Russia-Ukraine updates: Mariupol mayor warns of ‘humanitarian catastrophe,’ pleads for evacuation

A part of a shell is seen in the street during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port of Mariupol, Ukraine March 27, 2022.ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/Reuters

Here are the latest updates on the war in Ukraine:

  • Ukraine could declare neutrality and offer security guarantees to Russia to secure peace “without delay,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. Talks between the two countries are set to begin in Turkey this week.
  • The mayor of Mariupol said on Monday all civilians must be evacuated from the encircled Ukrainian city to allow them to escape a humanitarian catastrophe
  • The United Nations human rights office said on Sunday that 1,119 civilians had so far been killed and 1,790 wounded since Russia began its attack on Ukraine.

8:53 a.m. ET

Video: Civilians clear rubble from missile-hit school in Kharkiv

Teachers, parents and older students came together on Sunday (March 27) to clear rubble and debris after a school was hit by a missile in Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine.

Reuters


8:50 a.m. ET

EU wants to end golden passport schemes, targets Russians

The European Commission recommended Monday that EU nations end golden passport schemes that allow wealthy people to buy their way into the bloc’s citizenship, and urged them to assess whether Russian oligarchs linked to the Kremlin or who support the war in Ukraine should be stripped of citizenship rights previously granted.

The European Commission launched infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta in 2020 about their golden passports schemes, and the Russian war in Ukraine has put an increased focused on the topic.

The Commission warned that some Russian or Belarusian citizens who are among the 877 individuals targeted by asset freezes and travel bans imposed since 2014, or who support the Russian invasion of its neighbor, might have acquired EU citizenship or had access to the Schengen area via these schemes.

The EU’s executive arm said the countries should now consider whether they should withdraw golden passports issued to such individuals. In addition, it recommended immediately taking away residence permits that have been granted under an investor scheme to Russian or Belarusian citizens supporting the war or subject to sanctions.

-The Associated Press


7:43 a.m. ET

China says the US should take seriously Beijing’s concerns about punishing economic sanctions against Russia

China, which has what it calls a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, has strongly objected to the sanctions, saying they will worsen the global economic outlook without bringing an end to the conflict.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing Monday that China and other nations believe “people of all countries have no responsibility to pay for geopolitical conflicts and great power games.”

“The problem now is not about who wants to help Russia bypass sanctions, but about the normal economic and trade relations between countries, including China, and Russia have been unnecessarily damaged,” Wang said.

“We urge the US to take China’s concerns seriously when dealing with the Ukraine issue and relations with Russia, and not to damage China’s legitimate rights and interests in any way,” Wang said.

-The Associated Press


6:40 a.m. ET

Biden’s remark on the end of Putin is ‘alarming’, Kremlin says

US President Joe Biden speaks during an event at the Royal Castle, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Warsaw, Poland March 26, 2022.EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/Reuters

The Kremlin said on Monday that US President Joe Biden’s remark that Vladimir Putin could not remain in power was a cause for alarm, a measured response to a public call from the United States for an end to Putin’s 22-year rule.

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said on Saturday at the end of a speech to a crowd in Warsaw. He cast Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a battle in a much broader conflict between democracy and autocracy.

The White House tried to clarify Biden’s remarks and the president on Sunday said he had not been calling for regime change.

Asked about Biden’s comment, which was given little coverage on Russian state television, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “This is a statement that is certainly alarming.”

“We will continue to track the statements of the US president in the most attentive way,” Peskov told reporters.

Putin has served as Russia’s paramount leader since Boris Yeltsin resigned in 1999. The Kremlin says Putin is a democratically elected president and that the Russian people – rather than the United States – decide who leads Russia.

Biden’s remark risked fueling accusations by top Russian officials that the United States is bent on unseating Putin.

