Ukraine says it is seeking international security guarantees that are ‘legally verified’ as part of talks with Russia to reach an agreement to end the unprovoked invasion of Moscow, as Russia steps up its bombardment of kyiv and launches new attacks against the port city of Mariupol.
With the war in Ukraine now winding down into its third week, video talks between the two sides appeared to be progressing on March 16, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling the talks “professional” and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy describing Moscow’s claims as being “more realistic.”
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Lavrov told Russian RBK television that “serious” talks on Ukraine’s neutrality status were underway, with “concrete formulations which, in my opinion, are close to being agreed.”
Russia’s top diplomat did not elaborate on the talks, but Ukraine’s chief negotiator, Mykhaylo Podolyak, appeared to take a different view, saying that since a war with Russia was in progress, “the model can only be Ukrainian and only on the legally verified safety”. guarantees.”
“Ukraine has never been a militaristic state that attacks or plans to attack its neighbors, unlike some neighbors,” he said in a statement. Telegram.
“This means that the signatories of the guarantees do not stand aside in the event of an attack on Ukraine, as they do today. Instead, they take an active part alongside Ukraine in a conflict and officially provide us with a supply of the necessary amount of weapons,” he added.
The talks have also reportedly reached a sticking point, with Ukraine demanding a complete withdrawal of all Russian forces.
The day before, Zelenskiy seemed to acknowledge that Ukraine was unlikely to achieve its previous goal of joining the NATO security alliance.
He told European leaders meeting in London on March 15 that he realized NATO had no intention of accepting Ukraine. “We’ve heard for many years about open doors, but we’ve also heard that we can’t get into those doors,” he said. “It’s the truth, and we just have to accept it as it is.”
Zelenskiy has previously said he could consider a neutral status for his country but needed strong security guarantees from the West and Russia.
Meanwhile, Russian forces have intensified their attacks on Kyiv suburbs, especially those in the northwest and west, Kyiv region chief Oleksiy Kuleba said on March 16.
He said the Russians were trying to cut off the capital from transport arteries and destroy logistical capabilities as they planned a wider attack to seize kyiv.
Kuleba added that Russia had occupied the town of Ivankiv, 80 kilometers north of kyiv, and controls the surrounding region on the border with Belarus.
Artillery shrapnel slammed into a 12-story building in central Kyiv on March 16, destroying the top floor, according to a statement and images released by the Kyiv emergency service. The neighboring building was also damaged. The service reported two casualties but did not give details.
The bombardment of the capital moved closer to the city center, destroying apartments, a metro station and other civilian sites.
But a senior US defense official quoted by AP on March 15 said Russian troops were still about 15 kilometers from the center of the capital.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Russians were using long-range fire to hit civilian targets inside kyiv with increasing frequency, but their ground forces were doing little or no progress in the country.
The city remained under a 35-hour curfew early on March 16. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced the restriction the day before, warning that as Russian forces step up their strikes and close in on the capital, they face a “difficult and dangerous moment”.
Battles also continue to rage in Mariupol and other cities, including Kharkhiv and Mykolaiv.
Russian navy ships fired overnight at a town near Mariupol on the Sea of Azov and another near Odessa on the Black Sea, according to local officials.
In a March 16 address to a meeting of the House of Representatives and Senate, Zelenskiy called on the US Congress and President Joe Biden to provide additional military assistance to help protect the skies above Ukraine and called for new sanctions against Russia.
After speaking in Ukrainian during the first part of his speech, Zelenskiy switched to English when he addressed Biden directly in his final call, saying that leading the world means being a “leader for peace.”
“You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I want you to be the leader of the world. To be the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” Zelenskiy said.
He added that Ukraine needed US help “right now.”
“I ask you to do more,” he said.
In a video address to his own nation, Zelenskiy said Russian forces were unable to penetrate deeper into Ukrainian territory on March 15, but continued their heavy bombardment of cities.
He added that nearly 29,000 civilians had been able to flee through humanitarian corridors in recent days, but said the Russians were refusing to allow aid to Mariupol.
WATCH: While embedded with Ukrainian troops, Current Time reporters Borys Sachalko and Ivan Lyubysh-Kirdey came under fire during a Russian artillery assault.
Zelenskiy told European leaders meeting in London on March 15 that he understood NATO had no intention of accepting Ukraine.
“We’ve heard for many years about open doors, but we’ve also heard that we can’t get into those doors,” he said. “It’s the truth, and we just have to accept it as it is.”
Zelenskiy has previously said that he realizes NATO will not offer Ukraine membership and that he could consider a neutral status for his country, but he needs strong security guarantees from from the West and Russia.