Russia and Ukraine are to hold a third round of talks to allow passage of refugees from the conflict zone during the unprovoked attack on Moscow after Kiev rejected an earlier offer to let people through humanitarian corridors which only lead to Russia or its ally Belarus.
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The talks will take place at 4 p.m. Kyiv time on March 7 in Belarus, Ukrainian negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak tweetedas pitched battles unfolded in several parts of the country.
“Third round. Start at 4:00 p.m. Kyiv time. Delegation unchanged,” Mikhailo Podolyak wrote. There has been no confirmation from Russia yet.
Two previous such efforts collapsed as the Russian military continued to hit some Ukrainian towns with rockets, including one that Ukrainian officials called an immoral blow and French President Emmanuel Macron called an act “of ‘hypocrisy’ on the part of Moscow.
The problem will not be solved by “corridors threatened right away [by Russia]”, said Macron in an interview on the French news channel LCI.
To say that “we are going to protect people by bringing them to Russia” is “hypocritical”, he added. “It’s cynicism” which is “unbearable”, he said.
A spokesman for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian citizens should be allowed to leave their homes through Ukrainian territory, calling the Russian offer “completely immoral” while accusing Moscow of trying “to use the suffering of people to create a television image”.
“They are Ukrainian citizens. They should have the right to evacuate to Ukrainian territory,” the spokesman said, accusing Russia of deliberately obstructing previous evacuation attempts.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russia was trying to manipulate Macron and other Western leaders by demanding that any humanitarian corridor into Ukraine pass through Russia or Belarus.
She added that Ukraine was calling on Russia to agree to a ceasefire from March 7 to allow Ukrainians to evacuate to the city of Lviv in western Ukraine.
In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba would meet on March 10 in the resort town of Antalya and that he would also attend the meeting.
WATCH: A Ukrainian artillery unit fired at Russian forces north and northwest of the capital, Kiev, on March 6. Speaking to RFE/RL correspondent Maryan Kushnir, a Ukrainian soldier expressed his determination to repel Russia’s invasion, saying: “We are defending our children.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed Lavrov’s attendance, adding that the agreement for the three-way meeting was reached during a telephone conversation between Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ” at the initiative of the Turkish leader”.
The meeting, which has not yet been confirmed by Kuleba, would mark the first contact between senior Russian and Ukrainian diplomats since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said on March 7 that part of the Black Sea port of Olvia, which is under concession to Qatari port operator QTerminals, had been hit by a military “strike”.
No one was injured, the ministry said without giving further details.
Russian forces continued their offensive on March 7, opening fire on the town of Mykolaiv, 480 kilometers south of Kiev. Rescuers said they were putting out fires in residential areas caused by rocket attacks.
The shelling also continued in the suburbs of Kiev, notably in Irpin, which was cut off from electricity, water and heating for three days. Residents tried to flee Irpin and Bucha, another Kyiv suburb, as they were pounded by airstrikes.
Police said on March 7 that some 2,000 civilians had so far been evacuated from Irpin, just outside Kiev, where those fleeing had been caught in Russian shelling the day before and forced to dive to their feet. shelter, while some had been killed.
“Russia continues to fire rockets, bombs and artillery at cities and settlements in Ukraine,” the Ukrainian General Staff said. “The invaders continue to use Belarus’ airfield network to conduct airstrikes on Ukraine.”
The United Nations said more than 1.5 million Ukrainians fled the conflict, most of them to neighboring Poland.
Polish border police said on March 7 that more than a million refugees had entered Poland since the start of the Russian invasion, including more than 142,000 on March 6 alone – the highest number in a single day since the beginning of the war.
Germany said it had taken in some 50,000 Ukrainian refugees since the start of the conflict. Tens of thousands of refugees continue to arrive in neighboring countries such as Moldova and Romania.
WATCH: Shells rained down on Ukrainian civilians as they fled Russian troops advancing on the town of Irpin, northwest of Kiev. Cameraman Andriy Dubchak captured the moment a shell landed on March 6, killing at least three people, including two children. (WARNING: Viewers may find the content of this video disturbing.)
Despite ample concrete evidence of Russian attacks on civilian areas documented by journalists, including RFE/RL correspondents on the ground, Moscow denies targeting civilian areas, calling its campaign a “special military operation”. .
Zelenskiy on March 7 renewed his call for Western leaders to donate military planes to Kiev. He also insisted that foreign countries impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Zelenskiy said in a video address that “the world is strong enough to close the sky to us.”
NATO has ruled out such a shutdown for fear that a direct confrontation with Russia could trigger a world war.
Kiev also called on the West to toughen sanctions.
On March 7, oil prices rose to their highest levels since 2008 amid market supply fears as the United States and its European allies considered banning imports of Russian oil.
In the first few minutes of trading, Brent crude hit $139.13 a barrel and US West Texas Intermediate hit $130.50, with both benchmarks hitting their highest levels since July 2008.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is visiting Eastern Europe, said the United States and its allies were having a “very active discussion” on banning the import of Russian oil.
The Russian ruble, meanwhile, fell to a new low offshore trade record on March 7, with local markets closed to trading until at least March 9.
The ruble weakened to 133.5 per dollar after closing at 121.037 on March 4.