while he recuperates in hospital. He lost both his parents in the siege of Mariupol and was taken away to Russian-held territory
Ukrainian authorities managed to return the children from Russian clutches to the Okhmatdyt National Children’s Specialized Hospital and the arms of their grandparents
Ilya lost his mother during Russian bombing of Mariupol which has seen over 10,000 people killed – a number that could easily double, according to the city’s mayor, Vadym Boychenko.
If the death toll reaches 20,000, it would amount to almost 5 per cent of the coastal city’s pre-war population of over 400,000.
In a touching scene, President Zelensky wished Ilya a happy birthday and doctors assured him that the boy would make a full recovery.
‘We are most worried about the children. Children are our future. We will fight for every Ukrainian child to return home,’ the President said.
Kira Obedinska’s father, a multiple Ukrainian water polo champion and former captain of the national team, was killed under Russian bombing. Her mother died before the war.
Her grandfather was at her bedside to greet President Zelensky. She also received an iPad.
The Ukrainian president was also effusive in his warm words towards the hospital’s doctors, presenting them with state awards in their honour.
‘Thank you for your important daily work, for saving the lives of Ukrainians. You are also on your frontline, like our military,’ he said.
The hospital visit would have been welcome respite for the president, whose country faces a tough battle to stop Mariupol from falling entirely into Russian hands.
Russia’s defence ministry yesterday announced a ceasefire around the Azovstal steel plant and claimed it would allow civilians there to evacuate from the industrial area that has been sheltering the remaining Ukrainian resistance in the port city.
But Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Kyiv had not agreed to the ‘humanitarian corridor’ set out by Russia – and for that reason does not consider the route safe for civilians. He added that Russia had breached agreements on similar evacuation routes before.
Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol
Meanwhile, hopes of peace talks appear to have been shattered as Vladimir Putin wants to seize as much land as he can for Russia, according to Kremlin insiders.
The three insiders claimed that the Russian president wanted to grab territory because he felt negotiations had reached a ‘dead end’, The Financial Times reported.
One insider said: ‘There was hope for a deal. Putin was going back and forth. He needs to find a way to come out of this a winner.’
‘Putin sincerely believes in the nonsense he hears on [Russian] television and he wants to win big,’ another insider added.
A third said he wouldn’t sign anything after the humiliation caused by the sinking of the Moskva.
A senior member of the Ukrainian delegation, Rustem Umirov, said: ‘We continue the negotiation process. Primarily — to save more lives of our people.’
Vladimir Putin has given up on peace talks with Ukraine as he wants to seize as much land as he can for Russia, according to Kremlin insiders
‘We will use all the political and diplomatic efforts to stop this bloodshed. But there are red lines we will never cross. Ukraine will never give up its people and its territories,’ he told The Times.
It comes as officials in the embattled Ukrainian city of Mariupol say a new ‘200-yard mass grave’ has been identified north of the city that could contain hundreds of bodies.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko said authorities are trying to estimate the number of victims in the grave about six miles north of Mariupol.
This would be the third after satellite photos released over the last few days have shown what appear to be images of other mass graves.
On Saturday, chilling satellite photos revealed a second mass grave near Mariupol – as Russian forces continued to pummel the last 2,000 Ukrainian defenders trapped in a steelworks in the city.
The photos from Maxar Technologies showed the site at a cemetery in the town of Vynohradne. It has several newly dug parallel trenches measuring about 131 feet long, Maxar said in a statement.
Volodymyr Zelensky warned Vladimir Putin that if he tried to build a Nazi-style ‘millennial Reich’ he would ‘lose’.
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