Kremlin says ‘Ukraine air strike on Belgorod’ will hinder peace talks

President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Russia is consolidating and preparing “powerful strikes” in the country’s south, including besieged Mariupol, where a new attempt will be made on Friday to evacuate civilians from the devastated city.

In peace talks this week, Russia said it would scale back attacks on the capital Kyiv and the city of Chernihiv, but Ukrainian and Western officials have dismissed the pledge, saying Moscow’s troops were merely regrouping.

“This is part of their tactics,” said Mr Zelensky in a late-night address.

“We know that they are moving away from the areas where we are beating them to focus on others that are very important… where it can be difficult for us,” he said.

In particular, he warned, the situation in the country’s south was “very difficult”.

“In Donbas and Mariupol, in the Kharkiv direction, the Russian army is accumulating the potential for attacks, powerful attacks,” he said.