Thousands were hoping the six humanitarian corridors agreed on so far would hold during an expected daylong cease-fire in these areas Thursday _ even as talks for a broad truce failed.
A Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital in the port city of Mariupol that killed three people Wednesday, including a child, has drawn outrage, with Ukrainian and Western officials branding it a war crime. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on a visit to Poland Thursday embraced calls for an international investigation, though she stopped short of directly accusing Russia of having committed war crimes.
``We'll pray we can get people out of Mariupol,'' Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
The foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia met Thursday in Turkey in their highest-level talks thus far, but it appeared little progress was made at the meeting. The two-week-long war has forced 2 million people to flee the country, half of them children.
Here's a look at key things to know about the war:
WHAT HAS THE AP DIRECTLY WITNESSED OR CONFIRMED?
In AP video of Wednesday's airstrike on a maternity ward in Mariupol, the wounded streaming out of the hospital included women waiting to give birth, children and doctors.
Rescue workers evacuated the injured, including a pregnant woman on a stretcher. Her face was pale and she grabbed her belly before she was loaded into an ambulance. Outside the hospital, a woman holding a small child cried while a Ukrainian soldier bandaged another woman's head.
The World Health Organization says it has confirmed 18 attacks on medical facilities since the Russian invasion began two weeks ago.
Workers in Mariupol on Wednesday also unceremoniously buried at least 70 people, some soldiers and some civilians, in a trench dug in a cemetery in the heart of the city. Some had died from the war, others of natural causes.
AP photographers and journalists documented civilians from towns northwest of the capital making their way toward Kyiv on Wednesday through a humanitarian corridor. With sporadic gunfire echoing behind them, firefighters dragged an elderly man to safety in a wheelbarrow, a child gripped the hand of a helping soldier, and a woman inched her way along, cradling a fluffy cat inside her winter coat.
ARE PEOPLE BEING SAFELY EVACUATED?
The Mariupol city council posted a video Thursday showing buses driving down a highway, saying a convoy bringing food and medicine was trying to reach the city. That convoy could be used to ferry back evacuated citizens.
There are plans to also evacuate civilians from other cities, including Izyum and Volnovakha, on Thursday.
Ukraine's president said three humanitarian corridors operated on Wednesday out of Sumy in the northeast near the Russian border, from suburbs of Kyiv and from Enerhodar, the southern town where Russian forces took over a large nuclear plant.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING ON THE GROUND?
Russian forces have captured several cities in the Kyiv suburbs and are still trying to take Chernihiv in the north, as well as advance on the cities of Mykolaiv, Kryviy Rih, Voznesensk and Novovorontsovka in the south, the general staff of Ukraine's armed forces said Thursday.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said Thursday that about 2 million people _ half the residents of the Ukrainian capital's metropolitan area _ have left the city, which has become virtually a a fortress.
``Every street, every house . is being fortified,'' he said in televised remarks. ``Even people who in their lives never intended to change their clothes, now they are in uniform with machine guns in their hands.''
Civilian authorities reported Russian bombing overnight in the suburbs of Kyiv, and two other cities, as well as artillery fire on Kharkiv, the country's second largest city, in the east.
Russia has deployed more than 150,000 troops and retains large and possibly decisive advantages in firepower, despite facing fierce Ukrainian resistance and global financial pressure aimed at crippling its economy.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk pleaded Thursday with the Russian military to allow access for repair crews to restore electricity to the Chernobyl nuclear plant, and to fix a damaged gas pipeline that has cut off heat from Mariupol and other towns in the south.
WHAT DEFENSIVE ASSISTANCE IS UKRAINE GETTING?
European nations have sent weapons to Ukraine's military. Furthermore, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill Wednesday night that would rush $13.6 billion in American aid to Ukraine and its European allies, nearly half of that for sending troops and weapons to Eastern Europe and equipping allied forces there. The bill is expected to pass through the Senate as well in the coming days.
NATO and Washington, however, have rejected the idea of a ``no-fly zone'' over Ukraine to suppress Russia's Air Force as an unnecessary risk of escalation. The Pentagon also slammed the door on a Polish proposal for providing Ukraine with fighter jets.
The Ukrainian government says about 20,000 foreigners have joined the so-called the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine, where they are given weapons to fight when they arrive.
Several thousand U.S. citizens have requested to join the war in Ukraine, but there is concern among independent security experts that the fighting could also draw more white supremacists, who are believed to be fighting on both sides of the conflict.
WHAT'S THE VIEW FROM INSIDE RUSSIA?
Scattered protests against the war continue in the country, but people in Russia are losing sources of information about what is happening.
The U.K. announced asset freezes and a ban on travel to the U.K. on seven wealthy Russians, including Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who was trying to sell the Premier League club in anticipation of sanctions.
The list of companies halting operations in Russia grew Thursday to include German fashion brand Hugo Boss, which has temporarily closed its stores, and the U.S. Hilton hotel chain, which is closing its corporate office in Moscow and suspending new hotel development in Russia. Hilton's 26 hotels in Russia, which remain open, are owned and operated by franchisees.
Already, Heineken, Universal Music, Discovery TV, McDonald's, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and General Electric have suspended operations in Russia. Amazon too is suspending shipments of goods sold on its website to Russia and Belarus.