SHELLING has reportedly resumed in Kyiv and Kharkiv as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia enters a fifth day.
Explosions were heard in both cities on Monday morning, according to the Ukrainian National News Agency, Ukrinform.
It comes after the West was accused of "pushing Russia into World War Three" by Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Vladimir Putin.
Lukashenko insisted sanctions being handed down by countries including the UK and US are propelling Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
"Now there is a lot of talk against the banking sector, gas, oil, SWIFT," he said.
"It's worse than war. This is pushing Russia into a Third World War.
"We need to be restrained here so as not to get into trouble. Because nuclear war is the end of everything."
Earlier, Lukashenko had warned the war in Ukraine will "become a meat grinder" if it continues.
"The conflict in Ukraine is the thin edge of the wedge. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. If it continues like this, the worst will happen," he said.
"He (Zelenskyy) will not be hidden in any American or some other bunker. That’s why the war should be ended today.
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"I wouldn’t even call it the war. This is a conflict. The war will last for one-two days, but there will be a meat grinder in three days."
It comes as peace talks are due to be held between Ukraine and Russia, Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed today – despite Putin putting his nuclear forces on high alert.
🔵 Read our Russia – Ukraine live blog for the very latest updates
Diplomats from Kyiv and Moscow are set to meet "without preconditions" near the Prypyat River on the Belarusian border as Putin's invasion rumbles on for the fourth day.
President Zelenskyy's office said Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko "has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation's travel, talks and return."
Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the talks were called following a conversation between Zelenskyy and Lukashenko after it was feared Belarus was preparing its troops to join Moscow's invasion.
In a televised address, he said: "Today, we were as close as ever to the entry of Belarus armed forces into the war. This is why Presiden Zelensky and President Lukashenko spoke today.
"We have to defend our northern flank and we have to minimise the threats coming from there.
"So we agreed to send a delegation to the location on the Ukranian-Belarus border and we go to there to listen to what Russia has to say."
He said diplomats will meet "without preliminary agreement" on what the outcome of the talks can be.
"We are going there to say what we think of this war and Russia's actions," Kuleba added.
"I think the fact Russia wants to talk without any pre-conditions or any ultimatums, without any demands addressed to Ukraine, is already a victory for Ukraine."
Zelenskyy had previously refused to negotiate in Belarus, but according to Kuleba, Belarus' president told him there would be "no such move" as long as the planned talks go ahead.
But Zelenskyy admitted he's not confident of a positive resolution from the talks, saying: "I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try, so that later not a single citizen of Ukraine has any doubt that I, as president, tried to stop the war."
Boris Johnson echoed his concerns as he said he doubt the sincerity of the talks – branding the invasion a "catastrophe".
The PM said: "President Putin has decided to wage a war of choice against the people of Ukraine. He's inflicting untold misery, violence, suffering on a completely innocent population.
"If he wants to stop, if he wants to withdraw, if he wants to negotiate, that's very good news. I have my doubts, I've got to tell you. There's nothing I've seen so far in his behaviour that leads me to think that he could possibly be sincere.
"But if he is then we should pursue every avenue, but clearly what needs to happen is he needs to withdraw his war machine from Ukraine."
It comes after Putin put his nuclear forces on high alert just after warning the West "may face the greatest consequences in history".
The Russian tyrant is said to be "furious" he's not been able to subdue Ukraine and lashed out at NATO for its "unfriendly measures" he says forced him into the chilling nuclear gamble.
The move means Putin has ordered the world's largest stockpile of nuclear warheads prepared for launched readiness – raising the terrifying possibility the crisis and a miscalculation could spill over into nuclear war.
In an address on state TV, Putin claimed aggressive statements by NATO leaders and economic sanctions against Moscow have forced his hand.
He said "not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures" such as "illegal sanctions" but "top officials of leading NATO countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements with regards to our country".
Putin said he has now ordered his military command to put Russia's deterrence forces – a reference to units which include nuclear arms – on high alert.
"I order the defence minister and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service," Putin said.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has tonight described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “a disastrous, misbegotten venture by President Putin” which “can lead to no good” for Russia.
The PM told the Ukrainian Cathedral of the Holy Family that he holds "no hostility" to the Russian people but there is "no possible excuse" for its leadership to choose to invade Ukraine.
He said: "I'm going to stress that there is no hostility in my heart towards the Russian people, none whatever – quite the reverse.
Latest in Ukraine…
- Ukrainian troops have destroyed a convoy of Russian special forces made up of Chechen fighters
- Fierce fighting has been taking place in Kharkiv where Ukrainian commanders say they are in "full control"
- A blitz from Russian forces to hold a crucial road junction five miles west of Kyiv city centre was beaten off
- Soldiers thought to have been killed after telling Russians to "go f**k yourselves" may still be alive
- Missiles rained down on the country in the fourth night of war
- Western allies agreed to boot Russian banks out of the Swift system
- Roman Abramovich gave up control of Chelsea football club
- Freedom fighters from around the world were invited to join Ukraine’s army today and take on Putin's troops.
- A former Miss Ukraine "has taken up arms" to fight against the Russian invasion
"My heart aches for the Russian parents who are already losing their children in this vicious and appalling war – just as it aches for the civilians and the people of Ukraine.
"But when it comes to the Russian leadership who chose this path of violence, and I stress chose this path of violence and aggression, there can be no possible excuse.
"And never in all my study or memory of politics and international affairs have I seen so clear a distinction between right and wrong, between good and evil, between light and dark. And that is the real reason why is Ukraine is our neighbour today."
Mr Johnson said the UK will be “very generous” over Ukrainian refugees coming to Britain, with a system that lets people enter the country when they are in fear of persecution, to reunite with family or “other purposes”.
He added that Putin putting Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert was “a distraction from the reality of what’s going on in Ukraine” and praised Ukrainians for “fighting back perhaps with more effect, with more resistance, than the Kremlin had bargained for”.
Meanwhile, the UK is to provide a further £40million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, the Government has announced.
Downing Street said the funding will help aid agencies respond to the deteriorating humanitarian situation, creating access to basic necessities and medical supplies such as medicines, syringes, dressings and wound care packs.
The PM tonight held another call with President Zelenskyy, who said he believed the next 24 hours was a "crucial period" for Ukraine.
A No10 spokesperson added: "The Prime Minister said he would do all he could to help ensure defensive aid from the UK and allies reached Ukraine."
Ahead of his invasion of Ukraine, Putin chillingly warned Russia is "today one of the most powerful nuclear powers".
"To anyone who would consider interfering from outside -if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history," he said.
In response, the US rejected Putin's claims and its Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called his move "unacceptable".
"It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable and we have to continue to stem his actions in the strongest possible way," she said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Putin's response was familiar and "we've seen him do this time and time again".
"At no point has Russia been under threat from Nato, has Russia been under threat from Ukraine," she said.
"This is all a pattern from President Putin and we're going to stand up to it."
On the fourth day of the invasion, hero Ukrainian troops and civilians are scrambling to beat off the Russian invaders.
It comes after a day of fighting during which Russian troops failed to capture the capital.
Shells rained down across Ukraine following the invasion – as the battle for the capital, Kyiv, stretched into a fourth day.
The city awoke to more air raid sirens after missile attacks that turned the sky orange during what Zelenskyy said was a "brutal" night.
And Ukrainian forces are battling the Russian invaders on the streets of Kharkiv and remain in "full control", local commanders say.
In a statement on Sunday, Ukraine's armed forces said it had suffered a "difficult time" as "occupiers continue shelling in almost all directions".
A statement from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said: "The Air Force confronts the aggressor both in the sky and on the ground."
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