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Russia Ukraine News Highlights | US President Joe Biden will make his first visit to Europe since the invasion of Ukraine to discuss the crisis with NATO allies next week, the White House said on Tuesday as the refugee tally hit 3 million amid more Russian air strikes.
Moscow has not captured any of the 10 biggest cities in the country following its incursion that began on Feb. 24, the largest assault on a European state since 1945.
Local authorities said Tuesday's
About 2,000 cars left the southern port city of Mariupol, location of the worst humanitarian crisis, the local council said.
Just over 3 million have now fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations, with over 1.8 million arriving in neighbouring Poland. Its prime minister and those of Slovenia and the Czech Republic were in Kyiv on Tuesday to show solidarity.
NATO leaders will meet at the military alliance's headquarters in Brussels on March 24 to discuss the crisis that has prompted fears of wider conflict in the West unthought-of for decades.
"We will address Russia's invasion of Ukraine, our strong support for Ukraine, and further strengthening NATO's deterrence & defence," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.
Biden will be in attendance, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
"His goal is to meet in person face-to-face and talk about and assess where we are at this point in the conflict," she said.
Asked if Biden would also visit Poland, do something tied to Ukrainian refugees or meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Psaki declined to comment, saying trip details were still being worked out.
Russia calls its actions a "special military operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin has also called its neighbour a U.S. colony with a puppet regime and no tradition of independent statehood.
Talks between Russia and Ukraine via a video link resumed on Tuesday. Ukrainian officials played up hopes the war could end sooner than expected, saying Moscow may be coming to terms with its failure to impose a new government by force.
In a hint of a possible compromise, Zelenskiy said Ukraine was prepared to accept security guarantees from the West that stop short of its long-term objective of joining NATO. Moscow sees any future Ukraine membership of the Western alliance as a threat and has demanded guarantees it will never join.
"If we cannot enter through open doors, then we must cooperate with the associations with which we can, which will help us, protect us ... and have separate guarantees," said Zelenskiy.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to predict progress in the talks. "The work is difficult, and in the current situation the very fact that (the talks) are continuing is probably positive," he said.
The crisis is being felt in the form of spiralling energy costs in many Western countries with some heavily reliant on exports from Russia and after a U.S. ban on imports of oil from the country.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the Middle East on Wednesday to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in the United Arab Emirates before seeing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia in efforts to secure more oil flows.
"We will work with them to ensure regional security, support the humanitarian relief effort and stabilise global energy markets for the longer term," said Johnson.
FORK IN THE ROAD?
In Kyiv, around half of the 3.4 million residents have fled and some spend nights sheltering in metro stations.
Zelenskiy said on Tuesday that 97 children had died so far in the invasion. Hundreds of civilians have been killed.
On the Romanian border, a woman named Tanya said she had fled the southern frontline town of Mykolaiv to save her child. "Because the people that are there now are Russians, Russian soldiers, and they kill children."
A convoy with supplies for Mariupol, where residents have been sheltering from repeated Russian bombardments and are desperate for food and water, was stuck at nearby Berdyansk, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
Fox News said a second journalist working for the cable network was killed in Ukraine in the same incident in which a Fox cameraman died when their vehicle was struck on Monday by incoming fire.
But one of Zelenskiy's top aides predicted the war would be over by May or even within weeks as Russia had run out of fresh troops.
"We are at a fork in the road now," Oleksiy Arestovich said in a video. He said he expected either a peace deal within one or two weeks or another Russian attempt with new reinforcements, which could prolong the conflict for another month.
At the United Nations, Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow would end what it calls its "special military operation" when its goals were achieved, including demilitarisation.
In Rivne in western Ukraine, officials said 19 people had been killed in a Russian air strike on a TV tower. If confirmed it would be the worst attack on a civilian target so far in the northwest where Russian ground troops have yet to tread.
Russia denies targeting civilians.
More than 100 buses carrying a few thousand civilians left the besieged northeastern city of Sumy in a "safe passage" operation, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday. They were heading towards Lubny in central Ukraine after Russians gave a green light for the evacuation.
Russia said it now controlled the Kherson region in southern Ukraine. Reuters could not independently verify the report.
The conflict has brought economic isolation upon Russia.
The United States, the European Union and Britain announced further sanctions on Tuesday, while Moscow retaliated by putting Biden and other U.S. officials on a "stop list" that bars them from entering Russia.
The latest EU sanctions include bans on energy sector investments, luxury goods exports to Moscow, and imports of steel products from Russia.
They also freeze the assets of more business leaders believed to support the Russian state, including Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.
