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Live updates: Russia says too early for more Ukraine talks



MOSCOW — Russia’s top negotiator in talks with Ukraine says it’s too early to talk about a meeting between the…

MOSCOW — Russia’s top negotiator in talks with Ukraine says it’s too early to talk about a meeting between the two countries’ president.

Vladimir Medinsky, who led the Russian delegation in Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul, Turkey, said “there is still a lot of work to do” to finalize a draft agreement before Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could meet.

Speaking Sunday in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency, Medinsky reaffirmed that the parties reached a tentative agreement on the need for Ukraine to adopt a neutral status and refrain from holding foreign military bases in exchange for international security guarantees.

Asked about Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia’s claim that Moscow’s negotiators had informally agreed to most proposals by Ukraine during the talks in Istanbul this week and the two presidents could discuss the draft deal, Medinsky said he doesn’t share Arakhamia’s optimism. He said the talks will continue online Monday.

Medinsky emphasized that Russia’s stand on Crimea and rebel regions in Ukraine’s east remained unchanged.

The Kremlin demands that Ukraine acknowledge Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and recognize the independence of Russia-backed separatist regions in Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— Russian missiles strike fuel depots in Odesa; civilians await another possible evacuation

— Ukraine blogger video fuels false info on Mariupol bombing

— Ukrainian forces retake areas near Kyiv

— Russian space chief says sanctions could imperil International Space Station

— Ukraine volunteer fighters from near and far: a photo gallery

— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

BERLIN — The mayor of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, has expressed shock at what he called “cruel war crimes” committed by Russian soldiers in the town of Bucha northwest of the capital.

Referring to reports of executed civilians, Klitschko told German daily Bild on Sunday that “what happened in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv can only be described as genocide.”

An AP crew on Sunday saw the bodies of at least nine people who appear to have been executed. At least two of them had their hands tied behind their backs. They were all in civilian clothes and at least three were naked from the waist up. One appeared shot in the chest from close range.

Klitschko said Russian President Vladimir Putin was responsible for these “cruel war crimes,” adding that civilians had been “shot with tied hands.”

He called on the the whole world and especially Germany to immediately end gas imports from Russia.

He said that “especially for Germany, there can only be one consequence: Not a penny should go to Russia anymore, that’s bloody money used to slaughter people. The gas and oil embargo must come immediately.”

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The Russian military says it has struck an oil processing plant and fuel depots around the strategic Black Sea port of Odesa.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russian ships and aircraft fired missiles on Sunday to strike the facilities, which he said were used to provide fuel to Ukrainian troops near Mykolaiv.

Konashenkov also said Russian strikes destroyed ammunition depots in Kostiantynivka and Khresyshche.

In an audio message posted by Italian news agency ANSA, Italian photographer Carlo Orlandi said Odessa woke to military sirens at 5:45 a.m. Sunday, followed immediately by the sounds of bombs falling on the port city from two aircraft.

He described a column of dark smoke rising from the targets, and flames from the buildings.

“What we can see is a dense screen of dark smoke, and one explosion after the other,″ Orlandi said.

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KYIV, Ukraine — The regional governor in Kharkiv said Russian troops have continued shelling the city in northeast Ukraine.

Kharkiv regional Gov. Oleh Synyehubov said Sunday that Russian artillery and tanks carried out over 20 strikes on Kharkiv and its outskirts over the past 24 hours.

Synyyehubov said four people were wounded in a Russian missile strike on Lozova in the south of the Kharkiv region.

He said that in the town of Balakliia Russian tanks hit a local hospital, damaging the building and prompting the authorities to evacuate patients.

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LVIV, Ukraine – President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian troops retaking areas around Kyiv and Chernihiv are not allowing Russians to retreat without a fight, but are “shelling them. They are destroying everyone they can.”

Zelenskyy, in his Saturday night video address to the nation, said Ukraine knows Russia has the forces to put even more pressure on the east and south of Ukraine.

