INTENSE fighting is continuing around Kyiv as Russian forces attempt to take the capital.

Troops are moving towards the city from different directions as they attempt to encircle Kyiv, while civilians are joining Ukrainian ­forces building barricades to slow the ­Russian onslaught.

However cruise missiles have hit an airport south of Kyiv and ­Russian forces appear to be ­beginning to ­target residential areas with ­artillery fire. Ukrainian President ­Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a “strategic ­turning point” was being reached in the ­conflict. He added that between

500-600 Russian troops had ­surrendered to Ukrainian forces and peace ­negotiations had begun to look at concrete proposals rather than just ­issue ­ultimatums.

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There are also fears Belarus might launch an invasion of Ukraine this weekend after its president Alexander Lukashenko met Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Ukraine claims Russia fired at a Belarusian settlement from Ukrainian airspace in a bid to drag Belarus into the war.

Across the south of Ukraine the invading forces have made a quick advance, coming west and east from Crimea, while in the south-east fears are growing for the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in Mariupol which is under siege by the ­Russians. The latest air strikes have hit a mosque sheltering more than 80 ­people, including children.

According to the UN, citizens of Mariupol, Kharkiv and Melitopol are in dire need of aid, especially ­life-saving medical supplies. People are trapped without running water, food or power and in Mariupol ­bodies are being buried in mass graves.

Russian forces are also moving ­towards the strategically place Odesa. Taking the city would cut Ukraine off from its coast and create a path from Donetsk to the border at Moldova for Russian forces.

The National: In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook early Saturday, March 12, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Volodymyr Zelensky says conflict has reached ‘strategic turning point

Russia has not renewed attempts to take Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, but it continues to face heavy aerial bombardment. United Nations (UN) prosecutors are investigating possible war crimes after the city suffered artillery attacks on ­residential areas.

Dnipro is also being targeted for the first time since the invasion on February 24. It too is of strategic importance for the advance of Russian troops and is the location of a rocket factory along with other heavy industry.

Aid from Scotland is now ­beginning to reach countries ­bordering Ukraine. Robert Dluzak travelled the 1500 miles from Eyemouth to Poland along with Piotr Dziedzic, who lives in ­Kelso, to deliver essentials to refugee reception areas.

“Just seeing all of these people waiting and not knowing what tomorrow brings – it’s really emotional,” said Dluzak.

Mary-Jane and Mairi Parker from Peebles have also made the trek with colleagues and friends in a convoy of four vans, including the nursery school minibus, to take aid for the refugees to Poland.

Meanwhile, residents in Melitopol have taken to the streets to protest against the abduction of their mayor by Russian troops.

Ivan Fedorov had previously said his administration would not co-operate with the invaders “in any way”. Video footage shows him being led away blindfolded.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said it showed the Russians had moved to a “new stage of terror”, adding that it was a sign of weakness.

In his nightly video address, he again called on European citizens to put more pressure on their governments to intervene in the war and also called for the West to increase sanctions on Russia and try to force Moscow to negotiate and end the violence.

US President Joe Biden has now said the country would move to revoke normal trade relations with Russian and move to ban imports of Russian vodka, seafood and diamonds.

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The crisis in Ukraine as well as the Northern Ireland Protocol is also high on the agenda as Irish premier Micheal Martin meets Boris Johnson in the UK this weekend.

“We will discuss obviously the ­appalling crisis in Ukraine and the immoral war on the Ukrainian ­people,” said Martin.

“We will discuss issues in relation to the North and both of us are in agreement in terms of the need for calm over the next number of months.

“What’s very clear to us is the war in Ukraine has really highlighted the importance and the logic of a very strong constructive partnership ­between the United Kingdom and the European Union.”