(CNN) — Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed the war in Ukraine is “going according to plan” Thursday, with residents of the key city of Mariupol facing a deteriorating humanitarian situation, as the city remains under siege by Russian forces determined to tighten their grip on Ukraine’s south.
“The special military operation in Ukraine is going according to plan, in strict accordance with the schedule,” Putin said in his Security Council broadcast on state television, using the euphemism the Kremlin uses to describe the invasion of Ukraine. “All tasks are being successfully being carried out.”
His remarks came as civilians in Mariupol were trapped without power, heating or water.
France also gave a chilling warning that the “worst is yet to come” for Ukraine, following talks between Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
Mariupol authorities warned of a “critical” situation for residents amid heavy shelling. It’s not clear how many of Mariupol’s roughly 400,000 inhabitants have been able to evacuate the strategically important port city or how many have been killed or injured.
The Russian assault on Mariupol comes as its forces also fight for control of the Black Sea city of Kherson. The mayor of Kherson indicated overnight that Russian forces had seized control of the city of about 300,000, although claims remain disputed.
The advance in Ukraine’s south shows Russian forces are attempting to create the beginning of a potential land bridge that could link the port city of Odessa in the west, through Kherson and Mariupol to the separatist-held pro-Moscow territories in the east.
Mariupol’s deputy mayor Sergei Orlov told CNN’s “New Day” the southeastern city was now “surrounded” by Russian forces and was in desperate need of military and humanitarian aid.
“Our Ukrainian army and National Guard is very brave, they stand and fight for Ukraine, for Mariupol. But the situation is quite critical,” Orlov said Thursday.
“We are asking for help, for military help, and we are waiting for military help,” Orlov said. “Our internal forces are very brave, but we are surrounded by the Russian army, which has more people in their army.”
Following a 90-minute phone call Thursday between Putin and Macron, an Elysee source told reporters that Putin had said he intended to continue his military operation.
“Without making a prediction, we should expect the worst is yet to come. The (French) President said so yesterday as well. There is nothing in what Putin said today that should reassure us,” the source said.
Putin told Macron he was available for negotiations but emphasized that discussion must take place on the grounds of neutralization and disarmament of Ukraine, the source said.
The Russian leader also said that if Kyiv wanted to talk, it must act now — and if Ukrainians don’t accept these conditions, he will obtain the same result by the military path, the source said. Putin denied having bombarded Kyiv and warned that the situation would worsen, but that it was the fault of Ukraine, the source said.
France estimates that Russia’s military ambition is to take all of Ukraine, the source added.