Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hits an impasse amid fierce fighting and looming peace talks

Nearly 5,000 people have been killed and 160,000 remain trapped inside the city of Mariupol without heat, water or electricity. Ukraine said the city is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, but no evacuation corridors were agreed on Monday, fearing Russia would launch attacks on anyone trying to flee. Special correspondent Jack Hewson reports from Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Biden today stood by his comments over the weekend that Russia's Vladimir Putin — quote — "cannot remain in power" — end quote.

    Mr. Biden was asked about that this afternoon, and again insisted his remarks were not a call for regime change. Instead he said he was expressing his moral outrage.

    Meantime, in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was open to discussing neutrality for his nation, in exchange for a cease-fire, nearly five weeks into the Russian invasion.

    But we begin again with the astonishing carnage and destruction wrought by Russia.

    From Eastern Ukraine special correspondent Jack Hewson begins our coverage.

  • Jack Hewson:

    This city in ruins and under siege continues to suffer unspeakable horrors. Displaced residents of Mariupol despair at the destruction when they return to their homes, now rubble.

  • Valentina, Mariupol Resident (through translator):

    I have lived here since my birth, my husband as well. We got married here and had babies. What now? What is left for us? I don't want to go anywhere from Mariupol, but there's nowhere to live here.

  • Jack Hewson:

    For many, there's also nowhere else to go. According to local officials, nearly 5,000 people have been killed and 160,000 remain trapped inside the city, without heat, water or electricity.

    Calling for a complete evacuation, the mayor said Mariupol is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. Those who've managed to escape and reached the Polish border recount what life is like under siege.

  • Alina Beskrovna, Mariupol Refugee:

    We melt snow to have at least something to drink. We cook on open fires under shelling and bombs, just, because if you don't, you will have nothing to eat.

  • Jack Hewson:

    A senior U.S. defense official said today Russia is making the most progress in the southeast. Taking Mariupol could allow Russia to secure a land corridor between Crimea and the Donbass region.

    The official also said Russian forces are likely trying to cut off the Donbass from the north, as troops move south from Kharkiv to Izyum. But, near Kyiv, Russian troops have stopped their advances. Instead, Ukrainian resistance continues to be determined. The mayor of Irpin, a Kyiv suburb, said today Ukrainian troops retook the city.

    Oleksandr Markushyn, Mayor of Irpin, Ukraine (through translator): We have good news today. Irpin has been liberated today. Irpin is Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine, glory to heroes.

  • Jack Hewson:

    On the diplomatic front, the outlook seemed less promising. Ukrainian and Russian delegations arrived in Turkey for peace talks that could begin tomorrow.

    President Volodymyr Zelenskyy again said he could consider giving up Ukraine's bid to join NATO and compromise over the status of the Donbass region. But he said there could be no peace deal until Russian troops withdraw.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President (through translator):

    Who will sit down for talks if the Russian troops are here? Who will sign anything? Nobody.

  • Jack Hewson:

    Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, also dampened any hopes of a meeting between the two war commanders if they don't agree on key issues.

  • Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister (through translator):

    Just to meet and exchange views on what do you think, what do I think, would be now counterproductive.

  • Jack Hewson:

    Meanwhile, reverberations continued from the president's off-the-cuff remark Saturday in Warsaw.

  • President Joe Biden:

    For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power.

    Today, President Biden defended his comments over charges they might escalate the conflict.

  • President Joe Biden:

    I'm not walking anything back.

  • Jack Hewson:

    The "NewsHour"'s Lisa Desjardins asked for explanations.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Whether those are your personal feelings or your feelings as president, do you understand why people would believe you, as someone commanding one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, saying someone cannot remain in power is a statement of U.S. policy? And, also, are you concerned about the propaganda use of those remarks by the Russians?

  • President Joe Biden:

    No and no.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Tell me why. You have so much experience. You are the leader of this country.

  • President Joe Biden:

    Because it's ridiculous. Nobody believes we're going to take down — I was talking about taking down Putin. Nobody who believes that.

    The last thing I want to do is engage in a land war or a nuclear war with Russia. That's not part of it. I was expressing my outrage at the behavior of this man. It's outrageous. It's outrageous. And it's more an aspiration than anything. He shouldn't be in power.

  • Jack Hewson:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jack Hewson in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Listen to this Segment