Ukraine says latest talks with Russia more 'constructive' even as civilian sites in Kyiv targeted
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanks Canada for support in address to Parliament
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Moscow's demands in talks becoming 'more realistic,' even as Russia continues to target civilians.
- Zelensky thanks Canada for support in address to Parliament, but calls for even more assistance, saying, "Every night is a horrible night" for civilians suffering Russian bombardments.
- At least 20,000 civilians managed to get out of Mariupol by way of a humanitarian corridor as Russia seized the city's biggest hospital.
- What questions do you have about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to email@example.com
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said early Wednesday that Russia's demands during negotiations are becoming "more realistic" after nearly three weeks of war, but added more time was needed for the talks, which are being held by video conference.
"Efforts are still needed, patience is needed," he said in his nighttime video address to the nation. "Any war ends with an agreement."
Earlier, Ukraine said it saw possible room for compromise Tuesday, even as Moscow's forces stepped up their bombardment of Kyiv, and an estimated 20,000 civilians fled the desperately encircled port city of Mariupol by way of a humanitarian corridor.
The leaders of three European Union countries — including Poland, a NATO member on Ukraine's doorstep — visited the embattled capital in a bold show of support Tuesday, even as large explosions thundered across Kyiv before dawn from what Ukrainian authorities said were artillery strikes, as Russia's assault on the capital appeared to become more systematic and edged toward the city centre.
Zelensky said barrages hit four multi-storey buildings in the city, killing dozens of people. The shelling ignited a huge fire in a 15-storey apartment building and spurred a frantic rescue effort.
The visit by the three EU leaders Tuesday was not sanctioned by other members of the 27-nation bloc.
"The aim of the visit is to express the European Union's unequivocal support for Ukraine and its freedom and independence," Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said in a tweet.
Talks more 'constructive,' says Ukraine
Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, a top Ukrainian negotiator, described the latest round of talks with the Russians as "very difficult and sticky" and said there were "fundamental contradictions" between the two sides, but added that "there is certainly room for compromise." He said the talks will continue Wednesday.
Ahead of the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would press its demands that Ukraine drop its bid to join NATO, adopt a neutral status and "demilitarize."
In a statement that seemed to signal potential grounds for agreement with Moscow, Zelensky told European leaders gathered in London that he realizes NATO has no intention of accepting Ukraine.
"We have heard for many years about the open doors, but we also heard that we can't enter those doors," he said. "This is the truth, and we have simply to accept it as it is."
NATO does not admit nations with unsettled territorial conflicts. Zelensky has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he realizes NATO isn't going to offer membership to Ukraine and that he could consider a neutral status for his country, but needs strong security guarantees from both the West and Russia.
Zelensky addresses Parliament
Zelensky — who has made repeated pleas to the West for more help in Ukraine's fight against Russian forces — on Tuesday spoke to Canadian MPs via a video stream.
"Every night is a horrible night," he said through an interpreter, as he outlined how Russian attacks are devastating cities and infrastructure. Kyiv is being "shelled and bombed," he said, while people in Mariupol live without heat and power and face increasingly dire shortages.
"Canada has always been steadfast in their support," he said, describing the country as a reliable partner. But, he said, much more needs to be done as Ukraine fights against Russia's invasion. He called for more sanctions and a no-fly zone.
"They are destroying everything," he said of Russian forces, pointing to attacks on schools, hospitals and memorials.
It has been difficult to independently verify casualty figures, but Zelensky said in his address to MPs that 97 children have been killed in the war to date. The UN said close to 700 civilians in Ukraine have been confirmed killed, with the true figure likely much higher.
Late Tuesday evening, a senior Canadian government source confirmed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend a meeting of NATO leaders March 24 in Brussels to discuss the invasion. The White House also confirmed U.S. President Joe Biden will be there.
Woman who protested on TV fined
An employee of Russian state television who interrupted a live news program by protesting the war in Ukraine was ordered to pay a fine by a Russian court Tuesday.
Marina Ovsyannikova, an employee of the Russian Channel One, walked into the studio during Monday's evening news broadcast with a poster saying "no war" and "Russians against the war."
In a video recorded before her action, Ovsyannikova said that her father is Ukrainian and her mother Russian. She urged Russians to join anti-war protests and said: "Russia is the aggressor country and one person, Vladimir Putin, solely bears responsibility for that aggression."
Ovsyannikova spent the night in police custody, and Moscow's Ostankino District Court on Tuesday ordered her to pay a fine of 30,000 rubles (about $300 Cdn) on charges of organizing unsanctioned actions for her call to take part in demonstrations against the war.