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US President Joe Biden announces sending 'longer range' anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine: AFP ##Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | US President Joe Biden announces sending 'longer range' anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine: AFP
Russia blocks BBC website, vows more retaliatory media sanctions: AFP ##Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | Russia blocks BBC website, vows more retaliatory media sanctions: AFP
Russian ballerina Olga Smirnova quit Bolshoi in Moscow to join Dutch National Ballet: AFP ##Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | Russian ballerina Olga Smirnova quit Bolshoi in Moscow to join Dutch National Ballet: AFP
"I am against war with all the fibres of my soul", says top ballerina Olga Smirnova who has quit the Bolshoi in Moscow to join the Dutch National Ballet, making her the first Russian to quit the fabled company over the war in Ukraine.
"I am against war with all the fibres of my soul"— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 16, 2022
Top ballerina Olga Smirnova has quit the Bolshoi in Moscow to join the Dutch National Ballet, making her the first Russian to quit the fabled company over the war in #Ukraine https://t.co/HbOwfJFCFg
Ten people waiting for bread killed in Russian attack in north Ukraine: AFP ##Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | Ten people waiting for bread killed in Russian attack in north Ukraine: AFP
US, Russia make first high-level contact since Ukraine invasion: White House ##Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | US, Russia make first high-level contact since Ukraine invasion: White House
Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | Ukrainian and Russian presidents must hold direct talks, Ukrainian negotiator says
Ukraine's position at peace talks with Russia is quite specific, with demands including a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops that must be discussed in direct talks between the two countries' presidents, a Ukrainian negotiator said on Wednesday. "Our position at the negotiations is quite specific - legally verified security guarantees; ceasefire; withdrawal of Russian troops. This is possible only with a direct dialogue between the heads of Ukraine and the Russian Federation," negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter.
Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | European leaders return safely after Kyiv visit amid attacks
The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia safely returned to Poland on Wednesday after a visit to Kyiv intended to show support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia's military onslaught. The leaders met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday to convey a message of solidarity with Ukraine and of support for the nation's aspirations to one day join the European Union.
They went ahead with the hours-long train journey despite concerns about risks to their security while traveling through a war zone. All three countries are members of the European Union and NATO. Although pronouncing their trip to be an EU mission, officials in Brussels cast it as something the three leaders had undertaken on their own. NATO's secretary-general said it was good for allies to engage closely with Zelenskyy, but also didn't clearly endorse it.
Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | EU links up electricity grid to war-hit Ukraine
The EU on Wednesday completed linking up its electricity grid to Ukraine, making good on a promise to keep the lights on in the war-ravaged country under attack from Russia, officials said. "In this area, Ukraine is now part of Europe," EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said in a statement, adding that Moldova -- which also has a Russia-backed breakaway region -- was also connected to the grid. "The EU will continue to support Ukraine in the energy sector, by ensuring the reverse flows of gas to the country and the delivery of energy supplies that are badly needed," she said. EU energy ministers on February 28 announced they would hook up the grid of their 27-nation bloc with Ukraine after it disconnected from the Russian electricity network and suffered missile strikes and shelling to its infrastructure.
Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | New talk of compromise on both sides lifts hope for Russia-Ukraine breakthrough
New talk of compromise from both Moscow and Kyiv on a status for Ukraine outside of NATO lifted hope on Wednesday for a potential breakthrough after three weeks of war. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said negotiations were becoming "more realistic", while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was "some hope for compromise". The Kremlin said the sides were discussing status for Ukraine similar to that of Austria or Sweden, both members of the European Union that are outside the NATO military alliance. Ukraine's chief negotiator said it would give Kyiv binding international security guarantees to prevent future attacks. Though the war still ground on with Ukrainian civilians trapped in cities under Russian bombardment, the signs of compromise sent relief through global financial markets. Shares in Germany - Russia's biggest energy market - were up 3.4%. Three weeks into the invasion, Russian troops have been halted at the gates of Kyiv, having taken heavy losses and failed to seize any of Ukraine's biggest cities in a war Western officials say Moscow thought it would win within days. Ukrainian officials had expressed hope this week that the war could end sooner than expected. Talks were due to resume on Wednesday by video link for a third straight day, the first time they have lasted more than a single day. "The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic. But time is still needed for the decisions to be in the interests of Ukraine," Zelenskiy said in a video address overnight. Later on Wednesday, he said Ukrainians must fight to "defend our state, our life, our Ukrainian life," but he also emphasised negotiations for "a just but fair peace for Ukraine, real security guarantees that will work."
Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | Russia says any Putin-Zelenskiy meeting should be to seal deal
Russia said on Wednesday there were no obstacles to a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy, but that such a meeting would only take place to seal a specific agreement. "There are no obstacles to the organisation of such a meeting with the understanding that it would not be just for its own sake; it would have to seal concrete agreements which are currently being worked out by the two delegations," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters. Lavrov said the delegations were meeting via video conference.