Russia–Ukraine War (March 30): Zelenskyy Says Russia Talks Could Be Called Positive, Won’t Slacken Defenses

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
March 29, 2022 Updated: March 30, 2022

The latest on the RussiaUkraine crisis, March 29. Click here for updates from March 28.

With Ukraine Farmers on Frontlines, UN Food Chief Warns of ‘Devastation’

The U.N. food chief warned on Tuesday that the war in Ukraine was threatening to devastate the World Food Programme’s efforts to feed some 125 million people globally because Ukraine had gone “from the breadbasket of the world to breadlines.”

“It’s not just decimating dynamically Ukraine and the region, but it will have global context impact beyond anything we’ve seen since World War Two,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley told the 15-member United Nations Security Council.

Beasley said 50 percent of the grain bought by the WFP, the food-assistance branch of the United Nations, comes from Ukraine, “so you can only assume the devastation that this is going to have on our operations alone.”

“The farmers are on the frontlines,” he said.

Beasley added that the crisis was compounded by a lack of fertilizer products coming from Belarus and Russia.

“If you don’t put fertilizer on the crops, your yield will be at least 50 percent diminished. So we’re looking at what could be a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe in the months ahead,” he told the council.

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Zelenskyy Says Russia Talks Could Be Called Positive, Won’t Slacken Defenses

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday said the signals from peace talks with Russia could be called positive but added that they did not drown out the explosions from Russian shells.

In a late-night address, Zelenskyy also expressed caution about Russia’s promise to sharply curtail military action in some areas and said Ukraine would not be easing off its defensive efforts.

“We can say the signals we are receiving from the talks are positive but they do not drown out the explosions of Russian shells,” he said, adding that Ukraine could only trust a concrete result from the talks.

Earlier in the day, Russia promised to scale down military operations around Ukraine’s capital and north.

Zelenskyy said that despite this vow, “the situation has not become easier … the Russian army still has significant potential to continue attacks against our state.” He added: “Therefore we are not reducing our defensive efforts.”

Zelenskyy reiterated that for any peace deal to work, Russian troops would have to leave and there could be no compromise on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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Pentagon Detects ‘Small Numbers’ of Russian Forces Move Away From Kyiv

The Pentagon says it has detected “small numbers” of Russian ground forces moving away from the Kyiv area.

Spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the movement appears to be a repositioning of forces, “not a real withdrawal.” He said it was too soon to say how extensive the Russian movements may be or where the troops will be repositioned.

“It does not mean the threat to Kyiv is over,” he said. “They can still inflict massive brutality on the country, including on Kyiv.”

He said Russian airstrikes against Kyiv are continuing.

Asked whether the Pentagon assesses that the Russian military campaign in Ukraine has failed, Kirby said the Russian forces have failed in their initial objective of conquering Kyiv but remain a threat to the country, including the eastern Donbas region where Russian forces now appear to be focusing more fully.

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Biden Says ‘We’ll See’ if Russia Deescalates in Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday said it remains to be seen whether Russia follows through with any actions to scale down its military operations in Ukraine, saying Washington and its allies will continue with strong sanctions and aid for Ukraine.

“We’ll see if they follow through with what they’re suggesting” as Moscow–Kyiv negotiations continue, he told reporters at the White House following his meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore. “We’re going to continue to keep a close eye on what’s going on.”

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Ukraine Demands Security Guarantees Similar to NATO’s Article 5

Ukrainian negotiators on Tuesday proposed a mechanism similar to Article 5 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty, the founding document of NATO, to guarantee the security of Ukraine.

The proposal would require the guarantors to hold consultations within three days of the start of any war, aggression, military operation, and any disguised, hybrid war against Ukraine.

“After which [the guarantors] are legally obliged to provide military assistance to our country, in particular in the form of armaments and the closure of the skies,” the Ukrainian government said in a statement.

