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President Zelenskyy: Ukraine bracing for new Russian offensive in the east

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday night, March 30, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday night, March 30, 2022   -   Copyright  Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country is at a "turning point" in the war with Russia, and that they're preparing for a major new Russian offensive in the east of the country. 

The leader's comments come as Moscow announced a truce for Thursday, quickly branded a "manipulation" by Ukraine's deputy prime minister, in the besieged city of Mariupol, a strategic port between Russian-annexed Crimea and territories controlled by pro-Russian separatists in the east.

"We don't believe anyone, not one nice phrase," Zelensky said early Thursday in a video address to the nation. "We also see that there is a build-up of Russian troops for new strikes" in the (eastern) Donbass region "and we are preparing for it," he insisted.

"We will not give up anything. We will fight for every meter of our territory," he said in the new video, recorded outside his office on the streets of Kyiv.

Ukraine's leader also made another strong plea for allies to send more military hardware to help them fight the invading Russian army, asking for tanks, aircraft and artillery systems. 

“If we really are fighting for freedom and in defense of democracy together, then we have a right to demand help in this difficult turning point." 

"Freedom should be armed no worse than tyranny” Zelenskyy added. 

Negotiations set to continue on Friday

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are set to meet again on Friday, following an apparently fruitful round of talks in Istanbul on Tuesday. 

However there seems to be little faith that Russia and Ukraine will resolve the conflict soon, particularly after the Russian military's about-face on pledges, and given its most recent attacks.

Russia said Tuesday that it would de-escalate operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations." Zelenskyy and the West were skeptical. 

Soon after, Ukrainian officials reported that Russian shelling was hitting homes, stores, libraries and other civilian sites in or near those areas.

Russian troops also stepped up their attacks on the Donbas region in the east and around the city of Izyum, which lies on a key route to the Donbas, after redeploying units from other areas, the Ukrainian side said.