Wives and parents of Ukrainian fighters trapped in the bowels of a besieged steel plant in the country’s south meanwhile made a desperate appeal to China to help secure their release.
And the G7 vowed to further turn the screw on the Kremlin with fresh sanctions, pledging never to recognise the borders it was attempting to redraw through destructive force. One of Europe’s fiercest conflicts since World War II has seen more than six million people flee for their lives, and according to Kyiv has caused an estimated $90 billion in damage to civilian infrastructure.
One senior Ukrainian general predicted a turning point in the months ahead, and that the fighting could be over by the end of the year.
Finland and Sweden are poised to jettison decades of military non-alignment to join NATO as a defence against feared further aggression from Russia.
Moscow has warned Finland, with whom it shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border, that it would take “reciprocal steps”.
Putin, however, told President Sauli Niinisto that Finland joining NATO would be a “mistake”, insisting that Russia posed “no threat to Finland’s security”, the Kremlin said.
Finland’s bid to join NATO is expected to be announced this weekend.