The Russian army said Monday that Ukrainian civilians could ‘freely’ leave the country’s capital Kyiv along the Kyiv-Vasylkiv highway as it was ‘open and safe’. 

“All civilians in the city can freely leave the Ukrainian capital along the Kyiv-Vasylkiv highway. This direction is open and safe,” Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on television, news agency AFP reported.

Russia launched a massive invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday, after months of military build-up at the border and heightening suspicion of war by the West. Moscow’s aggression is considerably the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.

Also Read: Ukraine guards block path of Moscow tanks moving towards Kyiv. Watch

Russian forces on Friday closed in on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in an apparent encircling movement after a barrage of airstrikes on cities and military bases around the country. 

Ukraine agreed to hold talks with Russia on Sunday, soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered defense chiefs to put nuclear ‘deterrence forces’ on high alert. 

According to AFP, Kyiv has demanded an ‘immediate ceasefire’ and withdrawal of Russian troops ahead of the negotiations between the two sides slated to be held today in Belarus. Further, the US White House has claimed that Russia’s force has lost momentum and is facing logistical and supply problems – a charge that the Russian military denied by claiming air superiority.

The United Kingdom‘s defence ministry confirmed this in a report by Reuters as well, saying that Russia’s advance on capital Kyiv had been delayed by logistical problems and dogged resistance from the Ukrainian military.

Also Read: Ukraine: Google Maps disables features, citizens alter road signs to halt Russians

More than 190 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the first four days of the invasion, Ukraine’s health ministry said. As many as 352 civilians have been killed in Ukraine, including 14 children, and 1,684 people, including 116 children, have been wounded, Kyiv reported on Monday.  

Both death tolls are likely to be higher. 

Meanwhile, the General Assembly, as well as the Security Council of the United Nations (UN), are expected to hold two separate meetings on Monday over Russia’s attack. This is a reflection of widespread international demands for an immediate cease-fire and escalating concern for the plight of millions of Ukrainians caught up in the war, reported AP.