“What is the goal of the Russian troops? They want to seize the Donbas and the south of Ukraine,” he said. “What is our goal? To defend ourselves, our freedom, our land and our people.”

He said a significant portion of the Russian forces are tied up around Mariupol, where the city’s defenders continue to fight.

“Thanks to this resistance, thanks to the courage and resilience of our other cities, Ukraine has gained invaluable time, time that is allowing us to foil the enemy’s tactics and weaken its capabilities,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy appealed again to the West for more modern weaponry, such as anti-missile systems and aircraft.

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A Ukrainian beauty blogger whom Russian officials accused of being a crisis actor when she was interviewed and photographed by The Associated Press in a bombed out Mariupol maternity hospital has emerged in new videos that are fueling fresh misinformation about the attack.

A Russian government-linked Twitter account on Friday shared an interview with Marianna Vishegirskaya, in which the new mother says the hospital was not hit by an airstrike last month and that she told AP journalists she did not want to be filmed. But AP reporting, and recordings of AP journalists’ interactions with her, contradict her claim.

In the interview, conducted by Russian blogger Denis Seleznev and filmed by Kristina Melnikova, Vishegirskaya is asked to provide details about what occurred at the hospital on March 9, the day of the bombing. It is not clear where Vishegirskaya is, or under what conditions the interview was filmed.

Russian officials have repeatedly tried to cast doubt on the strike in Mariupol, a key military objective for Moscow, since images were seen around the world and shed light on Russia’s attacks on civilians in Ukraine.

In the new videos, Vishegirskaya says those huddled in the basement of the hospital after the attack believed the explosions were caused by “shelling,” not an airstrike, because “no one” heard sounds that would indicate that bombs were dropped from planes.

But eyewitness accounts and video from AP journalists in Mariupol lays out evidence of an airstrike, including the sound of an airplane before the blast, a crater outside the hospital that went at least two stories deep and interviews with a police officer and a soldier at the scene who both referred to the attack as an “airstrike.”

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BUCHA, Ukraine — Ukrainian troops moved cautiously to retake territory north of Kyiv on Saturday, even amid fears that Russian forces left booby-trapped explosives.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that departing Russian troops were creating a “catastrophic” situation for civilians by leaving mines around homes, abandoned equipment and “even the bodies of those killed.” His claims could not be independently verified.

Ukrainian troops took up positions in the town of Bucha, and were stationed at the entrance of Antonov Airport in Hostomel after retaking territory from Russian forces.

In Bucha, AP reporters counted at least 6 bodies of civilians scattered along a street and in the front yard of a house. Ukrainian soldiers, backed by a column of tanks and armored vehicles, attached cables to the bodies and pulled them off the street for fear they may be booby-trapped. Soldiers also cleared barricades and inspected suspicious objects, placing red rags on remnants of unexploded ordnance to draw attention to the possibility of explosions.

Residents of the town said the civilians were killed by Russian soldiers without apparent provocation.

Ukraine and its Western allies reported mounting evidence of Russia withdrawing its forces from around Kyiv and building its troop strength in eastern Ukraine. The visible shift did not mean the country faced a reprieve from more than five weeks of war or that the more than 4 million refugees who have fled Ukraine will return soon.

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CAIRO — The Muslim holy month of Ramadan — when the faithful fast from dawn to dusk — began at sunrise Saturday in much of the Middle East, where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent energy and food prices soaring.

The conflict cast a pall over Ramadan, when large gatherings over meals and family celebrations are a tradition. Many had hoped for a more cheerful Ramadan after the coronavirus pandemic blocked the world’s 2 billion Muslims from many rituals the past two years.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, millions of people in the Middle East are now wondering where their next meals will come from. The skyrocketing prices are affecting people whose lives were already upended by conflict, displacement and poverty from Lebanon, Iraq and Syria to Sudan and Yemen.

Ukraine and Russia account for a third of global wheat and barley exports, which Middle East countries rely on to feed millions of people who subsist on subsidized bread and bargain noodles. They are also top exporters of other grains and sunflower seed oil used for cooking.

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