The Russian army has been given orders to broaden its offensive in Ukraine “from all directions” after Kyiv refused to hold talks in Belarus, the defense ministry said Saturday.
Russian forces have made thrusts into the Ukrainian capital Kyiv before falling back to the outskirts, facing tough resistance on day three of the invasion ordered by President Vladimir Putin.
“After the Ukrainian side rejected the negotiation process, today all units were given orders to develop the advance from all directions in accordance with the operation’s plans,” Russian army spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
The Kremlin said Friday that Putin was ready to send a delegation to Belarus for talks with Ukraine but Ukraine wanted talks in Warsaw instead.
Ukraine says it is being attacked from several sides, including from Belarus.
Konashenkov has claimed that Russian forces have not targeted civilian areas, despite widespread evidence of this.
Ukraine said Saturday that at least 198 civilians -- including three children -- had been killed since Moscow launched the attack.
Russia has not said how many of its soldiers have been killed in the invasion, which it calls a “special military operation.”
Moscow has said that its goal is to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
Earlier on Saturday, Russian forces captured the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported, as Moscow launched coordinated cruise missile and artillery strikes on several cities, including the capital Kyiv.
Later on Saturday, Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that Chechen fighters had been deployed to Ukraine and urged Ukrainians to overthrow their government.