Update(10:21amET): Ukraine's President Zelensky and his top officials have over the past days been very openly urging a US and NATO imposed no-fly zone over the country, which would effectively bring American forces into a direct shooting war with Russia. On Saturday Russian President Putin issued a stern threat to any external power thinking about intervening by sending direct military forces.

Putin made clear a no-fly zone would result in the Kremlin's immediate declaration of war on any country intervening in such a way. The AP reported and translated his fresh comments made before civilian aviation industry members and pilots as follows:

A no-fly-zone would spell war for any third party who tries to enforce one over Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has said.

Speaking at a meeting with female pilots on Saturday, Putin said Russia would view “any move in this direction” as an intervention that "will pose a threat to our service members.”

“That very second, we will view them as participants of the military conflict, and it would not matter what members they are,” the Russian president said.


Further he addressed the ratcheted up sanctions on Russia from the West, which are now serving to isolate Russia almost on levels akin to the US sanctions regimen on Iran - with of course the important exception that the US has not yet directly targeted Russian oil and gas exports.

"Sanctions against us are like declaring war on Russia," Putin said additionally in the meeting with military members.

He further painted a positive picture of Russia's strategy and military operations on the ground, at a moment many Western officials and pundits in the media have pointed out major problems for the invaders as Ukraine mounts a fierce ground resistance...

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The second round of Ukraine-Russia talks which took place Thursday reached a key agreement to allow for the evacuation of civilians in areas of Ukraine seeing intense fighting by establishing 'humanitarian corridors'. With a third round of talks agreed upon to take place at the start of next week, the potential for local ceasefires sparked hope that this could lead to a broader ceasefire over the country.

These corridors were erected in at least two major cities which have been under bombardment by Russia - Mariupol in the southeast on the Sea of Azov, and the eastern city of Volnovakha. The local ceasefires were seen as a significant breakthrough which could lead to a wider pause in fighting, but that appears to have already broken down, after civilians in a city of some 400,000 were only given five hours to exit Mariupol on Saturday.

Shelling in Mariupol. Source: @AyBurlachenko via Reuters

Shelling by Russian forces has reportedly since resumed, with the brief ceasefire now effectively over. President Zelensky's office issued a statement blaming Russia for breaking the deal: "The Russian side is not holding to the cease-fire and has continued firing on Mariupol itself and on its surrounding area," it said.

The ceasefire for allowing the exit of civilians in Volnovakha has also reportedly broken down. "Talks with the Russian Federation are ongoing regarding setting up a cease-fire and ensuring a safe humanitarian corridor," the statement by Zelesnky's office indicated.

Additionally Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, "We appeal to the Russian side to stop firing," according to the AP. Mariupol had prior to the humanitarian pause been under continuous shelling for some 30 hours, according to international reports.

Ukrainian officials say a Russian plane has been shot down in the outskirts of the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv...

Likely Russia sees the 5-hour ceasefire as having been sufficient time to allow for civilian evacuations. Mariupol has been described as under complete siege, and with no water or electricity. Given it's a city of some 400,000 - it's more than likely that many thousands of civilians remain there as the shelling resumes.

City authorities have said they believe at least 200 civilians have been killed since the start of the attack on Mariupol.

Meanwhile Germany has issued new numbers after the United Nations previously reported that over 1 million Ukrainians have fled the war. "More than 27,000 refugees have arrived in Germany from Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, according to Germany’s interior ministry," CNN reports. "Germany’s Federal Police has registered 27,491 refugees from Ukraine in Germany to date, an interior ministry spokesperson confirmed to CNN Saturday."