Turkey Says Russia and Ukraine Nearing Agreement on ‘Critical’ Issues
Turkey’s foreign minister said in an interview published on Sunday that Russia and Ukraine were nearing agreement on “critical” issues and he was hopeful for a ceasefire if the two sides did not backtrack from progress achieved so far.
Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. President Vladimir Putin has called Russia’s actions a “special operation” meant to demilitarize Ukraine and purge it of what he sees as dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an aggressive war of choice.
Foreign ministers Sergei Lavrov of Russia and Dmytro Kuleba of Ukraine met in the Turkish resort town of Antalya earlier this month with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also attending. The discussions did not yield concrete results.
But Cavusoglu, who also travelled to Russia and Ukraine last week for talks with Lavrov and Kuleba, told Turkish daily Hurriyet that there had been “rapprochement in the positions of both sides on important subjects, critical subjects”.
“We can say we are hopeful for a ceasefire if the sides do not take a step back from the current positions,” he said, without elaborating on the issues.
Zelensky Says He Wants Talks With Putin
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday announced he’s ready to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he warned that if the talks fail, the conflict could escalate to become World War III.
“I’m ready for negotiations with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war,” Zelensky told CNN.
Ukraine Says Russia Bombs Another Shelter in Mariupol
Ukrainian authorities said Sunday that Russia’s military bombed an art school sheltering some 400 people in the embattled port city of Mariupol.
It was the second time in less than a week that city officials reported a public building where residents had taken shelter coming under attack. A bomb hit a Mariupol theater with more than 1,300 believed to be inside on Wednesday, local officials said.
There was no immediate word on casualties from the reported strike on the art school. Ukrainian officials have not given an update on the search of the theater since Friday, when they said at least 130 had been rescued.
Mariupol, a strategic port on the Azov Sea, has been under bombardment for at least three weeks.
Ukraine Says Seven Humanitarian Corridors Will Open on Sunday
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said seven humanitarian corridors would open on Sunday to enable civilians to leave frontline areas.
Ukraine has evacuated a total of 190,000 people from such areas since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, Vereshchuk said on Saturday, though Ukraine and Russia blame each other for hobbling the process.
Zelensky Suspends Parties With Russian Links
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered activities of 11 political parties with links to Russia to be suspended.
The largest of them is the Opposition Platform for Life, which has 44 out of 450 seats in the country’s parliament. The party is led by Viktor Medvedchuk, who has friendly ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.
Also on the list is the Nashi (Ours) party led by Yevheniy Murayev. Before the Russian invasion. the British authorities had warned that Russia wanted to install Murayev as the leader of Ukraine.
Speaking in a video address early Sunday, Zelenskyy said that “given a large-scale war unleashed by the Russian Federation and links between it and some political structures, the activities of a number of political parties is suspended for the period of the martial law.” He added that “activities by politicians aimed at discord and collaboration will not succeed.”
Zelenskyy’s announcement follows the introduction of the martial law that envisages a ban on parties associated with Russia.
Patriot Air Defense Systems Move Into Slovakia
Slovakia’s Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad says the first multinational NATO units with the Patriot air defense systems have been moving to his country.
Nad said on Sunday the transfers will continue in the next days.
Germany and the Netherlands have agreed to send their troops armed with the Patriots to Slovakia. The troops are some of the 2,100 soldiers from several NATO members, including the United States, who will form a battlegroup on Slovak territory as the alliance boosts its defenses in its eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Nad says the Patriots will be initially deployed at the armed forces base of Sliac in central Slovakia before they will be stationed at various places to protect the largest possible Slovak territory.
He thanked Germany and the Netherlands for their “responsible decision” to fundamentally boost Slovakia’s defenses.
US Lawmakers Visit Poland, Urge Help for Ukraine Military
A bipartisan delegation of U.S. lawmakers visiting Poland said Saturday that the most urgent need in Ukraine’s fight against a Russian invasion is to equip and support the country in every way that will help it defend its independence.
The seven-member delegation led by Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts, has visited reception centers for refugees from Ukraine in eastern Poland. They noted Poland’s openness in accepting refugees from Ukraine, including in private homes. More than 2 million people fleeing war have come to Poland since Feb. 24, when Russia’s troops invaded Ukraine.
“We are here to reassure and support the people of Ukraine. We are here to thank the people of Poland for the unbelievable generosity they have shown to the refugees,” said Lynch, who is chairman of the subcommittee on National Security in the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
During an online meeting with the media Saturday, the American lawmakers stressed the need to urgently assist Ukraine’s military in their fight against Russian forces. They said there is no room for peace talks as long as there is a “hot war.”
Jack Phillips, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.