-Reuters


6:06 a.m. ET

Kremlin says Russia-Ukraine talks could start in Turkey on Tuesday

The Kremlin said that peace talks between Russia and Ukraine may get under way in Turkey on Tuesday and it was important that they would take place face-to-face, after what it described as a lack of major progress in negotiations so far.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan agreed in a telephone call on Sunday for Istanbul to host the talks, which Ankara hopes will lead to a ceasefire in Ukraine.

Turkey said the talks could begin as early as Monday, but Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that was unlikely as the negotiators would only be arriving in Turkey on Monday.

“While we cannot and will not speak about progress at the talks, the fact that they continuing to take place in person is important, of course,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

“We are adhering to a policy of not disclosing any information about the talks, which we think could only hurt the negotiation process.”

Peskov added that no major progress had been made in the talks themselves, or on the idea of ​​a potential meeting between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Unfortunately we cannot see any substantial achievements or breakthroughs (in the talks) so far,” he said.

-Reuters


5:51 a.m. ET

Mariupol mayor pleads for evacuation of all citizens

Destroyed cars are seen in front of an apartment building which was damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 27, 2022.ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/Reuters

The mayor of Mariupol said on Monday all civilians must be evacuated from the encircled Ukrainian city to allow them to escape a humanitarian catastrophe.

Mayor Vadym Boichenko said 160,000 civilians were still trapped in the southern port city on the Sea of ​​Azov without heat and power after weeks of Russian bombardment.

He said 26 buses were waiting to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, which normally has a population of about 400,000 people, but Russian forces had not agreed to give them safe passage. He did not say where they were waiting.

“The situation in the city remains difficult. People are beyond the line of humanitarian catastrophe,” Boichenko said on national television. “We need to completely evacuate Mariupol.”

He added: “The Russian Federation is playing with us. We are in the hands of the invaders.” Read full story

Reuters


5:39 a.m. ET

Ukraine seeking peace ‘without delay’ in talks, Zelensky says

Ukraine could declare neutrality and offer security guarantees to Russia to secure peace “without delay,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said ahead of another expected round of talks between the two sides — though he said only a face-to-face meeting with Russia’s leader could end the war.

In an interview with independent Russian media outlets, Zelensky stressed that Ukraine’s priority is ensuring its sovereignty and preventing Moscow from carving it up.

But, he added: “Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state — we are ready to go for it.”

Zelensky has suggested as much before, but rarely so forcefully.

Russia has long demanded that Ukraine drop any hope of joining the western NATO alliance, which Moscow sees as a threat. Zelensky said that the question of neutrality, which would keep Ukraine out of NATO or other military alliances, should be put to Ukrainian voters in a referendum after Russian troops withdraw.

“We must come to an agreement with the president of the Russian Federation, and in order to reach an agreement, he needs to get out of there on his own feet … and come to meet me,” he said in an interview that Russia barred its media from publishing.

In an overnight video address to his nation, Zelensky said Ukraine sought peace “without delay” in talks due to get underway this week in Turkey.

-The Associated Press


5:30 a.m. ET

China’s ambassador to the US says that of all parties concerned in the Ukraine, only China has Russia’s ear

Qin Gang’s comments to the Phoenix Television channel, which has close ties with China’s ruling Communist Party, come as Beijing’s tacit support for Moscow is receiving increasing scrutiny from Washington and others.

China has refused to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or even refer to it as such. It has also vigorously opposed punishing economic sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West.

Qin said China was uniquely positioned to help peacefully resolve what he called “the crisis.”

“Now, all parties concerned are in serious confrontation with Russia except China. Only China has the ear of Russia,” Qin told the channel’s “Talk With World Leaders” program in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

Qin blamed NATO’s eastward expansion for having provoked Russia. “Russia feels duped by NATO on its eastward expansion. It feels threatened and cornered,” Qin said.

While Beijing claims it is impartial in the conflict, Chinese state media has repeated false and unsupported claims made by Moscow.

Phoenix has itself received attention for embedding a reporter with Russian troops who has produced a steady stream of pro-Moscow reports.

-Reuters


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