Ukraine rejects Belarus as venue for talks with Russia | National Policy


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president has said his country is ready for peace talks with Russia, but not in Belarus, which was a staging ground for the invasion of Moscow 3 days ago.

Speaking in a video message on Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelensky named Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as alternative locations. He said other locations were also possible, but clarified that Ukraine did not accept Russia’s selection of Belarus.

The Kremlin said on Sunday that a Russian delegation had arrived in the Belarusian town of Homel for talks with Ukrainian officials. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the delegation included military officials and diplomats.

“The Russian delegation is ready for the talks, and now we are waiting for the Ukrainians,” Peskov said.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, with troops flowing in from Moscow’s ally Belarus in the north, as well as from the east and south.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Street fighting erupted early Sunday in Kharkiv as Russian troops entered Ukraine’s second-largest city, a regional official said, following a wave of attacks elsewhere targeting airfields and fuel installations that seemed to mark a new phase of an invasion slowed by fierce resistance.

The United States and the EU responded with weapons and ammunition for outnumbered Ukrainians and powerful penalties intended to further isolate Moscow.

Russian troops approached Kharkiv, about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) south of the border with Russia, shortly after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine on Thursday. But until Sunday they remained on the outskirts of the city of 1.4 million people without trying to enter as other forces drove past, pushing their offensive deeper into Ukraine.

Early on Sunday, Russian troops moved in and were engaged by Ukrainian forces, said Oleh Sinehubov, the head of the Kharkiv regional administration, who told civilians not to leave their homes. He gave no further details.

Videos circulating on Ukrainian media and social media showed Russian vehicles driving through Kharkiv and a light vehicle on fire in the street.

Elsewhere, huge explosions lit up the sky early Sunday south of the capital, Kyiv, where people hunkered down in homes, underground garages and metro stations ahead of a full-scale assault by forces Russians.

Flames rose into the pre-dawn sky from an oil depot near an airbase in Vasylkiv, where there was heavy fighting, according to the town’s mayor. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said another explosion occurred at Zhuliany civilian airport.

Zelenskyy’s office also said Russian forces blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, prompting the government to warn people to protect themselves from the smoke by covering their windows with a damp cloth or gauze.

“We will fight as long as necessary to liberate our country,” Zelenskyy promised.

Terrified men, women and children sought safety indoors and underground, and the government maintained a 39-hour curfew to keep people out of the streets. Over 150,000 Ukrainians fled to Poland, Moldova and other neighboring countriesand the United Nations has warned that number could rise to 4 million if fighting intensifies.

President Vladimir Putin has not disclosed his ultimate plans, but Western officials believe he is determined to overthrow the Ukrainian government and replace it with his own regime, redraw the map of Europe and revive the influence of Moscow during the Cold War era.

To help Ukraine hold its ground, the United States pledged an additional $350 million in military aid to Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, body armor and small arms. Germany said it would send anti-tank missiles and weapons to the beleaguered country and close its airspace to Russian planes.

The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom have agreed to block “selected” Russian banks from the global financial messaging system SWIFT, which transfers money to more than 11,000 banks and other financial institutions around the world. world, as part of a new round of sanctions aimed at imposing a severe cost on Moscow for the invasion. They also agreed to impose “restrictive measures” on Russia’s central bank.

Responding to a request from Ukraine’s digital transformation minister, tech billionaire Elon Musk said on Twitter that his Starlink satellite internet system was now active in Ukraine and there were “more terminals on the way”.

It was unclear how much territory the Russian forces had seized or how much of their advance had been blocked. The British Ministry of Defense said that “the speed of the Russian advance has temporarily slowed, probably due to acute logistical difficulties and heavy Ukrainian resistance”.

A senior US defense official said that more than half of the Russian combat power that was massed along Ukraine’s borders had entered the country and that Moscow had to commit more fuel supplies and weapons. other support units inside Ukraine than originally planned. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal US assessments.

The curfew forcing everyone in Kyiv indoors was due to last until Monday morning. The relative calm of the capital was sporadically disturbed by gunfire.

The fighting on the outskirts of the city suggested that small Russian units were trying to clear a path for the main forces. Small groups of Russian troops were reported inside Kiev, but Britain and the United States said the bulk of forces were 30 kilometers from the city center on Saturday afternoon.

Russia claims his assault on Ukraine north, east and south targets only military targets, but bridges, schools and residential areas were hit.

Ukraine’s health minister announced on Saturday that 198 people, including three children, had been killed and more than 1,000 injured in Europe’s largest ground war since World War II. It was unclear whether these figures included both military and civilian casualties.

A missile struck a high-rise building in the southwestern outskirts of Kiev, near one of the city’s two passenger airports, leaving a jagged hole of ravaged apartments over several floors. A rescue worker said six civilians were injured.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova said troops in Kiev were fighting Russian “sabotage groups”. According to Ukraine, some 200 Russian soldiers were captured and thousands killed.

Markarova said Ukraine was gathering evidence of bombings of residential areas, kindergartens and hospitals to submit to The Hague as possible crimes against humanity.

Zelenskyy reiterated his openness to talks with Russia in a video message, saying he welcomed an offer from Turkey and Azerbaijan to stage diplomatic efforts, which so far have failed.

The Kremlin confirmed a phone call between Putin and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev but gave no indication on whether talks would resume. A day earlier, Zelenskyy offered to negotiate a key Russian demand: to abandon ambitions to join NATO.

Putin sent troops to Ukraine after deny for weeks that he intended to do so, while building up a force of nearly 200,000 men along the countries borders. He says the West has not taken Russia’s security concerns about NATO, the Western military alliance that Ukraine aspires to join, seriously. But he also expressed his contempt for Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent state.

In addition to Kiev, the Russian assault appeared to be focused on Ukraine’s economically vital coastal areas, from the Black Sea port of Odessa in the west to beyond the Mediterranean Sea port of Mariupol. ‘Azov to the east.

Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol were guarding bridges and blocking people from the shore, fearing that the Russian navy would launch an assault from the sea.

“I don’t care who wins and who doesn’t,” said Ruzanna Zubenko, whose large family was forced from their home outside Mariupol after it was badly damaged by shelling. “The only important thing is that our children can grow up smiling and not crying.”

Fighting also raged in two eastern territories controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Authorities in Donetsk said the hot water supply to the city of around 900,000 people had been suspended due to damage to the system caused by Ukrainian shelling.

The United States and its allies have been building up forces on NATO’s eastern flank, but have so far ruled out deploying troops to fight Russia. Instead, the United States, the European Union and other countries slapped extended penalties on Russia, freezing the assets of companies and individuals, including Putin and his foreign minister.

Isachenkov reported from Moscow and Miller from Washington. Francesca Ebel, Josef Federman and Andrew Drake in Kyiv; Mstyslav Chernov and Nic Dumitrache in Mariupol, Ukraine; and other AP reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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