Russia claims to have scaled back assault on kyiv

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The Russian military said on Tuesday it had significantly reduced its military activities near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv as talks with Ukraine aimed at ending the war entered the “practical” stage.

Russia and Ukraine began face-to-face talks in Turkey on Tuesday as the United Nations pushed for a ceasefire over Russia’s brutal invasion. The talks took place at the Turkish presidential office in Istanbul and lasted more than three hours, Russian daily Tass reported.

Alexander Fomin, Russia’s deputy defense minister, said the military cuts were intended to improve conditions for the talks. Fomin said that “a decision was made to significantly reduce military activity around Kyiv and Chernihiv.”

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched an initiative to explore “a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine”, echoing Ukraine’s urgent calls. Guterres said he asked Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths, the UN’s head of global humanitarian operations, to consider a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukrainian media outlet Suspline News reported on Monday that Ukrainian officials hoped to agree to a ceasefire to allow aid to flow to Ukraine and pave the way for political negotiations to end the war.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said warring nations have “historical responsibility” to stop the fighting.

“We believe there will be no losers in a just peace,” Erdogan said at the start of the talks in Istanbul. “Prolonging the conflict is in no one’s interest.”

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Latest developments

►Seven people were killed when a Russian missile hit a nine-story government building in Mykolaiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday. He said 22 people were injured.

►President Joe Biden said on Monday he was expressing “moral outrage”, not a change in US policy, with his remark last weekend that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power”.

►The Pentagon is sending six Navy planes that specialize in suppressing enemy air defenses to bolster NATO’s eastern flank, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

►Less than five weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than 3.9 million refugees have been forced to flee the country, making it the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II worldwide, according to the UN refugee agency.

Ukraine’s defensive strategy could add to the peril facing civilians

Defending Ukraine from Russian attacks could increase the risk to civilians in the war-torn country, experts have told The Washington Post. Most neighborhoods in Ukrainian cities have become “militarized,” making them potential targets for Russian forces, according to the Post. Russia shelled some towns and the Ukrainians responded by deploying air defense systems, heavy weapons, soldiers and volunteers in residential areas. All are rich targets for Russian missiles.

“I am very reluctant to suggest that Ukraine is responsible for civilian casualties because Ukraine is fighting to defend its country against an aggressor,” William Schabas, professor of international law at Middlesex University, told The Post. London. “But to the extent that Ukraine brings the battlefield into civilian neighborhoods, it increases the danger to civilians.”

Ukraine takes over Irpin

Ukrainian forces continued their efforts to recover the territory swept away by the Russian offensive. Ukraine’s army has recaptured Irpin, northwest of kyiv, from Russian troops, who were regrouping to retake the area, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday as he sought to rally the country.

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

Ukraine’s government said it was operating three humanitarian corridors on Tuesday to evacuate civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol and two Russian-occupied towns in the south.

Relatives kiss during the funeral of Ukrainian soldier Teodor Osadchyi at the Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv, western Ukraine, March 29, 2022.

Cyberattack hits Ukraine’s national telecommunications provider

A “massive” cyberattack took Ukraine’s national telecommunications provider Ukrtelecom almost completely offline on Monday morning, and outages persisted into the evening. Network monitors said it was the worst outage since Russia invaded Ukraine more than a month ago. Most Ukrainian customers have been cut off from the service so that the Ukrainian military can continue to use it, the chairman of Ukraine’s state service for special communications, Yurii Shchyhol, said.

Shchyhol blamed “the enemy” for the cyberattack, refraining from naming Russia specifically.

– Celina Tebor

Many in the Middle East see hypocrisy in Western embrace of Ukraine

Within days of the Russian invasion, Western countries invoked international law, imposed crippling sanctions, began welcoming refugees with open arms and encouraged Ukraine’s armed resistance.

The response sparked outrage across the Middle East, where many see a blatant double standard in how the West responds to international conflicts.

“We saw all the assets that we had been told could not be activated for more than 70 years deployed in less than seven days,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told a forum on the security in Turkey earlier this month.

“Incredible hypocrisy,” he said.

The Biden administration said Wednesday that the United States has assessed that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine and will work with others to prosecute offenders. But the United States is not a member of the International Criminal Court and strongly opposes any international investigation into its own conduct or its ally, Israel.

Contribute: The Associated Press

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