Written by ANDREO ROSE

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Both Russia and Ukraine are optimistic ahead of another round of talks on Wednesday, even as Moscow forces flooded Kyiv and other major cities in a bid to stifle resistance that thwarted the Kremlin’s hopes for a lightning victory. .

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the US Congress via video and, citing Pearl Harbor and 9/11, asked America for additional weapons and tougher sanctions against Russia, saying: “We need you right now.”

As Moscow’s ground offensive against the Ukrainian capital has stalled, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said both sides were “seriously discussing” Ukraine’s neutral military status, while Zelensky said Russia’s demands to end the war were becoming “more realistic.”

Kievans huddled in houses and shelters amid the citywide curfew, which runs until Thursday morning, when Russia shelled areas in and around the city. A 12-storey residential building in the center of Kiev exploded from shrapnel.

Russian forces also continued to beat Mariupol, a besieged 430,000-strong southern seaport that had been under siege for most of the three-week war, fighting for food, water, heat and medicine and forcing graves to be dug. The Associated Press video shows bloodied civilians, some moaning in pain, lying on stretchers in the hospital corridor, and corpses standing outside the wall.

International pressure on Moscow intensified, and its isolation intensified, when the Council of Europe, consisting of 47 countries, the continent’s main human rights body, expelled Russia. And the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, has ordered an end to attacks on Ukraine, although there was no hope that it would do so.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the operation in Ukraine was “successful, in strict accordance with pre-approved plans”, and challenged Western sanctions against Moscow. He accused the West of trying to “oppress us, oppress us, turn us into a weak, dependent country.”

Hopes for diplomatic progress in ending the war have risen after Zelensky most clearly acknowledged on Tuesday that Ukraine is unlikely to realize its goal of joining NATO. Putin has long portrayed Ukraine’s aspirations for NATO as a threat to Russia.

Lavrov welcomed Zelensky’s comment and said that the “business spirit” that is beginning to manifest itself in the talks “gives hope that we can agree on this issue.”

“Neutral status in connection with security guarantees is being seriously discussed,” Lavrov said on Russian television. “There are specific wordings that, in my opinion, are close to agreement.”

Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said the parties were discussing a possible compromise for Ukraine with a smaller, non-aligned army.

However, the prospects for a diplomatic breakthrough were very uncertain, given the gap between Ukraine’s demand for a complete withdrawal of invasion troops and Russia’s suspected goal of replacing the pro-Moscow Kiev government with a pro-Moscow regime.

Adviser to the President of Ukraine Mikhail Podalak refuted Russia’s claims that Ukraine is ready to adopt a model of neutrality comparable to Sweden or Austria. Podalak said Ukraine needed powerful allies and “well-defined security guarantees” to keep it safe.

Another source of controversy is the status of Crimea, which was seized and annexed by Russia in 2014, and separatist-controlled Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, which Russia recognizes as independent. Ukraine considers both parts of its territory.

Speaking before Congress, Zelensky said that Russia “has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people.”

President Joe Biden opposed Zelensky’s request to send military planes to Ukraine or create a no-fly zone over the country because of the danger of war between the United States and Russia.

The United Nations estimates that more than 3 million people fled Ukraine as a result of the fighting. The UN said more than 700 civilians had been killed, but the real number was higher.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer arrived in Ukraine to try to gain more access for aid groups and strengthen the protection of civilians.

Amid a widespread humanitarian crisis caused by the war, the Red Cross helped evacuate civilians from besieged areas and delivered 200 tons of aid, including medical supplies, blankets, water and more than 5,200 bags for corpses to help “ensure the treatment of those killed in dignity.”

Nowhere more affected than Mariupol, in the Sea of ​​Azov. Local authorities say rocket attacks and shelling have killed more than 2,300 people.

The bodies were buried in trenches, and more corpses lay in the streets and basement of the hospital. Using a flashlight on his cell phone to illuminate the basement, Dr. Valery Drangar pulled back a blanket to show the body of a 22-day-old baby. Other wrapped bodies also turned out to be children, given their size.

“These are people we couldn’t save,” Drengar said.

Due to the fact that humanitarian aid can not get on the background of constant bombing, people burn scraps of furniture to warm their hands and cook the little food that is still there.

Nearly 30,000 people managed to escape from the city on Tuesday in thousands of cars through a humanitarian corridor, city officials said.

But local authorities said Russian forces had taken hundreds of people hostage at the Mariupol hospital and used it as a firing position. Officials said the military forced about 400 people from nearby homes into a regional intensive care hospital and used them and about 100 patients and staff as human shields.

The leader of the Kiev region Alexei Kuleba said that Russian forces have intensified fighting in the suburbs of Kiev and on the highway leading to the west, and throughout the capital region suffering from endless shelling kindergartens, museums, churches, homes and engineering infrastructure.

In Chernihiv in the north of the country in a queue for bread killed ten people, according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office.

Ukraine has also succeeded: satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC, analyzed by the Associated Press, show how helicopters and vehicles burned at the Kherson airport and air base held by Russia after an alleged Ukrainian strike on Tuesday.

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Associated Press reporters around the world have contributed to this report.

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Follow the coverage of the war in the AP at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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