What you need to know right now By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Ukrainian policeman secures the area at a residential district that was damaged by shelling, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 18, 2022. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

(Reuters) – Ukraine defied a Russian demand that its forces lay down arms before dawn on Monday in Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have been trapped in a city under siege and already laid to waste by Russian bombardment.

In the capital Kyiv, shelling hit a shopping centre late on Sunday, killing at least eight people, wrecking nearby and leaving smoking piles of rubble and the twisted wreckage of burned-out cars spread over several hundred metres.

Russia’s almost month-old assault on Ukraine has stalled along most fronts, failing to seize a single major city or swiftly topple the government. But Russian shelling and missiles have caused devasation in built-up residential areas.

FIGHTING

* Authorities in Odesa accused Russian forces of carrying out a strike on residential buildings in the city’s outskirts early on Monday, the first such attack on the Ukrainian Black Sea port.

* Russian air forces hit a Ukrainian army military facility in the Rivne region with cruise missiles, Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Monday.

CIVILIANS

* Ukraine described the situation in Mariupol on Monday as “very difficult” and said it had been unable to establish a new safe corridor to evacuate civilians from the beleaguered city. Horror and confusion reign in Mariupo, where people are burying dead neighbours by the roadside .

* Ten million people have been displaced by the conflict, according to the UN refugee agency.

SANCTIONS

* European Union leaders began a week of intense diplomacy aimed at agreeing further sanctions against Russia, including a possible embargo of its lucrative oil and gas sector demanded by some member states. But that move looks divisive. Germany is sticking to its stance that it cannot dispensed with oil imports from Russia, a government spokesperson said. The 27-nation EU still relies on Russia for 40% of its gas.

DIPLOMACY

* The Kremlin said on Monday peace talks between Russia and Ukraine had not yet made any significant progress. Moscow has accused Kyiv of stalling talks by making proposals unacceptable for Russia. Ukraine has said it is willing to negotiate but will not surrender or accept Russian ultimatums .

QUOTES

* “The violent aggression against Ukraine is unfortunately not slowing down,” Pope Francis said. “It is a senseless massacre where every day slaughters and atrocities are being repeated.”

* “Kyiv calling to the whole world … Come out of neutrality, you boys and girls,” some of the lyrics from Ukrainian punk band Beton’s reworking of the famous “London Calling” by British punk rock group the Clash.

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