September 24, 2023

No breakthrough in Ukraine talks

Russia and Ukraine failed to make a breakthrough Thursday in their first top-level talks since Moscow’s invasion two weeks ago, as Russian advances sparked fears the Ukrainian capital Kyiv could soon be encircled.

After talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Turkey, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said there had been “no progress”, even on a 24-hour ceasefire, although Lavrov said Moscow would keep talking.

Russian forces were encircling at least four major cities in Ukraine on Thursday, with armoured vehicles rolling up to the northeastern edge of the capital Kyiv.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said half the population had fled, adding that the city “has been transformed into a fortress. Every street, every building, every checkpoint has been fortified.”

The besieged southern port city of Mariupol meanwhile came under fresh attack, the day after the bombing of a children’s hospital that local officials said killed three people, including a young girl.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was a Russian “war crime”, a position backed by top European Union officials.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the “intensifying” targeting of civilians could see Washington and its European allies step up already unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.

The Russian army however claimed the hospital bombing was a “staged provocation” by Ukraine.

At least 35,000 civilians were evacuated from the cities of Sumy, Enerhodar and areas around Kyiv on Wednesday, Zelensky said.

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