Fox News said its video journalist, Pierre Zakrzewski, and Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra "Sasha" Kuvshynova were killed when the vehicle they were in outside of Kyiv came under fire.
The attack came two days after Brent Renaud, a documentary filmmaker and another veteran of covering war zones, died when Russian forces opened fire on his vehicle.
A Canadian man who was injured when a military base near Ukraine's western border was struck by Russian missiles on Sunday says there was no warning of the attack.
Hunter Francis of the Eel Ground First Nation in northeast New Brunswick says there were no air raid sirens before the missiles hit.
The former Canadian Forces member, who arrived in Ukraine last week to volunteer in the defence against Russia, says the bombardment lasted about 30 minutes and left him with shards of glass and metal in his right hand and his nose.
What's happening on the ground
When Russia launched the war nearly three weeks ago, fear of an imminent invasion gripped the Ukrainian capital, as residents slept night after night in subway stations or crammed onto trains to flee. But as the Russian offensive bogged down, Kyiv saw a relative lull. Fighting has intensified on the outskirts in recent days, and sporadic air raid sirens ring out around the capital.
The Ukrainian military said in a statement that the Kyiv explosions reported Tuesday were artillery strikes. They hit the Svyatoshynskyi district of western Kyiv, adjacent to the suburb of Irpin that has seen some of the worst battles of the war. Flames shot out of an apartment building as firefighters rescued people from ladders. Smoke filled the air. A firefighter at the scene confirmed one person had died and that several others were rescued, but that others remained inside as rescuers tried to reach them.
Russian forces also stepped up strikes overnight on the northwest suburbs of Irpin, Hostomel and Bucha, the head of the Kyiv region Oleksiy Kuleba said. "Many streets [in those areas] have been turned into a mush of steel and concrete. People have been hiding for weeks in basements, and are afraid to go out even for evacuations," Kuleba said Tuesday on Ukrainian television.
In the country's east, Russian forces launched more than 60 strikes overnight Monday into Tuesday on Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, according to regional administration chief Oleh Sinehubov. The strikes hit the city's historical centre, including the main marketplace. He said the bodies of dozens of civilians were pulled from destroyed apartment buildings.
Ukrainian forces repelled Russian troops who tried to storm Kharkiv from their positions in Piatykhatky, a suburb 15 kilometres to the north, and were able "to push the enemy back beyond its previous position," Sinehubov said on Telegram. He called it a "shameful defeat."
One of the most desperate situations is in Mariupol, the port city of 430,000 where local officials estimate a weeks-long siege has killed more than 2,300 people and left residents desperate for food, water, heat and medicine. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior aide to Zelenskyy, said that about 20,000 people managed to leave Mariupol in 4,000 private vehicles via a humanitarian corridor leading to the city of Zaporizhzhia.
Russian troops seized the city's largest hospital, said regional leader Pavlo Kyrylenko. He said the troops forced about 400 people from nearby homes into the Regional Intensive Care Hospital and were using them and roughly 100 patients and staff as human shields by not allowing them to leave.
Overall, nearly all of the Russian military offensives remained stalled after making little progress over the weekend, according to a senior U.S. defence official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon's assessment.
The Red Cross and the United Nations refugee agency say millions of people face food and medicine shortages along with the immediate conflict threats of shelling and air attacks, with millions displaced within the country.
More than three million people from Ukraine have now fled to neighbouring countries in what the UN has called Europe's biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Of those, more than 1.7 million are in neighbouring Poland, the UN refugee agency says.
In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that while the Biden administration supports Ukraine's participation in the talks with Russia, Putin would have to show signs of de-escalating in order to demonstrate good faith.
During a meeting in Rome with a senior Chinese diplomat, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned China against helping Russia.
Two administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said China had signalled to Moscow that it would be willing to provide both military support in Ukraine and financial backing to help stave off effects of Western sanctions, which include a fourth set of EU sanctions announced late Monday.
The Kremlin has denied asking China for military equipment to use in Ukraine. China, meanwhile, insists that its stance on Russia's invasion of Ukraine is "impartial and constructive." The Chinese government is also repeating its accusations that the U.S. is spreading misinformation over reports Beijing has responded positively to a Russian request for military supplies.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that "Russia has its own potential to continue the operation" and that it was "unfolding in accordance with the plan and will be completed on time and in full."
Russia's military is bigger and better equipped than Ukraine's, but its troops have faced stiffer-than-expected resistance, bolstered by arms supplied by the West.
With files from CBC News, Reuters and The Canadian Press