The suggested guarantors include the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the United States, Great Britain, France, China, and the Russian Federation.

Ukraine also wants Turkey, Germany, Canada, Italy, Poland, and Israel to be listed as guarantors.

However, some territories under dispute will not be covered by the security guarantee.

“As for the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, since their status is not regulated, international security guarantees will not work temporarily in these territories,” reads the statement.

Read the full article here

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White House Looking Into Allegations of Harm Against Abramovich

The Biden administration is looking into allegations Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was poisoned earlier this month during peace negotiations aimed at ending the Ukrainian conflict, White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said on Tuesday.

A U.S. official said on Monday that intelligence suggests the sickening of Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators was due to an environmental factor, not poisoning.

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EU Rejects Moscow’s Ruble-for-Gas Payment

EU member states won’t pay for Russian gas in rubles, the European Commission said on Tuesday, rejecting Moscow’s March 31 deadline for switching payment mechanisms. The announcement comes a day after a similar response from the G7 nations.

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Russia to Study Video of Alleged Mistreatment of Prisoners, Kyiv Questions Veracity

The Kremlin said on Monday that Russian investigators would look into a video circulated on social media that purported to show Ukrainian forces mistreating captured Russian soldiers.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the video contained “monstrous images” and needed to be legally assessed, and that those who took part in what he described as torture needed to be held responsible.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the authenticity of the video cited by the Kremlin.

Asked about the video during an interview on Sky News, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said it could not be taken at face value.

“We need proof,” she said on Monday. “If militaries from (the) Ukrainian side are guilty, we will investigate them and take them to court.”

Earlier, senior Ukrainian officials had portrayed the video as a fake.

“Currently, no one can confirm or deny the veracity of this video. It’s not known where it’s happening, or who the participants are,” military spokesperson Oleksander Motuzyanyk said.

He referred Reuters to comments made by Valery Zaluzhny, the chief commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, before Peskov announced the Russian investigation into the video.

“The enemy produces and shares videos, with the inhuman treatment of alleged ‘Russian prisoners’ by ‘Ukrainian soldiers’ in order to discredit the Ukrainian Defence Forces,” Zaluzhny said.

Ukraine’s armed forces respect international norms, Zaluzhny said, accusing Russia of producing such videos to discredit Ukrainian soldiers. He did not provide any evidence to support his accusation.

Sergii Nykyforov, press spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the video must be assessed “in the context of both real and information wars.” He did not elaborate.

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US General Says More Forces May Be Needed

The United States will likely need to add more permanent or rotational forces in Europe in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. European Command leader told Congress Tuesday, without detailing when or how many.

Gen. Tod Wolters, who also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander, said decisions will be based on what European nations do, particularly in response to the need to build four additional NATO battlegroups, which are being set up in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. The groups are an effort to protect and reassure nations on Europe’s eastern flank.

“My suspicion is we’re going to still need more,” Wolters told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Kremlin Backs Off Threat of Using Nuclear Force Amid Ukraine War

Chief spokesman to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday “no one is thinking about using—about even the idea of using a nuclear weapon.”

He added however, “We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state in our country, we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat.”

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Russian Delegate Says Talks Show Progress

The head of the Russian delegation in talks with Ukraine says that Moscow sees the latest meeting as a step toward compromise.

Vladimir Medinskiy said on Russian RT television that Russia sees Ukrainian proposals made Tuesday during the talks in Istanbul as a “step to meet us halfway, a clearly positive fact.”

He added that the two parties have a long way to go to reach an agreement.

Medinsky said that Russia made “two big steps toward peace” during the talks, first by agreeing to reduce military activities around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. He said Russia agreed to a prospective meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy once a prospective peace treaty is ready for signing.

The Ukrainian delegation earlier Tuesday said it had laid out a possible framework for a future peace deal based on legally binding security guarantees that would provide for other countries to intervene if Ukraine is attacked.

