Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin in a video released in the early hours of Saturday morning. He called for "meaningful" peace talks between Kiev and Moscow to finally end the war.
The call for peace came hours after Russian troops tightened their siege of the city of Mariupol. A strategic enclave in southern Ukraine, it has been resisting heavy shelling for weeks.
During the speech, the Ukrainian president cited the heavy financial and military losses Russia risks if it continues the invasion, and warned that it would take "generations" for the country to recover. Zelensky made no concessions, calling for the restoration of Ukraine's 'territorial integrity'.
Moscow and Kiev have been meeting for weeks without reaching any common ground. Despite reports this week that negotiations were progressing and proposals for a return to peace were beginning to look "realistic", they did not translate on the battlefield. Russian troops have not stopped launching attacks and have continued to block humanitarian aid resources.
In the same speech, Zelensky referred to this situation as "a deliberate tactic" and "a war crime" for which "they will respond one hundred percent". He also reported that there was still no data on how many people had been killed during Wednesday's attack on the theatre in Mariupol where hundreds of people had taken refuge from the shelling. But it did say that more than 130 people had been rescued from the rubble.
A report published by the UK Ministry of Defence has explained that Moscow, having failed to achieve its initial objectives, has changed its strategy and is now employing the battle of attrition. This change will have even worse consequences for the Ukrainian population still holding out in the country. The same report mentioned that the Russian president had increased control over the country's media.
On the other hand, through a Telegram channel, the regional governor, Serhiy Gaiday, reported the opening of a new humanitarian corridor for evacuations in the Luhansk area. Gaiday reported that a "law of silence" would be agreed from Saturday morning at nine o'clock.
The image of urban battles on the battlefield from which both countries were trying to flee is now a reality. On Saturday, several battles were fought in the city of Mariupol. Russian and Ukrainian troops engaged in hand-to-hand combat in the port city, making it the first large-scale battle since the conflict began.
The city is in utter chaos and has become a huge humanitarian disaster. Eighty per cent of the houses have been destroyed, and the authorities have reported that they have identified fewer than 2,500 people dead, but say the figure could be much higher. The resistance in the city is one of the most important enclaves in determining the course of the war.
In the midst of the conflict, the Greek prime minister said on Friday that Greece was committed to rebuilding a hospital that was bombed during one of the Russian attacks. He reported this on Twitter where he referred to Mariupol as "the centre of the Greek minority in Ukraine", and as "a city dear to our hearts and a symbol of the barbarity of war".
According to the latest statements by the Russian Ministry of Defence, the military forces are said to have used hypersonic missiles for the first time. They are said to have been used to destroy a large depot of missiles and aircraft ammunition in the Ivano-Frankivsk area.
These missiles are fast weapons capable of evading detection by missile defence systems. Earlier this year, Russia claimed to be the country with the most advanced hypersonic weapons in the world, and had already demonstrated the capability of these weapons on occasions prior to the conflict with Ukraine.
On Friday afternoon, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden held a telephone conversation on the situation in Ukraine. During the meeting Biden recalled that support for Russia would have "implications and consequences" for the Asian country.
According to a White House statement, the call lasted almost two hours and focused only on Ukraine. The statement said that during the call, Biden explained to the Chinese president "the views" of the West on the conflict, and that he mentioned the "efforts" made "to prevent and respond to the invasion". Finally, the US president stressed the need for "a peaceful solution" to the conflict.
On the other hand, the Chinese defence ministry explained that President Xi Jinping had commented on the call that "the main priorities now are to continue dialogue and negotiations, avoid civilian casualties, prevent a humanitarian crisis, cease fighting and end the war as soon as possible". In addition, several Chinese media reported that "the crisis in Ukraine was something they did not want to see".
Putin welcomes Crimea's accession
On Friday morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a special appearance during a concert celebrating Crimea's accession to Russia.
Eight years after Russian troops seized Crimea, a macro event was held in a packed stadium with people waving Russian flags and showing their sincere support for Putin. During the event, there were several musical performances singing songs praising the Russian nation.
Russian administrations reported that around 200,000 people attended the event. However, this figure does not fit with the stadium's maximum capacity of 81,000 people.
President Putin addressed the Russian nation during this event by making a speech in Russian in which he praised the work of Russian troops in Ukraine, "when necessary, they protect each other from bullets with their bodies like brothers. We have not had such unity for a long time". In the same speech he reaffirmed his position that the invasion of Ukraine was to protect Russian citizens from genocide, and to denazify the country.
At the concert it could be seen that several people wore the letter "Z" on their clothes. A letter that does not belong to the Cyrillic alphabet, and has been used by pro-Putin Russians to show their support for the invasion of Ukraine. It has also been seen on several Russian tanks during the invasion of Ukraine.