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Ukraine-Russia Talks Begin At Belarus Border

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Russia says Kyiv residents can leave safely
Russian military confirms casualties in Ukraine operation
Ukraine says world’s largest plane damaged
Ukraine and Russian officials sit on opposite sides of a table at the talks.

RUSSIA,UKRAINE:Talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials began on the Belarusian border on Monday, Moscow said, as Russia’s diplomatic and economic isolation deepens four days after invading Ukraine, the biggest assault on a European state since World War 2.

Talks began with the aim of an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces, the Ukrainian President’s office said, after a Russian advance that has gone more slowly than some expected.

Russia has been cagier, with the Kremlin declining to comment on Moscow’s aim in negotiations. It was not clear whether any progress could be achieved after President Vladimir Putin on Thursday launched the assault and put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on high alert on Sunday.

The talks are being held on the border with strong Russian ally Belarus, where a referendum on Sunday approved a new constitution ditching the country’s non-nuclear status at a time when the former Soviet republic has become a launch pad for Russian troops invading Ukraine. Ukraine demanded for an “immediate ceasefire” as the number of refugees fleeing the country hit more than 500,000.

As the delegations arrived for talks on the border between Belarus and Ukraine on day five of Moscow’s invasion, the Ukrainian presidency demanded the ceasefire “and the withdrawal of troops” — which Moscow is almost certain to reject. “I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said. Sources on Monday said that at least 406 civilians have been killed and wounded since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Thursday.

Between Thursday morning and Sunday night, 102 civilians, including seven children, have been killed, with 304 people injured.

Meanwhile, the Russian military says that residents of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv can use a safe corridor to leave the city if they want.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday that Kyiv residents can safely use a highway leading to Vasylkiv just southwest of the Ukrainian capital. The statement came as fighting raged in various parts of the Ukrainian capital, with Ukrainian authorities saying that they were fighting small groups of Russian forces in various sectors of the capital.

Konashenkov charged that Ukrainian “nationalists” were deploying military equipment using the city residents as shields, the allegations that can’t be independently verified. Despite Russian military claims that it wasn’t targeting populated areas, residential buildings, hospitals and schools have been hit all across Ukraine during the Russian invasion that began Thursday.

Konashenkov also announced new land gains, saying Russian troops have taken control of the area around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the south, noting that the plant was safe and the radiation levels in the area have remained normal.

Meanwhile, the Russian military has suffered casualties, and some soldiers have ended up captured by the opposing forces during the ongoing military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov acknowledged on Sunday during a press briefing, as he provided a daily update on the conflict. “Since the launch of the operation, [Russian military] has destroyed 254 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 31 aircraft on the ground, 46 multiple launch rocket systems, 103 pieces of artillery and mortars, 164 pieces of special military vehicles,” Konashenkov stated.

The official did not specify the number of casualties among Russian troops, stating only that they are “many times less than the number of eliminated nationalists,” as well as casualties suffered by Ukraine’s regular military forces. “We know how the Ukrainian Nazis treat the few captured Russian servicemen,” he said. “And we see that the abuse and torture are the same as those of the German Nazis and their henchmen in the Great Patriotic War.”

The Russian military has been closely monitoring footage purportedly showing the abuse of the country’s soldiers at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists, the official warned, promising to bring those involved in such behavior to justice. “This applies to the leaders of the Kiev regime and their minions, who directly call for abuse of Russian military personnel in violation of the convention on the treatment of prisoners of war,” Konashenkov said. “All of you will be found and will inevitably face severe retribution.” Any Ukrainian soldiers who ended up captured by Russian troops, however, are – and will be – treated “decently,” the official stressed. “All who laid down their arms and ceased resistance will be returned to their families,” Konashenkov added. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s defense industry conglomerate says the world’s largest plane that was in regular operation was heavily damaged in fighting with Russian troops at the airport outside Kyiv where it was parked.

The Ukroboronprom company said in a statement that the Antonov-225 was “destroyed” but would be repaired. The An-225, which is operated by Ukroboronprom’s subsidiary Antonov Airlines, is used to move exceptionally large cargoes . Its arrivals and departures at overseas airports often attract aviation buffs to observe the lumbering plane with a 290-foot (84-metre) wingspan. Only two planes have been built with large wingspans — the Stratolaunch and the Hughes “Spruce Goose” — but each was used only for a single flight.


Tuesday, March 1, 2022 – 01:00

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