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Ukraine has warned the world that President Putin could “destroy Europe” if he is not stopped from waging war in the former Soviet nation.
Oleksii Reznikov, the Ukrainian Defence Minister, appealed directly to Britain and Nato to tighten sanctions on Moscow and offer more military support to Kyiv.
Speaking alongside Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace at the ministry in London, Mr Reznikov accused Russia of committing “genocide” in the besieged city of Mariupol and offered a grim war tally showing more than 150 children had been killed.
“Several small cities in Ukraine have simply been wiped off the face of the Earth," Mr Reznikov said. Destruction on this scale had not been seen in Europe since the Second World War, he said.
He accused Moscow of “state terrorism” and said it was targeting civilians because it is “afraid of our army”. He urged the UK and other nations to work together “to stop the evil that is trying to destroy Europe”.
“This is why the Kremlin must be stopped because it will go further, it will attack others countries,” he said.
Ukrainian troops have destroyed more than 500 Russian tanks and 1,500 armoured combat vehicles, Mr Reznikov said, and killed thousands of invading troops. He praised Britain for its lead role in providing lethal aid to Ukraine.
“Some of them were killed with weapons provided to us by the British government and it helped save many lives of Ukrainians, deter the aggressors and thwart [Putin’s] plans.”
As of Sunday, 150 children in Ukraine had been killed by the Russian military, he said, with more than 400 schools and kindergartens destroyed, and 110 hospitals hit. Mr Reznikov said it was impossible to put a figure on the civilian death toll, as countless bodies remained buried under the rubble of shelled homes.
“Thousands and thousands of civilians were killed. We do not know exactly much, many people are still under the rubble of hundreds of houses destroyed by the Russians,” he said.
“Russia is now committing a real act of genocide against the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. For three weeks, 400,000 citizens have been surrounded without food, water, light and heat.”
Ukraine last week accused Russia of bombing a theatre in the strategic city on the Sea of Azov where about 1,200 women and children had been sheltering. Miraculously, no deaths were reported and efforts to rescue survivors continue.
Kyiv on Monday rejected an offer from Moscow for Ukrainian troops in Mariupol to lay down their weapons in exchange for safe passage.
“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms," Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told Ukrainian Pravda. "We have already informed the Russian side about this.
“I wrote: 'Instead of wasting time on eight pages of letters, just open the [humanitarian] corridor'.”