KYIV, TGO: Putin’s latest rhetorical escalation of tensions came after an effort to evacuate civilians from Mariupol was suspended when Ukraine said Russian forces violated a temporary cease-fire.
Russian President Vladimir Putin likened Western sanctions to a declaration of war Saturday and warned that any move to create a no-fly zone above Ukraine would be viewed as “participation” in the conflict.
Putin’s latest rhetorical escalation of tensions came hours after an effort to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol was suspended when Ukraine said Russian forces violated a temporary cease-fire with an ongoing barrage of shelling.
The apparent collapse of the first agreement to create humanitarian corridors in the country underscored the perilous existence of civilians facing a Russian assault that has brought death and destruction to its democratic neighbor.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy continued his efforts Saturday to bolster support for his embattled country and for added pressure on Russia.
On a video conference call with about 300 members of Congress on Saturday morning, Zelenskyy doubled down on the need to establish a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace, multiple sources on the call told reporters.
He also requested that Visa and Mastercard suspend operations in Russia, according to three people on the call, which both financial services corporations did Saturday.
President Joe Biden and Zelenskyy spoke for about 30 minutes Saturday evening, and Biden said the decision by Visa and Mastercard was welcomed, according to a readout of the call provided by the White House.
Zelenskyy said in a tweet that the two presidents had discussed issues of security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions.