Moscow: Russia may still opt to take control of large cities in Ukraine, the Kremlin on Monday, as a time Moscow’s military advances steadily towards several major urban hubs in its pro-Western neighbour. “Putin gave orders to hold back on any immediate assault on large cities because the civilian losses would be large,” news agency AFP reported Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.Also Read - US Military Working On Using ‘Hot Air’ As Newest Weapon Against China and Russia | Details Inside

According to the report, Peskov, however, added that Russia’s defence ministry “does not rule out the possibility of putting large cities, which are already almost fully encircled, under its full control”. Also Read - Sri Lanka’s Fuel Stocks About To Run Dry; Country Doesn’t Have Money To Pay For Fuel, Crude Oil Import

Exceptions would be made for areas “used for humanitarian evacuations,” he said. Also Read - Fresh Russian Missile Strike In Ukraine's Odesa Region, 21 Killed

The Kremlin spokesman claimed that the US and EU leaders seem to be forcing Russia towards an assault of large Ukrainian cities “to hold our country responsible for civilian deaths.”

He also denied reports saying Russia has asked China for military aid. “Russia has its own potential to continue the operation,” Peskov told reporters.

Key Updates Of The Conflict

Russian troops kept up the pressure on Ukraine’s capital and air raid sirens were heard across the besieged country overnight, even as diplomatic talks between the two sides resumed on Monday. Prospects for a speedy end to the fighting, however, appear dim.

The attacks around the capital, Kyiv, came a day after Russia escalated its offensive by shelling areas close to the Polish border, including an airbase critical to Ukraine’s defence. The Ukrainian military said Monday that Russian troops had not made great strides over the past day. Russia’s Defense Ministry says its forces have advanced.

The fighting, now in its third week, continued to exact a human toll. A pregnant woman and her baby died after Russia bombed the maternity hospital where she was meant to give birth. Associated Press images of the woman being rushed to an ambulance on a stretcher were circulated around the world and encapsulated the horror of attacks on humanity’s most innocent.

(With agency inputs)