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Zelenskyy says trapped Ukrainians will 'fight till the end,' Pentagon says Russians have been 'flummoxed'

This has been CNBC's live blog covering updates on the war in Ukraine. Follow the latest updates
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Ukraine has rejected an ultimatum to surrender its besieged port city of Mariupol to Russian forces. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Eurovision News that ultimatums won't work as trapped Ukrainians will "fight till the end."

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Ukrainian forces — including civilians — have put up a strong resistance against Russian forces, and the Kremlin is struggling to achieve its goals in Ukraine. "I think what we're seeing here is the Russians have been flummoxed, they've been frustrated," said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.

Earlier, Ukrainian authorities said Moscow had demanded Mariupol be handed over by 5 a.m. Russian forces said they would spare the lives of those who complied with their surrender ultimatum and would allow civilians to leave if their demands were met.

Thousands of civilians are trapped in the city, which is running dangerously low on vital supplies like food, water and medicines.

'Russians have been flummoxed': Pentagon says Russia is struggling to achieve its goals

A local resident walks with a child past a tank of pro-Russian troops during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 18, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Nearly a month since Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian forces have been unable to achieve their objectives, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

"We're on day 26 [and] the Russians have clearly not achieved many, or almost all of the objectives that ... we believe they were setting out to achieve," said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby at a briefing on Monday.

"They wanted to get after population centers so that they could take control of key ports, key cities, key government institutions," he said, adding that the Kremlin wanted to install a government that is "more friendly to Russia."

So far, Kirby said, Pentagon leaders believe the Russians have taken Kherson, and the Ukrainians have launched a counterattack there.

"I think what we're seeing here is the Russians have been flummoxed, they've been frustrated. They have failed to achieve a lot of their objectives on the ground," he added.

— Sumathi Bala