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Turkey Sees ‘Meaningful Progress’ in Talks

Turkey’s foreign minister says Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have reached “a consensus and common understanding” on some issues.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said the two sides made “the most meaningful progress” since the start of the negotiations at a meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday. He said the meeting would be followed by a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers.

Cavusoglu said a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders was also “on the agenda,” he said. He didn’t give a timeframe.

He said that difficult issues “will be taken up at a higher level.”

Cavusoglu added that Turkey encouraged the two sides to “secure a cease-fire” and an agreement on the issue of the opening of humanitarian corridors.

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Chechnya Leader Calls for Storming Ukrainian Capital

The Kremlin-backed leader of the Russian province of Chechnya has called for storming the Ukrainian capital.

Ramzan Kadyrov’s statement came Tuesday as the Russian military announced after a round of talks with Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul, Turkey that it would scale back its combat operations near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

Speaking to about 10,000 troops in Chechnya’s regional capital of Grozny, Kadyrov said that “we need to complete what we have started and shouldn’t stop.” He said if Moscow had allowed his fighters to press the offensive, “I’m more than confident that we would have entered Kyiv and established order there.”

Kadyrov has posted numerous videos on a messaging app allegedly featuring himself and Chechen fighters on the outskirts of Kyiv and in the besieged Sea of Azov port of Mariupol. Those videos couldn’t be independently verified.

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Belgium Orders 21 Russian Diplomats to Leave

Belgium has decided to expel 21 Russian diplomats for activities related to espionage or unlawful influence peddling.

The diplomats were given two weeks to leave the country, foreign affairs spokeswoman Elke Pattyn told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

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Ukrainian City of Mariupol ‘In the Hands’ of Russian Forces: Mayor

Russian forces are in control of large areas of the besieged Black Sea city of Mariupol, said Ukrainian officials.

“Not everything is in our power,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko told CNN on Monday. “Unfortunately, we are in the hands of the occupiers today.” Fewer than half the city’s residents have remained, he also said.

“According to our estimates, about 160,000 people are in the besieged city of Mariupol today, where it is impossible to live because there is no water, no electricity, no heat, no connection,” he continued. “And it’s really scary.”

The apparent loss of the city comes after about a month of heavy bombardment as well as days of fighting in the streets. Mariupol is likely considered a strategic city for Russia because capturing it would allow Moscow to connect its forces in the Crimean Peninsula with the separatist Donbass region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday said in an address to Denmark’s Parliament that the siege of Mariupol is a “crime against humanity.” Russian forces, he alleged, are destroying shelters with civilians inside.

Read the full article here

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 Netherlands Orders 17 Russian Diplomats to Leave

The Dutch government says it is expelling 17 Russian intelligence officers, calling their presence a “threat to national security.”

The foreign ministry said that the Russian ambassador was summoned Tuesday and told the officers, who were accredited as diplomats, are to be removed from the country.

The ministry says it took the decision on national security grounds.

The government said it took the decision in consultation with “a number of like-minded countries,” citing similar expulsions by the United States, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Montenegro.

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Zelenskyy Warns of Russian Regroup, Renewed Assault on Kyiv

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday said that Russian forces are allegedly trying to regroup before an assault on Kyiv.

“Today we have good news,” Zelenskyy said. “Our defenders are advancing in the Kyiv region, regaining control over Ukrainian territory.”

Zelenskyy then said that the Kyiv suburb of Irpin was re-captured by Ukrainian forces on Monday. Earlier, Ukrainian officials said that their forces rebuffed Russian troops, who have been attempting to move on Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, since the start of the conflict.

“I am grateful to everyone who worked for this result. The occupiers are pushed away from Irpin. Pushed away from Kyiv,” Zelenskyy added. “However, it is too early to talk about security in this part of our region. The fighting continues,” the Ukrainian president said.

Read the full article here

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Google CEO Meets With Polish PM to Offer Support for Ukrainians

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai has met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to offer support and humanitarian aid for the people of Ukraine.

