Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said that the Kremlin’s military action in Ukraine is a “timely and necessary response to Western policies”, PTI reported.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, were preparing a “punishing operation” to intrude the Donbas region of Ukraine, he alleged, according to the BBC.

Russia has declared the capture of Donbas as the primary goal of its war against Ukraine. The Donbas region has been partly controlled by pro-Russia separatists, who have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014. Moscow has already said that it considers two cities in the region – Donetsk and Lugansk – as independent republics.

“In Kyiv they were saying they might get nuclear weapons and NATO started exploring the lands close to us, and that became an obvious threat to us and our borders,” he said.

Russian forces were defending their motherland in Ukraine by securing Donbas, he added while speaking at the Victory Day celebrations to mark Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. The Kremlin has described its actions as a “special operation” to demilitarise and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and Western allies have said that this is a baseless pretext for a war of choice. Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions displaced by Russia’s invasion.

Russia has continued to bombard Ukrainian cities.

On Saturday, over 60 people were feared dead when a Russian bomb hit a school that was a makeshift shelter for refugees in Bilohorivka village, the Associated Press reported.

Ninety Ukrainians were taking shelter in the basement, authorities told the Associated Press. Rescue personnel had found two bodies and rescued 30 civilians.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the bombing of the school as appalling.

“This attack is yet another reminder that in this war, as in so many other conflicts, it is civilians that pay the highest price,” said the statement, according to Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Meanwhile, over 170 civilians were evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks and other areas of Mariupol city in a safe passage operation coordinated by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“I urge the parties to the conflict to spare no effort to secure safe passage for all those wishing to leave, in any direction they choose, and for aid to reach people in need,” said Guterres. So far, over 600 civilians have been safely evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks and other areas of Mariupol.

Jill Biden meets with Ukraine first lady

United States First Lady Jill Biden met with her Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelenska on Sunday to show support for Ukraine, the Associated Press reported.

“I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop and this war has been brutal and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine,” Biden told Zelenska.

Rock band U2 performs at Kyiv subway

Irish rock band U2’s frontman Paul David Hewson and guitarist David Evans, also known as the Edge, performed a 40-minute concert in a subway station in Kyiv, on Sunday, The Guardian reported.

“Your president leads the world in the cause of freedom right now,” said Bono. “The people of Ukraine are not just fighting for your own freedom, you’re fighting for all of us who love freedom.”

The duo played to a crowd of hundred, gathered inside the Khreshchatyk metro station.