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LIVE UPDATES: Kremlin: More Progress Must Be Made in Talks With Ukraine Before Putin Can Meet Zelensky

LIVE UPDATES: Kremlin: More Progress Must Be Made in Talks With Ukraine Before Putin Can Meet Zelensky

The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, March 21. Click here for updates from March 20.

Kremlin: More Progress Must Be Made in Talks With Ukraine Before Putin Can Meet Zelensky

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said more progress must be made in talks with Ukraine before Russian President Vladimir Putin can meet his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

Peskov said that “in order to talk about a meeting of the two presidents, first it’s necessary to do the homework, it’s necessary to hold talks and agree the results.”

He added that “so far significant movement has not been achieved” in the talks and that “there are not any agreements which they could commit to” at a joint meeting.

Ukraine and Russia’s delegations have held several rounds of talks both in person and more recently via video link. Zelensky has said he would be prepared to meet Putin directly to seek agreements on key issues.


Ukraine Refuses Russia’s Demands to Lay Down Arms in Mariupol

Ukraine said there is no question of surrendering the city of Mariupol after Russia called on Ukrainian forces on Sunday to lay down arms in the besieged port city.

“There can be no question of any surrender, laying down of arms,” the Ukrainska Pravda news portal cited Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk as saying. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.”

Russia said a “terrible humanitarian catastrophe” was unfolding in Mariupol.

“Lay down your arms,” Col.-Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, the director of the Russian National Center for Defense Management, said in a briefing distributed by the defense ministry.

“A terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed,” Mizintsev said. “All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol.”

Mariupol has suffered some of the heaviest bombardments since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Many of its 400,000 residents remain trapped in the city with little if any food, water, and power.

Mizintsev said humanitarian corridors for civilians would be opened eastwards and westwards out of Mariupol at 10 a.m. Moscow time on Monday.

Ukraine has until 5 a.m. Moscow time to respond to the offer on humanitarian corridors and laying down arms, he said.

Vereshchuk said Russia’s actions are “a deliberate manipulation.”

“Instead of spending time on eight pages on letters, just open the corridor,” she said.


Israel PM Says Big Gaps Remain in Bid to End Ukraine–Russia Conflict

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has been trying to mediate an end to the Ukraine–Russia conflict, said on Monday that despite some progress big gaps remained between the sides.

“There’s still a long way to go, because … there are several issues in dispute, some of them fundamental,” he said in a speech, according to a transcript provided by his office.

Bennett added that Israel, “together with other friends in the world, will continue trying to to bridge the gap and bring an end to the war.”


UK Says Bulk of Russian Forces More Than 25 Km From Center of Kyiv

Russian forces advancing on Kyiv from the north-east have stalled and the bulk of its forces remain more than 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) from the center of the city, British military intelligence said on Monday.

“Heavy fighting continues north of Kyiv,” the Ministry of Defense said.


Ukraine Claims Russia Shelled Chemical Plant, Russia Denies

Ukraine’s prosecutor general claimed a Russian shell struck a chemical plant outside the city of Sumy a little after 3 a.m. Monday, causing a leak in a 50-ton tank of ammonia that took hours to contain.

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed the leak was a “planned provocation” by Ukrainian forces to falsely accuse Russia of a chemical attack.

Konashenkov also said an overnight cruise missile strike hit a Ukrainian military training center in the Rivne region. He claimed 80 foreign and Ukrainian troops were killed.


Biden to Travel to Poland to Discuss Ukraine Crisis With Duda

U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Poland on Friday to discuss the international response to Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine that has sparked a “humanitarian and human rights crisis,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said late Sunday.

Biden will travel to Warsaw where he will hold a bilateral meeting with President Andrzej Duda, the White House said. Over 2 million refugees have entered Poland from Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, the Polish border guard said on Friday.

Biden’s Poland trip will come a day after he meets in Brussels with NATO allies, G7 leaders, and European Union leaders to discuss international efforts to support Ukraine after Russia‘s invasion, the White House said.

The White House also said Biden will host a call Monday at 11 a.m. EST with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom to discuss their coordinated responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Chernobyl Staff Rotated Out for First Time Since Site’s Capture: IAEA

Around half the single shift of staff who have been working non-stop at the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl since Russian forces seized the site last month have been relieved by other Ukrainian staff, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Sunday.

More than three weeks ago Russian forces took control of the waste facilities near the now-defunct power plant that was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986.

The shift that happened to be working then had been on duty constantly since and unable to rotate out, which the International Atomic Energy Agency had said posed a growing threat to safety as they were exhausted and working under extreme pressure. It has often called for them to be replaced.

“They were there for far too long. I sincerely hope that remaining staff from this shift can also rotate soon,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi was quoted as saying in an IAEA statement issued on Sunday night.


Israel Manages Its Involvement With Ukraine and Russia “in a Sensitive, Generous and Responsible Way,” PM Says

Israel’s prime minister says the country is managing its involvement with Ukraine and Russia “in a sensitive, generous and responsible way while balancing various and complex considerations” after Ukraine’s president called on Israel to take sides.

Naftali Bennett spoke on the tarmac at Israel’s main international airport as an aid delegation was set to depart for Ukraine to set up a field hospital for refugees near the Polish border.

A day earlier Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rebuked Israel in a televised address to Israeli parliament members, saying Israel should provide arms and impose sanctions on Russia.

Israel has good relations with both Ukraine and Russia and has acted as an intermediary between the two sides since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

Bennett said that “Israel has extended its hand in aid in the Ukraine crisis for several weeks, very much from the first moment, through different channels,” pointing to humanitarian aid shipments and taking in Ukrainian refugees and immigrants.


No Plan for Biden to Visit Ukraine While in Europe

President Joe Biden has no plan to visit Ukraine during his upcoming trip to Europe, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Sunday.

“The trip will be focused on continuing to rally the world in support of the Ukrainian people and against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but there are no plans to travel into Ukraine,” Psaki wrote on Twitter.

The White House announced Tuesday that Biden will travel to Brussels, Belgium, for the March 24 NATO summit. He is expected to meet with other NATO leaders and “discuss ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine, as well as to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies,” Psaki said.

Read the full article here

Bill Pan, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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