© Reuters. People watch as smoke rises after an air strike, as Russia’s assault on Ukraine continues, in Lviv, Ukraine March 26, 2022. REUTERS / Pavlo Palamarchuk
By Pavel Polityuk and Oleksandr Kozhukhar
LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine is ready to become neutral and compromise on the status of the eastern Donbass region as part of a peace deal, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday, even if an official Ukraine’s other top officials accuse Russia of aiming to carve the country in two.
Zelenskiy sent his message directly to Russian journalists in a video call that the Kremlin had warned the Russian media in advance not to cover it, saying that any agreement must be secured by third parties and put forward a referendum.
“The guarantees of security and neutrality, the denuclearization of our state. We are ready to do it,” he said in Russian.
But even as Turkey prepares to hold talks this week, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, Kyrylo Budanov, said Russian President Vladimir Putin is aiming to capture the eastern part of the country. Ukraine.
“It’s actually an attempt to create North Korea and North Korea in Ukraine,” he said, referring to the division of Korea after World War Two. Zelenskiy has urged the West to provide Ukraine with tanks, planes and missiles to help fight Russian forces.
In a phone call with Putin on Sunday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed to hold talks this week in Istanbul and called for a ceasefire and better humanitarian conditions, his office said. said. Ukrainian and Russian negotiators confirmed that face-to-face talks will take place.
Top US officials on Sunday sought to clarify that the United States has no policy of regime change in Russia, after President Joe Biden said at the end of his speech in Poland on Saturday that Putin ” cannot continue to be in power”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Biden simply means that Putin cannot be “empowered to wage war” against Ukraine or anywhere else.
After more than four weeks of conflict, Russia has failed to capture any major Ukrainian cities and on Friday signaled that it is downsizing its ambitions to focus on securing the Donbass region, where troops are located. Russian-backed fighters have been fighting the Ukrainian army for the past eight years. many years.
A local leader in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic on Sunday said the region could soon hold a referendum on joining Russia, like it did in Crimea after Russia’s occupation. Ukrainian island in 2014.
Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia – a vote much of the world refuses to recognize.
Budanov predicted the Ukrainian army would repel the Russian forces by launching a guerrilla war offensive.
“Then there will be a suitable scenario left for the Russians, how to survive,” he said.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine also denied reports of any referendum in eastern Ukraine.
Oleg Nikolenko told Reuters: “All fake referendums in the occupied territories are null and void and will have no legal validity.
‘CRUEL AND SENSELESS’
Moscow said the goals of what Putin called “special military operations” included demilitarization and “denuclearization” of the neighboring country. Ukraine and its Western allies call this an excuse for an unprovoked invasion.
Ukraine has described previous negotiations, some of which have taken place with Russia’s ally Belarus, as “very difficult”.
The invasion devastated several Ukrainian cities, triggered a major humanitarian crisis and displaced about 10 million people, nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
Tatyana Manyek, who crossed the Danube by ferry into Romania on Sunday with other refugees, said people in her hometown of Odesa were “very scared” but she would have stayed if it weren’t for her daughter.
“It will be difficult to provide the child with basic living conditions. That’s why we decided to leave,” she said, holding a pet dog in her arms.
In his Sunday blessing, Pope Francis called for an end to the “cruel and senseless” conflict.
Zelenskiy demanded in a late-night televised address Saturday that Western nations turn over military assets that were “collecting dust” in stockpiles, saying his country needed only 1 % of NATO aircraft and 1% of tanks.
Western nations have supplied Ukraine with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles as well as small arms and protective equipment, without providing armor or heavy aircraft.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said Russia has begun destroying Ukraine’s fuel and food storage centers. Apparently to confirm that, Russia said its missile destroyed a fuel depot as well as a military repair factory near the western city of Lviv on Saturday.
Ukraine is conducting small counter-attacks as Russian forces try to encircle their forces in eastern Ukraine, an adviser to the President of Ukraine said.
The United Nations has confirmed 1,119 dead and 1,790 injured across Ukraine but says the real number could be higher. Ukraine said on Sunday 139 children have been killed and more than 205 injured so far in the conflict.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine and Russia had agreed on two “humanitarian corridors” to evacuate civilians from frontline areas on Sunday, including allowing people to leave by car from the city Mariupol street, southern part of the country.
The besieged port, located between Crimea and eastern regions held by Russian-backed separatists, has been devastated after weeks of heavy shelling. Thousands of residents are sheltering in basements with scarce water, food, medicine or electricity.