THE SNP’s Stewart McDonald has welcomed the launch of a new internation network of parliamentarians to support Ukraine.

The party’s defence spokesperson at Westminster, who is one of the group’s founding members, has urged MPs to use the United for Ukraine (U4U) platform to ensure “warm words on Ukraine translate into action”. The network brings together more than 110 members of parliaments from 28 countries, who are working to provide support both at home and on an international level.

The cross-party, cross-country group consists of European and transatlantic MPs and MEPs, and will aim to pursue “joint political action on EU institutional and EU member state level as well as across the democratic Western world to effectively promote important ideas, actions, and projects, to exchange information, and to engage in broad public lobbying activities in support of Ukraine”.

McDonald said: “The devastating war in Ukraine demands a united front from the international community to oppose, isolate and punish Putin’s regime for its abhorrent actions.

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“I am delighted to be at the launch of the new United for Ukraine network – which aims to bring together Members of Parliament from 28 countries to coordinate and strengthen support for our Ukrainian partners.

“I welcome the unity in our solidarity and support for Ukraine in the UK, but it’s clear that we must see a concerted effort on an international level to pressure Putin further and to ensure that our warm words on Ukraine translate into action.

“The new cross-party, cross-country group will play a crucial role in acting as an international platform for policy makers to discuss and develop initiatives, and I look to working with international colleagues from Parliaments around the world to see what steps we can take to oppose Putin and support our allies in Ukraine.”

It came as Ukrainian forces retook a strategically important suburb of Kyiv, while Russian forces squeezed other areas near the capital and their attack on the southern port of Mariupol raged on.

Explosions and bursts of gunfire yesterday shook Kyiv, and black smoke rose from a spot in the north.

Intensified artillery fire could be heard from the north-west, where Russia has sought to encircle and capture several suburban areas of the capital, a crucial target.

Residents sheltered at home or underground under a 35-hour curfew imposed by authorities in the capital that ran to this morning.

Russian forces also pressed their siege of Mariupol after the southern port city’s defenders refused demands to surrender, with fleeing civilians describing relentless bombardments and corpses lying in the streets.

But the Kremlin’s ground offensive in other parts of the country advanced slowly or not at all, repulsed by lethal hit-and-run attacks by the Ukrainians.

Early yesterday, Ukrainian troops forced Russian forces out of the Kyiv suburb of Makariv after a fierce battle, Ukraine’s defence ministry said.

The regained territory allowed Ukrainian forces to retake control of a key highway and block Russian troops from surrounding Kyiv from the north-west.

Still, the Ukrainian defence ministry said Russian forces battling toward Kyiv were able to partially take other the north-western suburbs Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, some of which had been under attack since Russia’s military invaded almost a month ago.

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s forces are increasingly concentrating their air power and artillery on Ukraine’s cities and the civilians living there.

Wildfires broke out near the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but Ukraine’s natural resources minister said they had been extinguished and radiation was within normal levels.

US and British officials say Kyiv remains Russia’s primary objective. The bulk of Moscow’s forces remain miles from the centre, but missiles and artillery have destroyed apartment buildings and a large shopping mall, which was left a smoking ruin after being hit late on Sunday by strikes that killed eight people, according to emergency officials.

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A senior US defence official said Russia had increased air sorties over the past two days, carrying out as many as 300 over a 24-hour period, and has fired more than 1100 missiles into Ukraine since the invasion began. US president Joe Biden, who is heading to Europe later in the week to meet with allies, suggested on Monday evening that worse may still be to come.

“Putin’s back is against the wall,” Biden said. “He wasn’t anticipating the extent or the strength of our unity. And the more his back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he may employ.”

The invasion has driven more than 10 million people from their homes, a number similar to the population of Portugal and almost a quarter of Ukraine’s pre-war population, according to the United Nations.

Thousands of civilians are believed to have died, though the total remains unclear. Estimates of Russian military casualties vary widely, but even conservative figures by Western officials are in the low thousands. On Monday, Russia’s pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, citing the defence ministry, reported that almost 10,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. The report was quickly removed, and the newspaper blamed hackers. The Kremlin refused to comment.