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Russia Gives Ukraine Deadline To Hand Over Besieged City Of Mariupol

Russian and Ukrainian forces are fighting for control of the port city of Mariupol, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appeals to Israel for help in pushing back the Russian assault on his country.

In the latest in a series of appeals he has made for help from abroad, Zelenskiy on Sunday addressed the Israeli parliament by video link and questioned Israel's reluctance to sell its Iron Dome missile defence system to Ukraine.

"Everybody knows that your missile defence systems are the best ... and that you can definitely help our people, save the lives of Ukrainians, of Ukrainian Jews," said Zelenskiy, who is of Jewish heritage.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has held numerous calls with both Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict.

Mariupol has suffered some of the heaviest bombardment since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Many of its 400,000 residents remain trapped in the city with little if any food, water and power.

Capturing Mariupol would help Russian forces secure a land corridor to the Crimea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia on Sunday called on Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms in Mariupol where Moscow said a "terrible humanitarian catastrophe" was unfolding.

"Lay down your arms," Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the director of the Russian National Center for Defence Management, said in a briefing distributed by the defence ministry.

"A terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed. All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol."

Russia has given the city until the early hours of March 21, local time, to surrender.

Mizintsev said humanitarian corridors would be opened out of Mariupol at 10am on Monday.

The city council said on its Telegram channel late on Saturday that several thousand residents had been "deported" to Russia over the past week. Russian news agencies said buses had carried hundreds of people Moscow calls refugees from Mariupol to Russia in recent days.

Russian forces bombed an art school on Saturday in which 400 residents were sheltering, but the number of casualties was not yet known, Mariupol's council said.

Reuters could not independently verify the claims.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

Zelenskiy said the siege of Mariupol was a war crime.

"To do this to a peaceful city... is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come," he said late on Saturday.

Putin says Russia's "special operation" is aimed at disarming Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Western nations call it an aggressive war of choice and have imposed punishing sanctions aimed at crippling Russia's economy.

Ukraine and its Western backers say Russian ground forces have made few advances in the last week, concentrating instead on artillery and missile strikes.

The UN refugee agency said 10 million people had been displaced across Ukraine, including some 3.4 million who have fled to neighbouring countries such as Poland. Officials in the region said they were reaching capacity to comfortably house refugees.

The UN human rights office said at least 902 Ukrainian civilians had been killed as of midnight Saturday, though it says the real toll is probably much higher. Ukrainian prosecutors said 112 children had been killed.

In the southern city of Kherson, a video clip obtained by Reuters showed dozens of protesters, some wrapped in Ukraine's blue and yellow national flag, chanting "Go home" in Russian at two military vehicles bearing Russian markings. The vehicles turned and left the area.

Kyiv and Moscow reported some progress last week toward a political formula that would guarantee Ukraine's security, while keeping it outside NATO - a key Russian demand - though each side accused the other of dragging things out.

Russian forces have also taken heavy losses, and long columns of troops that bore down on the capital Kyiv have been halted in the suburbs. Ukraine's military said on Sunday Moscow's combat losses included 14,700 personnel and 476 tanks.

Russia last acknowledged on March 2 that nearly 500 of its soldiers had been killed. Reuters has not been able to independently verify the death count.

In an interview with CNN, Zelenskiy reiterated that he was ready for talks with Putin and that the war would not end without negotiations.