Pichai and Morawiecki also held a remote meeting with the Slovenia Prime Minister Janez Jansa and a representative of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

In addition, Pichai also met with Polish humanitarian organizations and Ukrainian startups. Poland has been the largest single destination for refugees fleeing Ukraine.

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Russia to ‘Drastically’ Cut Military Activity Near Kyiv

Russia is cutting down on its military activity near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, an official said after the latest round of negotiations between the warring countries.

“The Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation, for purposes of trust-building and creating conditions for holding talks further, and achieving the final goal of agreeing and signing a peace treaty, made a decision to radically decrease the military activities in the directions of Kyiv and Chernihiv,” Alexander Fomin, Russia’s deputy minister of defense, told reporters in Turkey after the two sides met.

Chernigov, in northern Ukraine, sits about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Kyiv.

Russian officials will provide more details about the reduction after the delegation returns to Moscow, Fomin said.

Read the full article here 

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Ukraine-Russia Talks Start in Turkey; Abramovich Attends Talks

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators began the first direct peace talks in more than two weeks on Tuesday in Istanbul, with the surprise attendance of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich who is sanctioned by the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The two teams sat facing each other at a long table in the presidential office, with the Russian oligarch sitting in the front row of observers wearing a blue suit, a Turkish presidential video feed showed.

In a speech ahead of the talks on the Bosphorus strait, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told the delegations the time had come for concrete results and that progress would pave the way for a meeting of the countries’ two leaders.

“It is up to the sides to stop this tragedy. Achieving a ceasefire and peace as soon as possible is to the benefit of everyone. We think we have now entered a period where concrete results are needed from talks,” he said.

“The negotiating process, which you have been carrying out under the orders of your leaders, has raised hopes for peace.”

Ukrainian television said the meeting began with “a cold welcome” and no handshake between the delegations.

Ukraine said on Monday its most ambitious goal at the meeting was to agree to a ceasefire.

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Zelenskyy: 7 Dead in Southern Ukraine Strike

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says seven people were killed in a missile strike on the regional government headquarters in the southern city of Mykolayiv.

Zelenskyy, who spoke to the Danish parliament through a translator, claimed Tuesday’s strike also left 22 people injured. The Telegram channel of regional governor Vitaliy Kim showed a gaping hole in the center of the nine-story building.

Zelenskyy has made online speeches to lawmakers in several countries, including the United States, Britain, Sweden, Germany, Canada, Israel, Japan, and the European Union.

He is set to address Norway’s parliament on Wednesday.

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Russia Expel a Total of 10 Diplomats From Three Baltic States

Russia has expelled a total of 10 diplomats from the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in retaliation for those countries expelling Russian diplomats earlier this month.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was canceling the accreditation of four Lithuanian diplomats, three Latvians, and three Estonians and they would be required to leave the country. That corresponds to the number of Russian diplomats each country previously expelled.

On March 18, the three Baltic countries ordered the expulsion of 10 Russian embassy staff members in a coordinated action taken in solidarity with Ukraine.

Russia said Tuesday that the move was “provocative and entirely baseless” and that it had summoned the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian ambassadors in Moscow for an official protest.

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Kremlin Denies Abramovich Poisoned, Confirms Role in Talks

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has rejected reports that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich may have been poisoned as part of an “information war.”

The investigative news outlet Bellingcat claimed Monday that Abramovich and two Ukrainian delegates suffered symptoms of poisoning after attending talks between Russia and Ukraine on March 3.

Peskov said Tuesday that Abramovich has been “ensuring certain contacts between the Russian and Ukrainian sides” but is not an official member of the Russian delegation. He said that Abramovich’s role has been approved by both sides.

He said of the reports that Abramovich may have been poisoned: “It’s part of the information war. These reports obviously do not correspond to reality.”

