Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has insisted on his country’s territorial integrity ahead of talks with Russia in Turkey this week.
Ukraine’s priorities during the talks will be “sovereignty and territorial integrity”, Zelenskiy said. tell the nation in his late evening speech on March 27.
“We are looking for peace, really, without delay,” he said. “There is an opportunity and a need for a face-to-face meeting in Turkey.”
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During a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 27, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to host the talks and called for a ceasefire and better humanitarian terms, his office said.
Ukrainian and Russian negotiators have confirmed that face-to-face talks will take place, although it is unclear whether talks will begin on March 28 or 29.
More than four weeks into its unprovoked invasion, Russia has failed to capture any major Ukrainian cities and signaled on March 25 that it was scaling back its ambitions to focus on securing the region. Donbass, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian military for the past eight years.
The disposition of Russian forces in Ukraine over the past 24 hours has seen no significant change, British military intelligence said on March 28.
However, Russia has gained more ground in the south, near Mariupol, as it fights to seize the port, he added.
Vadym Boychenko, the mayor of Mariupol, said the town on the shores of the Sea of Azov was on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe and needed to be completely evacuated.
Boychenko said around 160,000 civilians were trapped in the city without power.
Twenty-six buses were waiting to evacuate civilians but Russian forces had not agreed to give them safe passage, he said on March 28.
“The Russian Federation is playing with us,” he said.
Data released by Boychenko’s office showed that 90% of buildings had been damaged and 40% destroyed, including hospitals, schools, kindergartens and factories. Boychenko also said nearly 5,000 people have died in the city since Russia launched its invasion.
Another official, Tetyana Lomakina, presidential adviser now in charge of humanitarian corridors, told AFP that about 5,000 people had been buried, but said burials stopped 10 days ago due to the lawsuit. bombings.
She added that the number of people killed could only be estimated.
Elsewhere, Russia continues to bomb key Ukrainian infrastructure.
Late on March 27, a rocket attack hit an oil base in the far northwestern region of Volyn, AP reported.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, accused Russia of seeking to split Ukraine in two, drawing the comparison with North Korea and South Korea.
“The occupiers will try to unite the occupied territories into a single quasi-state structure and oppose them to independent Ukraine,” Budanov said in a statement released by the Defense Ministry on March 27. He predicted that Ukrainian-led guerrilla warfare would derail such plans. .
A separatist leader in Luhansk said on March 27 that the region could soon hold a referendum on joining Russia, in a move reminiscent of a referendum on the same issue after Russia occupied Crimea in March 2014. .
“All fake referendums in the temporarily occupied territories are null and void and will have no legal validity,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko said in a statement. “Instead, Russia will face an even stronger response from the international community, further deepening its global isolation.”
In comments made to Russian journalists earlier on March 27, Zelenskiy said his government would consider declaring neutrality and offering security guarantees to Russia, repeating earlier statements. This would include keeping Ukraine free of nuclear weapons, he said.
He told reporters that the issue of neutrality – and agreeing to stay out of NATO – should be put to Ukrainian voters in a referendum after the withdrawal of Russian troops. He said a vote could take place a few months after the troops leave.
Russia quickly banned publication of the interview. Roskomnadzor, which regulates communications for Moscow, issued the ban, saying action could be taken against Russian media that participated, including “those that are foreign media acting as foreign agents.”
Zelenskiy responded by saying that Moscow was afraid of a relatively short conversation with journalists. “It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic,” he said, according to Ukrainian news agency RBK Ukraina.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stalled in many areas. His aim to quickly encircle the capital, kyiv, and force its surrender failed in the face of Ukrainian resistance, bolstered by arms from the United States and other Western allies.
Ukraine says that to defeat Russia, the West must provide fighter jets and not just missiles and other military equipment. A proposal to transfer Polish planes to Ukraine via the United States was dropped amid NATO fears of being drawn into direct combat.
Zelenskiy accused Western governments of being “afraid to prevent this tragedy. Afraid to just make a decision.”