Two cities in war-torn Ukraine have been awarded the Freedom of the City of Norwich in a show of solidarity.

Norwich City Council has granted the honorary title to the people of Lviv and Odessa.

Alan Waters, leader of the council, said the cities had been chosen because they - like Norwich - are UNESCO Cities of Literature, but that the award represented a message of unity with the entire country of Ukraine.

Announcing the honour at a council meeting on Tuesday night, he said the country was “valiantly upholding the rights of democracy against an authoritarian dictatorship that has embarked on a brutal, illegal cause”.

The meeting also heard a commitment from Gail Harris, deputy leader of the council, that the authority would "not shirk our responsibilities” when it came to supporting any refugees who arrived in the city.

She said this would mean not only assisting with accommodation, but also integrating people into the community. However, she argued central government had to give clearer instructions on how councils could help.

The Freedom of the City award received unanimous support from across the council chamber, with councillors giving powerful testimony from Ukrainians they have met and worked with.

The honour dates back to the 13th century. It is normally given to people and organisations, in recognition of their contributions to Norwich, with previous recipients including sports stars, playwrights and artists.

This is thought to be the first time it has been bestowed on a whole population.

Lviv is in the west of Ukraine, close to the Polish border and has - until now - avoided the worst of the bloodshed, becoming a hub for people fleeing violence elsewhere.

However, the Russians recently launched a missile strike on a military base on the outskirts of the city.

Odessa - Ukraine's third largest city - is located on the Black Sea in the west of the country. It too has yet to come under sustained attack, but locals there fear they are about to become a target of a Russian offensive.

On Monday, the UK government announced plans to support refugees and provide them with safe haven. These plans include asking people to open their homes and provide people fleeing the war accommodation for at least six months. A former RAF base at Coltishall and council offices in South Norfolk may be used for temporary accommodation.