Biden to discuss Ukraine with French, German and British leaders

A third round of talks between Kyiv and Moscow was due to take place on March 7 after an attempt to evacuate civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 6 failed.

Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamiya announced the talks on Facebook. Ukrainian and Russian delegations have met twice in Belarus since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, but the ceasefires agreed at those talks to allow civilians to flee have not been respected.

Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian officials have blamed each other for failing to establish the humanitarian corridor out of Mariupol, a Black Sea city that tens of thousands of people want to flee.

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Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said planned evacuations along designated humanitarian corridors on March 6 had been halted due to continued Russian shelling.

The Interfax news agency quoted an official from the separatist Donetsk administration who accused Ukrainian forces of failing to respect the ceasefire.

Britain said Moscow likely blamed Ukraine for deflecting charges against it for civilian casualties in Mariupol.

“Russia has accused Ukraine of breaking the ceasefire agreement,” an update from the British Ministry of Defense’s intelligence service said on Twitter. “This is probably a further attempt to diminish responsibility for civilian casualties caused by the continued Russian strikes on the city.”

Despite ample concrete evidence of Russian attacks on civilian areas documented by journalists, including RFE/RL correspondents on the ground, Moscow denies targeting civilian areas, calling its campaign a “special military operation”. .

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States had seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, adding that Washington was documenting them.

Blinken, who is visiting Eastern Europe, also said the United States and its allies are having a “very active discussion” about banning the import of Russian oil.

On March 6, Kiev renewed its call for the West to toughen sanctions and again called for more weapons, including a plea for Russian-made planes.

Speaking in Moldova, Blinken said Washington was considering resupplying Poland with planes, should Warsaw decide to send its Russian-made warplanes to Ukraine.

On March 6, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also urged foreign countries to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Zelenskiy said in a video address that “the world is strong enough to close the sky to us.”

NATO has ruled out such a shutdown for fear that a direct confrontation with Russia could trigger a world war.

Zelenskiy also described some of the destruction caused by Russian bombing. He said Russian rockets “completely destroyed” Vinnytsia civilian airport in central Ukraine on March 6.

Zelenskiy said Russian rockets “completely destroyed” Vinnytsia civilian airport in central Ukraine on March 6.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister said on Twitter that eight Russian cruise missiles had hit Vinnytsia.

“Putin continues his cowardly and barbaric missile strikes, aerial bombardment of civilians,” Kuleba said, reiterating Ukraine’s demands for a no-fly zone and air and missile defense and combat aircraft.

Ukraine’s military said on March 6 it was fighting “fierce battles” with Russian forces on the outskirts of the southern city of Mykolaiv, which controls the road to the key Black Sea city of Odessa, West.

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks across the country, including dropping powerful bombs on residential areas in Chernihiv, a city north of the capital Kiev.

kuleba tweeted a photo of what he said was a 500 kilogram bomb that failed to explode when it fell on Chernihiv, saying many others did, killing innocent men, women and children.

Residents attempted to flee the towns of Bucha and Irpin as they were pounded by airstrikes.

Soldiers in Kiev reinforced defenses by digging trenches, blocking roads and liaising with civil defense units.

British military intelligence has compared Russia’s tactics in Ukraine to those used by Moscow in Chechnya and Syria, where towns were bombed and heavily damaged after Russian forces faced unexpected resistance from the army. from their defenders.

“It will probably represent an effort to break the morale of Ukrainians,” the British Ministry of Defense said on March 6. “Russia used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and in Syria in 2016, using both air and ground munitions.”

Putin had phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan in addition to a call with French President Emmanuel Macron.

During the call with Erdogan, Putin said the invasion could be stopped “only if Kiev ceases hostilities”, according to a Kremlin statement during the phone call.

He said Ukraine must meet “Russia’s well-known demands,” which include what he calls the “demilitarization” of Ukraine and ensuring it cannot join NATO.

Putin’s call with Bennett came a day after meeting Putin for three hours in the Kremlin.

Bennett’s office said the trip to Moscow was made “in coordination and with the blessing” of Washington. Bennett also spoke to Zelenskiy after his meeting with Putin.

The diplomatic moves came as the UN human rights office said at least 364 civilians had been killed since the invasion began on February 24, and Ukrainian refugees continued to arrive. in neighboring countries, notably Poland, Romania and Moldova.

The number of people who have left since the fighting began has now reached 1.5 million, according to the UN refugee agency.

With reporting from Reuters, AFP, AP, BBC and dpa

James R. Rhodes