Up to 20,000 civilians managed to leave the besieged city of Mariupol on March 15, which has been devastated by relentless Russian bombardment, Ukrainian officials said, as invading forces stepped up strikes in the city’s suburbs. capital, Kyiv, and that Ukrainian and Russian negotiators were ending a second day of talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire with no tangible progress.

“Today around 20,000 people left Mariupol in private cars along the humanitarian corridor,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s deputy chief of staff, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said on Telegram.

Earlier, the city council said on Telegram that “at 2 p.m. (local time) it is known that 2,000 cars left Mariupol,” adding that another 2,000 vehicles were waiting to leave the port city on the Sea of ​​Azov. .

But the city’s deputy mayor said Russian troops were holding 400 people, including doctors and patients, ‘like hostages’ inside a hospital in Mariupol, while an aid convoy was impeded to reach the city.

The city of some 400,000 inhabitants has been besieged by Russian troops for days and cut off from the rest of the country. Local officials estimate that more than 2,300 civilians were killed in the siege.

Kyiv was under a 35-hour curfew declared by Mayor Vitali Klitschko from 8 p.m. local time on March 15, with Klitschko warning that as Russian forces step up strikes and close in, the capital faces a “difficult and dangerous moment”.

There are “fundamental contradictions” in the talks aimed at ending Russia’s military attack on Ukraine, but a compromise is possible, a member of the Ukrainian delegation and presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak told the end of a second day of virtual talks.

“We will continue tomorrow. A very difficult and vicious negotiation process. There are fundamental contradictions. But there is certainly room for compromise,” Podolyak tweeted.

Zelenskiy has previously called the talks “pretty good”, while the Kremlin said the fact that they are continuing is “in itself positive”.

Zelenskiy is due to address the US Congress via video link on March 16, and he will likely repeat his call for the West to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The President of Ukraine made the same impassioned appeal in his address to the Canadian Parliament on March 15.

The White House has announced that US President Joe Biden will travel to Europe next week for face-to-face talks with European leaders over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden will meet with NATO and European leaders at a special alliance summit in Brussels on March 24, and will also attend a planned European Council summit, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. .

Live briefing: Russia invades Ukraine

RFE/RL Ukraine live briefing brings you all the latest news on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbour, kyiv’s response, the plight of civilians and the Western reaction. The Live Briefing presents the latest developments and analysis, updates throughout the day.

Such a decision is extremely rare for an American president.

NATO’s extraordinary summit will seek to coordinate its response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on March 15.

“We will discuss #Russia’s invasion of #Ukraine, our strong support for Ukraine, and NATO’s strengthening of deterrence and defense. At this critical time, North America and the ‘Europe must continue to stand together,’ Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

Zelenskiy on March 15 urged the Canadian parliament and government to exert greater economic and military pressure on Russia, and asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and lawmakers to help him enact a no-fly zone over Russia. over Ukraine.

“Please shut down the skies, shut down the airspace,” Zelenskiy told a packed House of Commons via video link from Ukraine. “Please stop the bombing. How many more cruise missiles have to fall on our cities until you get there?” said Zelenskiy, who received a standing ovation.

The Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers arrived in Kyiv on March 15, according to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

“Here in war-torn Kyiv, history is being made,” Morawiecki wrote on Twitter, posting photos of himself with his deputy, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, as well as Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and their counterpart. Slovenian, Janez Jansa, during a table with a map of Ukraine.

Russian forces also unleashed new artillery strikes on the eastern city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said on Facebook, and night shelling destroyed a runway and damaged the airport terminal in Kharkiv. the eastern city of Dnipro, said Valentin Reznichenko, the region’s governor.

WATCH: At least two high-rise buildings in kyiv’s Svyatoshyn district were badly damaged and set on fire. RFE/RL correspondent Levko Stek reported from the site of another attack in the city’s Kurenivka district that killed one person and injured 10 on March 14.

The European Union and the United States imposed a new series of sanctions on March 15 on Russian individuals and entities close to the Kremlin.

EU sanctions include freezing the assets of several oligarchs such as Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, a ban on imports of Russian steel and iron, a ban on the export of luxuries worth more than 300 euros and cars costing more than 50,000 euros. ($55,000) and a ban on investments in oil companies and the energy sector.

Washington, meanwhile, has targeted more individuals in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s power structure with sanctions and imposed further punitive measures on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Putin’s close ally.

The US State Department has imposed sanctions on 11 Russian military leaders, including several deputy defense ministers and Viktor Zolotov, head of Russia’s National Guard and member of Putin’s Security Council.

The US Treasury Department has imposed measures on four Russians and an entity it has accused of being involved in covering up events surrounding the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky or of being linked to violations of human rights against human rights defender Oyub Titiyev.

WATCH: A criminal defense lawyer who now spends her days in a hospital basement in Kharkiv tells RFE/RL the mood in the eastern city is ‘incredible’ and she is now collecting evidence of crimes of war.

In a move designed as a tit-for-tat response, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced sanctions against Biden and Trudeau on March 15 alongside several officials.

The measures, also applied to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, “are the consequence of the extremely Russophobic policy pursued by” Washington, Moscow said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Moscow announced punitive measures against 313 Canadians, including Trudeau and several of his ministers.

Russia also circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution demanding protection for civilians ‘in vulnerable situations’ in Ukraine as well as safe passage for humanitarian aid and people seeking to leave the country. .

The draft resolution released on March 15 expresses “serious concern” over the deteriorating humanitarian situation and civilian casualties in and around Ukraine, without mentioning Russia’s responsibility for the invasion of the country.

With reports from the AP, AFP and Reuters