Russian strikes continue as Ukraine negotiator says talks are ‘on hold’

As the Russian military continues its deadly strikes against Ukraine, a fourth round of talks between the two sides on ending the unprovoked invasion of Moscow has made no progress, but is expected to continue on March 15.

The talks, which were taking place via video link after three previous face-to-face meetings, come as Russia intensifies its assaults across Ukraine.

Live briefing: Russia invades Ukraine

RFE/RL Ukraine live briefing brings you all the latest news on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbour, kyiv’s response, the plight of civilians and the Western reaction. The Live Briefing presents the latest developments and analysis, updates throughout the day.

European Union member states, meanwhile, have agreed on a fourth package of sanctions against Russia, the office of the French EU presidency announced on March 14.

The Russian army allowed a first column of cars to break out of the beleaguered Black Sea port of Mariupol, which had been surrounded since the first week of the invasion, but blocked an aid convoy trying to reach the city.

Mariupol has suffered the worst humanitarian crisis of the war so far, with hundreds of thousands of desperate people sheltering in basements without food, water or shelter under relentless Russian bombardment.

Russian forces shelled the capital, Kyiv, killing at least one person, while the Defense Ministry in Moscow said fragments of a downed Soviet-made Ukrainian missile ripped through the center of the eastern city of Donetsk, killing 23 people. It broadcast images of a missile on a busy street and vehicles destroyed by shrapnel.

The claim could not be independently verified.

On the 19th day of the invasion, the fourth round of talks made no breakthrough other than a scheduled resumption on March 15, with Mykhaylo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, saying the break was to allow ” additional work in the sub-working groups and clarification of individual definitions.

Diplomatic efforts have raised hopes that Moscow could pave the way for the evacuation of more civilians even as Russian forces maintain pressure on the capital and other major cities.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said some 4,000 people were able to be evacuated through 10 humanitarian corridors on March 14, but many more remained in the danger zone.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the suffering in Mariupol was “simply immense” and the bodies of civilians and fighters remained trapped under the rubble or “lay in the open where they fell”.

The fight for Mariupol is crucial because it lies in an area that could help Russia establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said on March 14 that an arranged local ceasefire with Russian forces besieging the city held long enough for the first cars to leave for the city of Zaporizhzhya, about 225 kilometers.

He said around 150,000 residents left the city using humanitarian corridors, while some 350,000 residents remained in the city.

Live briefing: Russia invades Ukraine

RFE/RL Ukraine live briefing brings you all the latest news on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbour, kyiv’s response, the plight of civilians and the Western reaction. The Live Briefing presents the latest developments and analysis, updates throughout the day.

“They are living in a dire situation right now. No water, no electricity at the moment in some areas,” he said. “People collect snow to melt it and use it for drinking and cooking.”

Some areas have been completely destroyed and it may not be possible to repair the houses there. Some people had to bury loved ones in backyards, he added.

Andryushchenko also expressed fear that the situation in the city could worsen within hours.

Nine people died and nine others were injured on March 14 when Russian forces struck a television tower outside the western Ukrainian town of Rivne, local authorities said.

Airstrikes were reported across the country, including in the southern city of Mykolayiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, where heating was cut off in most of the city.

Explosions were reported overnight around the Russian-occupied port of Kherson on the Black Sea

Russian forces also fired at the airport in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk, located less than 150 kilometers north of Romania and 250 kilometers from Hungary.

Local authorities in a northern district of Kyiv said an artillery shell hit a nine-storey residential building, killing two people, and a pregnant woman injured last week in an airstrike on a maternity ward in the city of Mariupol had died with her. unborn child.

WATCH: Thousands of people have fled the town of Irpin near kyiv, after civilian areas came under heavy Russian attack. RFE/RL has spoken to some of the people who remain. (WARNING: Viewers may find the content of this video disturbing)

US President Joe Biden has sent his national security adviser to Rome to meet with a Chinese official concerned that Beijing is amplifying Russian disinformation and could help Moscow evade Western economic sanctions.

Jake Sullivan met with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Rome and “expressed directly and very clearly” his concerns about China’s support for Russia, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday. March 14.

Supporting Russia in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine would have implications for China’s relations around the world, including with US allies and partners in Europe and the Indo-Pacific region, Price said. during a press briefing.

The White House said in a statement that Sullivan and Yang discussed a range of issues in US-China relations, “with substantial discussion of Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

Ahead of the talks, Sullivan bluntly warned China to avoid helping Russia evade sanctions. “We will not allow this to continue,” he said. Russia has denied needing help from China.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will address the US Congress via video link on March 16.

In Washington, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a March 14 letter that Ukrainian President Zelenskiy would address the U.S. Congress via video link on March 16.

“Congress remains steadfast in its commitment to support Ukraine in the face of Putin’s cruel and diabolical aggression, and to pass legislation to cripple and isolate the Russian economy as well as to provide humanitarian, security and economic assistance to Ukraine,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote in the letter.

“We look forward to the privilege of hosting President Zelenskiy’s speech in the House and Senate and conveying our support to the people of Ukraine as they bravely defend democracy,” they added.

As U.S. lawmakers backed Ukraine with tough sanctions on Russia and billions of dollars in aid and arms to kyiv, Zelenskiy repeatedly called on Washington and its NATO allies to put in place and enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Most US lawmakers and the White House oppose such a move, saying it would put NATO in direct contact with the Russian military and thus risk escalating the war.

And in an extraordinary demonstration, an anti-war protester interrupted the main news program of the Russian public television channel Channel One on March 14, holding a sign behind the studio presenter with slogans denouncing the war in Ukraine. .

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has sounded the alarm over Russia raising the alert level of its nuclear forces, calling the move a “frightening development”.

“The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back in the realm of possibility,” Guterres told reporters, and reiterated his call for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

Last month, President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s nuclear forces should be put on high alert, raising fears that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to nuclear war. US officials have said they have seen no reason so far to change Washington’s nuclear alert levels.

Russia and the United States possess by far the largest arsenals of nuclear warheads after the Cold War that divided the world for much of the 20th century, pitting the West against the Soviet Union and its allies.

With reports by AP, Reuters and dpa

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