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Russian Minister Underlines Focus on Donbass

Russia’s defense minister says that “liberating” the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine is the main goal of Moscow’s military operation.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, whose few public appearances this month raised questions about his health and whereabouts, held a meeting with top military officials on Tuesday and said that “overall, the main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed.”

He said that “the combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces has been significantly reduced, which makes it possible to focus the main attention and main efforts on achieving the main goal—the liberation of Donbass.”

The minister stressed that the Russian military will continue the operation until “the set goals are achieved.”

Shoigu also offered an assurance that Russia will not send conscripts recruited in the upcoming April draft to Ukraine. Earlier this month, the Russian military admitted that a number of conscripts ended up in Ukraine and were even captured there.

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Ukraine: Talks Focusing on Security Guarantees

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the talks under way with Russia in Istanbul are focusing on security guarantees for Ukraine and hopes of a cease-fire.

Mykhailo Podolyak told Ukrainian media on Tuesday that there are “intensive consultations going on regarding several important issues, the key among those is an agreement on international security guarantees for Ukraine.” He said that “only with this agreement can we end the war in a way that Ukraine needs.”

He adds that “the second block of issues is a cease-fire so that we could resolve all the humanitarian problems which have piled up and which require urgent resolutions.”

Podolyak added the two sides were also discussing breaches of the rules of war.

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Russian Foreign Ministry: US and Its Allies Hack Russian Data and Infrastructure

The Russian Foreign Ministry says the United States and its allies are involved in hacking Russian data and infrastructure.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that “the U.S. and its satellites are undertaking a massive cyber-operation against our country.” It also said the U.S. and other NATO members had trained Ukrainian hackers and blamed what it said was an effort by Ukraine to recruit international hackers.

The ministry said that the attacks include stealing Russians’ personal data, putting pressure on the economy, and spreading “fake information” about the Russian military.

Russia says it is strengthening its own cyber-security and will seek to bring hackers to justice.

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IMF Says It ‘Has No Problems With Russia’

The International Monetary Fund’s chief says the global lender “has no problems with Russia” and that its board can only suspend the country if the fund’s membership says it no longer recognizes the government.

“That is a very tall order,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Tuesday in response to a question about consequences against Russia over its war in Ukraine.

She added that “we all know for this war to end there has to be dialogue.” Georgieva spoke at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

The fund approved emergency financing of $1.4 billion for Ukraine on March 10. That’s in addition to a disbursement of $700 million to the country before the war, which was launched by Russia on Feb. 24.

The IMF has said it expects “a bad recession in Russia” and spillover impact on neighboring countries. The IMF says its Moscow office is not actively operating.

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Lithuania May Ban Use of Russian Troops ‘Z’ Symbol

Lawmakers in Lithuania are debating a ban on using the ‘Z’ symbol to show support for Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Russian troops in Ukraine have painted the letter Z on the side of vehicles and it has been adopted by some in Russia as a symbol of support for what the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation.”

Lithuania, which already has outlawed Soviet and Nazi symbols, also wants to ban the black-and-orange ribbon that was originally a military decoration that is now used as a remembrance of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

A vote in Lithuania’s parliament is expected this week. If it passes, people who violate a ban could face a fine of up to 500 euros ($550).

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Finland Claims Russia Is Likely to Carry Out Cyber Attack Against Country

Finland’s main intelligence agency claims that Russia is likely to carry out cyber and information operations against the Nordic country in the coming months as the government and lawmakers debate possible NATO membership.

The Finnish Security and Intelligence Service said in its annual report published Tuesday that it considers “unlawful intelligence operations of Russia” to be among the main current threats to Finland’s national security.

Director Antti Pelttari said that “Finnish society as a whole should be prepared for various measures from Russia seeking to influence policymaking in Finland on the NATO issue.”

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Turkey on Alert Against Naval Mines Floating in Black Sea

Turkey’s defense minister says the country is “on alert” against naval mines after authorities detected and deactivated two explosive devices floating in the Black Sea.

