No later than 9:40 a.m. ET Tuesday:

  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy is urging Russian troops to surrender before addressing the Canadian House of Commons at 11:15 a.m. ET.
  • At least four people have been killed by missile strikes in Kyiv, the mayor said.
  • Three European Prime Ministers from Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia are on their way to Kyiv for an official visit.

Three European prime ministers boarded the train for Kyiv on Tuesday, the first visit by foreign leaders to the Ukrainian capital since Russia launched its invasion, and a stark symbol of Ukraine’s success so far in repelling the onslaught of Russia.

“It is our duty to be where history is made. Because it is not about us, but about the future of our children who deserve to live in a world without tyranny,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who crossed the border with the Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Janez Jansa from Slovenia.

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Fiala said the aim was “to confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence”.

They will arrive in a city still under bombardment, where around half of the 3.4 million inhabitants have fled and many are sheltering overnight in metro stations.

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Two powerful explosions rocked the capital before dawn on Tuesday and tracer gunfire lit up the night sky. An apartment building was in flames after being hit by artillery.

Firefighters attempted to put out the blaze and rescuers helped evacuate residents trapped inside using mobile ladders. A corpse was lying on the ground in a bag.

The strikes killed at least four people, authorities said as Kyiv’s mayor announced a 35-hour curfew starting at 8 p.m. local time.

A resident is comforted by an emergency service worker in a residential building after being hit by a Russian attack in the early hours of the morning in the Sviatoshynskyi district on March 15 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Sitting on the ground outside, resident Igor Krupa said he survived because he slept under a makeshift shelter made up of furniture and metal weights: “All the windows went out and all the debris got into the ‘apartment”.

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But despite bombardments that have reduced some cities to rubble, the largest European invasion force since World War II has been halted at the gates of kyiv, nearly three weeks into a war that Western nations say Moscow thought it would win in a few days.

Major road and rail routes from the capital are still open, and Russia has failed to capture any of Ukraine’s 10 largest cities.

A man carries an elderly resident to safety after being rescued by firefighters from a high floor of a residential building after being hit by a Russian attack in the early hours of the morning in Svyatoshynskyi district on March 15 in Kyiv, in Ukraine.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Welcoming foreign dignitaries to his own capital would be a remarkable achievement for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who rejected evacuation offers at the start of the war, remaining under bombardment to rally his nation.

In his most confident public statement to date, Zelenskyy called on Russian troops to surrender, saying they and their officers already knew the war was hopeless.

“You won’t take anything from Ukraine. You will take lives. There’s a lot of you. But your life will also be taken. But why should you die? Why? I know you want to survive,” he said.

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One of Zelenskyy’s top aides said the war would be over by May – and could even end in a few weeks – because Russia effectively had no fresh troops left to keep fighting.

“We are now at a crossroads: there will either be a peace agreement reached very quickly, in a week or two, with the withdrawal of troops and all, or there will be an attempt to bring together some, say, Syrians for a second round and, when we grind them too, a deal by mid-April or the end of April,” Oleksiy Arestovich said in a video.

“I think no later than May, early May, we should have a peace agreement, maybe much earlier: we’ll see,” Arestovich said.

Click to play the video:

Major Ukrainian cities pound as more Russian forces close in

Major Ukrainian cities pound as more Russian forces close in

The remarks projected newfound confidence that vastly outnumbered Ukrainian forces have thwarted what Western countries believe is Moscow’s goal – to overthrow Zelenskyy and install pro-Russian leaders in kyiv.

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Zelenskyy, who has spoken to Western leaders throughout the conflict, on Tuesday called on northern European leaders to obtain more weapons to counter the Russian invasion as his forces are rapidly using weapons and other materials. He is due to address Canada’s House of Commons later today and is expected to appear virtually at a joint session of the US Congress on Wednesday.

Russia says it does not target civilians and is conducting a “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to predict the progress of the peace talks, which resumed on Tuesday via video link.

“The work is difficult and in the current situation, the very fact that they continue is probably positive,” he told reporters.

Ukrainian servicemen stand near the rubble of a destroyed building in kyiv on March 15 after strikes on residential areas killed at least two people, Ukraine’s emergency services said.

Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty Images

In the western Ukrainian town of Rivne, hundreds of kilometers from the battle zone, Ukrainian officials said 19 people were killed in a Russian airstrike on a television tower. If confirmed, it would be the worst attack to date against a civilian target in northwestern Ukraine.

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Peace talks have so far focused on local ceasefires to allow civilians to evacuate and bring aid to beleaguered towns.

Worst hit is the southeastern port of Mariupol, where hundreds have been killed since Russia laid siege in the first week of the war. Russian troops let a first column of cars leave Mariupol on Monday, but attempts to bring in aid convoys failed for 10 straight days.

Ukrainian authorities tried again on Tuesday, and the Mariupol city council reported that some 2,000 civilian cars had managed to leave the port city through a so-called humanitarian corridor leading west.

A resident stands in her bomb-damaged apartment in kyiv on March 15 after strikes killed at least two people, Ukrainian emergency services said as Russian troops stepped up attacks on the Ukrainian capital.

Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty Images

While Russia has failed to capture any major cities in the north and east, its forces have had more success in the south, where Moscow said on Tuesday it now controls the entire region of Kherson.

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In an intelligence update on Tuesday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense reported protests against the Russian occupation in the southern towns of Kherson, Berdyansk and Melitopol as troops fired warning shots to disperse crowds in Kherson. Russian forces reportedly abducted the mayors of Melitopol and Dniprorudne, he added.

The war brought Russia to an economic isolation never seen before on such a large economy. In Russia itself, this has led to a near-total crackdown on free speech, with all major independent media outlets shut down and Western social media apps disabled.

Late Monday, an employee of the main public television station stood behind a newscaster and held up a sign in English and Russian that read, “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They lie to you here.

She was quickly arrested. Kremlin spokesman Peskov called his protest “hooliganism”.

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Thirty countries, including Canada, make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but some share a border with Russia.

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According to the United Nations, nearly three million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the war.

“I am fleeing with my child because I want my child to stay alive,” said Tanya who fled the southern frontline town of Mykolaiv across the Danube to Romania. “Because the people who are there now are Russians, Russian soldiers, and they are killing children.”

(Reporting by Reuters offices; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

– with files from the Associated Press