Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Desperate new attempts to evacuate civilians from towns and villages around Kyiv are under way

Fresh attempts to evacuate civilians from cities under siege in Ukraine are being complicated by constant Russian shelling, Ukrainian officials say.

Humanitarian corridors are being set up from Mariupol, Sumy and towns and villages outside the capital Kyiv.

The situation in Mariupol is particularly desperate after two weeks of bombardment, the UN says, with little access to food, water and power.

The evacuations come as fighting continues around Kyiv.

The BBC's Abdujalil Abdurasulov in Irpin, one of the towns outside the capital being evacuated, says it is not possible to say that the humanitarian ceasefire is holding because explosions and artillery fire, including from the Ukrainian side, can still be heard.

Regional officials also said that fighting in the area was continuing and that there was a constant threat of air attacks.

Mariupol Deputy Mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC a convoy had left Zaporizhzhya for the city carrying aid and including buses for the evacuations, but it was not clear whether it would get through.

"This is the seventh attempt. On the previous six it didn't work. The convoys were not let through, they were bombed, the road was mined, there was shelling in the town," he said.

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Watch: Abdujalil Abdurasulov is in Irpin, where people are forced to flee via a makeshift river crossing

Earlier, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said she hoped the day would go well and that "Russia will fulfil its obligations to guarantee the ceasefire".

The UN has said those who remain trapped in Mariupol had become desperate, with basic supplies running out in the city.

"Medicines for life-threatening illnesses are quickly running out, hospitals are only partially functioning, and the food and water are in short supply," the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday.

Speaking to journalists on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that about 1,300 of his country's troops had died since the start of the Russian invasion.

Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, arguing that it felt threatened by a neighbour intent on joining Western-led organisations such as the Nato military alliance.

The latest key developments:

  • Clashes outside Kyiv: Intense fighting is raging on the outskirts of the capital as British intelligence says the bulk of Russian forces are within 25km of the centre. Ukrainian officials fear the Russians may be preparing to launch a large-scale assault
  • Key cities encircled: Sirens and explosions have been heard in many other cities across Ukraine. The besieged cities of Kharkiv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Sumy have been enduring relentless shelling as well as freezing temperatures
  • Fresh air attacks: New artillery and air attacks have also taken place on the cities of Dnipro and Kropyvnytskyi
  • Arms supply warning: Russia has warned that Western arms convoys delivering weapons to Ukraine could be "legitimate targets" for the Russian armed forces
  • Fury at mayor's abduction: Hundreds of residents have taken to the streets of the south-eastern city of Melitopol to protest against the abduction of its mayor by Russian forces
  • New talks: The leaders of France and Germany have been holding another round of phone talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin
  • Exodus mounts: The conflict has now sent 2.5 million Ukrainians fleeing to neighbouring countries. Poland says more than 1.6 million people have fled there, while Moldova says it has reached a "breaking point" in its ability to cope with refugees

War in Ukraine: More coverage