The United Nations is ready to "fully mobilise its human and logistical resources" to help save lives in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, its general secretary has said.
Speaking at a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Antonio Guterres described the port as a "crisis within a crisis".
The UN and the Red Cross – along with Russian and Ukrainian forces – should work together to enable people to leave "in any direction they choose", he suggested.
Ukraine "urgently" needs humanitarian corridors that are "truly safe" and "respected by both sides", Mr Guterres added.
But Mr Lavrov said talks with Ukraine on such potential developments were unlikely to go ahead.
Asked about the prospect of discussions, he warned of a "theatrical gesture" from Ukraine and said they "probably wanted another heartrending scene".
"If we talk about serious attitudes to work as part of the talks, they better answer our proposals as soon as possible," he said.
He also claimed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had been ignoring Russia’s latest proposals.
‘One thing is true and obvious’
Earlier in the day Mr Lavrov claimed Moscow was effectively at war with NATO and said the threat of a nuclear conflict "should not be underestimated".
The fractious press conference saw Mr Guterres say while he understood Russia has "many grievances," there is "one thing that is true and obvious and that no arguments can change".
He continued: "We have no Ukrainian troops in the territory of the Russian Federation, but we have Russian troops in the territory of the Ukrainian Federation."
Mr Lavrov suggested that leading Western nations within the UN are promoting their own interests.
"We drew our colleagues’ attention to this – this is a dangerous wake-up call for the UN. This is an attempt to cross out the basic rules of the UN charter… and that is the organisation was created on the basis of sovereign equality of states."
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Earlier, Mr Guterres said his priority was to "minimise human suffering" in Ukraine and called for a ceasefire "as soon as possible", while the US said it would "move heaven and earth" to keep supporting Kyiv.
Mr Lavrov said Russia would consider negotiations, adding: "If someone has interesting ideas we are prepared to listen to them."
But it is "too early" to talk about mediators, he said.
Russia’s invasion ‘indefensible’
Elsewhere on Tuesday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Ukraine’s allies would "keep moving heaven and earth" to aid the country’s security.
He has convened a meeting at America’s Ramstein air base in Germany, with defence ministers and top military leaders from approximately 40 countries participating.
Mr Austin announced that the Ukraine Security Consultative Group will meet monthly, in person or virtually, to discuss help for Ukraine.
"We held an important session today on the long term support for Ukraine’s defences, including what that will take from our defence industrial bases," he said.
"And that means dealing with the tremendous demand that we’re facing for munitions and weapons platforms and giving our staunch support to Ukraine while also meeting our own requirements and those of our allies and partners."
Mr Austin also said that speculating about the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons is "very dangerous and unhelpful".
"Nobody wants to see a nuclear war. Nobody can win them. And as we do things and as we, you know, take actions, we’re always mindful of making sure that we have the right balance and we’re taking the right approach," he said.
Earlier, he said that Russia’s invasion is "indefensible" and "so are Russian atrocities".
The United States and Ukraine are "largely aligned" on what Kyiv needs to continue its fight against the Russian invasion, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The US is sending diplomats back to Ukraine this week, he added – initially to Lviv, in the west of the country.
US unsure about cause of Transdniestria violence
Mr Austin also said that the US is looking at the cause of recent violence in the Russia-backed breakaway region of Transdniestria.
"Not really sure what that’s all about, but it’s something that we will stay focused on," he said.
Transdniestria, which is internationally recognised as part of Moldova, has been subject to several attacks in the past day, after a military unit was targeted, blasts tore through Transdniestria’s state security HQ and two explosions damaged old Soviet-era radio antennae.
‘War means war’, Lavrov warns
Mr Guterres’s trip to Moscow came hot on the heels of incendiary comments from Mr Lavrov about a potential escalation of the conflict.
Weapons supplied by Western countries "will be a legitimate target", Mr Lavrov said, adding: "Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War Three."
Accusing Ukrainian leaders of provoking Russia by asking NATO to become involved in the conflict, he went on: "NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy.
"War means war."
But Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Mr Lavrov’s comments showed that "Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine".
He tweeted: "Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine. Thus the talk of a ‘real’ danger of World War Three."
Germany sends tanks to Ukraine
In what may be a change of heart from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a German weapons-maker is expected to be given permission to sell refurbished Gepard anti-aircraft tanks from German Army stock, according to local media.
Mr Scholz had said he was trying to avoid a nuclear war with Russia, although he has come under mounting pressure from international leaders and some in his own country.
Germany’s defence minister also said the country will deliver self-propelled armoured anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine.
Capture of Donbas ‘not inevitable’
Russian forces have now fully withdrawn from around Kyiv and much of northern Ukraine.
The port city of Mariupol is mostly under the control of Russian forces and a large-scale Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has begun, aiming for the "complete liberation" of the Donbas – the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
But UK armed forces minister James Heappey said it is not inevitable that Russia will take parts of the Donbas.
He told Sky News the region will be an "extraordinarily difficult nut for the Russians to crack" and there is "every chance the Ukrainians can see them off".
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