Hulusi Akar told journalists late Monday that authorities were still trying to determine whether the mines had drifted from Ukrainian waters. He had no information on the number of anti-ship devices that may be floating in the sea.

Akar said in comments released by his ministry Tuesday: “Whether the mines that were laid in Ukraine have arrived, or whether other mines were activated—it would not be right to say anything without being certain about it.”

“Our mine-sweeping vessels and maritime patrol planes are on alert,” he said. “Detected mines are immediately destroyed in a safe manner.”

Akar added that Turkey was cooperating with Romania and Bulgaria to detect mines.

Turkish military teams disabled two naval mines in the past four days, including one on Saturday that forced the temporary closure of the Bosporus Strait. The sighting followed warnings that mines laid at the entrances to Ukrainian ports could break free in heavy weather and cross the Black Sea.

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UN Nuclear Watchdog Chief in Ukraine to Talk Safety Support

The U.N. nuclear watchdog says its director-general has arrived in Ukraine for talks with senior government officials on delivering “urgent technical assistance” to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that Rafael Mariano Grossi’s aim is to “to initiate prompt safety and security support” for Ukraine’s nuclear sites. That will include sending IAEA experts to “prioritized facilities” and sending “vital safety and security supplies” including monitoring and emergency equipment.

It said that Grossi will travel to one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants this week, but didn’t say which one. Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four active power plants, and also is home to the decommissioned Chernobyl plant, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Russian forces have taken control of Chernobyl and of the largest active power plant, at Zaporizhzhia.

Grossi said in a statement that “the military conflict is putting Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and other facilities with radioactive material in unprecedented danger.”

He added that “there have already been several close calls. We can’t afford to lose any more time.”

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Ukraine: Countries Should Ban Use of Russian Troops Symbol ‘Z’

Ukraine’s foreign minister called on countries to ban the use of the letter “Z” as a symbol of the Russian war on Ukraine.

Russian troops in Ukraine have painted the letter Z on the side of vehicles and it has been adopted by some in Russia as a symbol of support for what the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation” in the neighboring country.

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Germany Works Toward a ‘De Facto’ Embargo of Russian Oil

Germany’s foreign minister says her country is working toward a ‘de facto’ embargo of Russian oil because of the war in Ukraine.

Germany has long relied on fossil fuels from Russia and Chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned that suddenly halting imports could have severe economic consequences for his country.

But Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday that Germany is nevertheless aiming for a “complete national exit from Russian fossil fuel dependence.”

She cited recent efforts to diversify Germany’s imports that aim to end the use of Russian oil and coal this year, and natural gas by mid-2024.

“You can (…) call it a national, step-by-step, de facto embargo, particularly of oil,” Baerbock said at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue conference.

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Ukraine Says It’s Running 3 Evacuation Routes

The Ukrainian government says it is operating three humanitarian corridors Tuesday to move civilians out of the besieged port of Mariupol and two Russian-occupied cities in the south.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says that besides Mariupol, evacuations will run from Enerhodar and Melitopol.

The routes all converge in the Ukraine-controlled southern city of Zaporizhzhia.

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Explosion Struck Administration Building in Port City of Mykolaiv: Ukrainian Official

A Ukrainian official says an explosion struck a nine-story administration building in the strategic port city of Mykolaiv on Tuesday morning as talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations in Istanbul began.

The Telegram channel of the regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, showed a gaping hole in the center of the building. Kim said most people escaped the building and rescuers were searching for a handful of missing people.

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Bloomberg News Says It Suspends Its Operations in Russia and Belarus

Bloomberg News says it has suspended its operations in Russia and Belarus, citing international condemnation and sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The financial news company said customers in both Russia and Belarus will be unable to access any of Bloomberg’s financial products including terminals, data licenses, data feeds, and electronic trading platforms.

Trading functions for Russian securities were disabled in line with international sanctions, it said.

Earlier, Bloomberg suspended the work of its journalists in Russia and removed Russian stocks from its global equity indexes. Russian bonds will be removed with the month-end rebalancing, the company said in a statement.

It said Bloomberg Philanthropies had pledged $40 million to the International Rescue Committee and the World Central Kitchen to help Ukrainians and refugees in the region and elsewhere.

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British Intelligence Says Russia’s Wagner Group Deployed to Eastern Ukraine

British military intelligence said on Monday the Russian private military company, the Wagner Group, has been deployed to eastern Ukraine.

“They are expected to deploy more than 1,000 mercenaries, including senior leaders of the organisation, to undertake combat operations,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

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New Round of Talks Aims to Stop the Fighting in Ukraine

Another round of talks aimed at stopping the war in Ukraine is scheduled for Tuesday as the fighting looks increasingly like a stalemate on the ground, with the two sides trading control of a town in the east and a suburb of the capital.

Ukrainian forces retook Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, from Russian troops, who were regrouping to take the area back, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday as he sought to rally the country.

“We still have to fight, we have to endure,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation. “We can’t express our emotions now. We can’t raise expectations, simply so that we don’t burn out.”

Ahead of the talks, to be held in Istanbul, the Ukrainian president said his country is prepared to declare its neutrality, as Moscow has demanded, and is open to compromise on the fate of the Donbass, the contested region in the country’s east.

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Zelenskyy: Russian Forces Still Attacking Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday that Russian forces are still attacking Kyiv, despite being driven out of Irpin, a suburb northwest of the capital that has seen heavy fighting.

He said the Russians remain in control of northern suburbs and are trying to regroup after losing Irpin on Monday. He urged Ukrainians not to let up in the war.

He said the situation remains tense in the northeast, around Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkhiv, and also in the eastern Donbass region and in the south around Mariupol, which remains blockaded by Russian troops.

The president said no humanitarian corridors could be opened Monday out of the besieged city.

Zelenskyy said he spoke Monday with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Britain, Canada, and Germany, urging them to strengthen the sanctions against Russia.

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Missile Hits West Ukraine Oil Depot: Ukrainian Official

A missile attack hit an oil depot in western Ukraine late Monday, Rivne’s regional governor said, marking the second attack on oil facilities in the region and the latest in a series of such attacks in recent days.

Western Ukraine has not seen ground combat, but missiles have struck oil depots and a military plant in Lviv, a major city close to Poland where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have gone to escape fighting elsewhere.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested in an interview with Russian journalists released on Sunday that the attacks on oil depots are intended to disrupt the planting season in Ukraine, which is a major grain producer.

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Biden Says He’s ‘Not Walking Back’ Comments About Putin

President Joe Biden told reporters Monday he is “not walking back” his Saturday comments when he said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “should not remain in power.”

Biden made the initial comment about the Russian leader at the end of a speech in Warsaw, Poland, when he said, “for God’s sake this man cannot remain in power.” Earlier in the day, Biden referred to Putin as a “butcher.”

Taking questions from reporters Monday, Biden said he is “not walking anything back,” adding that he was speaking of his outrage at Putin’s actions in Ukraine and not articulating a change in U.S. policy.

“The last thing I want to do is engage in a land war or a nuclear war with Russia. That’s not part of it. I was expressing my outrage, the behavior of this man,” Biden said.

“It’s outrageous. It’s outrageous, and it’s more an aspiration than anything that he shouldn’t be in power. There’s no, I mean, people like this shouldn’t be ruling countries, but they do. The fact [is] they do but [it] doesn’t mean I can’t express my outrage about it.”

When asked later if he was concerned his comments would escalate tensions with Russia, Biden said Putin is “going to do what he’s going to do.”

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Allen Zhong, Zachary Stieber, Nick Ciolino, Jack Phillips, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.